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Can meditation and mindfulness exercises reduce stress?

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Recent survey found more Americans are meditating - and that's a good thing, experts say. 

Meditation is known to reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, according to studies evaluated by the National Institutes of Health. It may also ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and may help people with insomnia. 

There are many types of meditation techniques according to the NIH. Most have these four elements in common: 

  1. A quiet location with as few distractions as possible.
  2. A specific, comfortable posture like sitting or lying down.
  3. A focus of attention. A special chosen word or set of words. An object or a breathing pattern can also be a focus of attention.
  4. And an open attitude. Allowing distractions and thoughts to freely come and go naturally.

Art of Living is an international organization dedicated to helping millions of people to relieve stress and anxiety through breathwork and meditation. It explains the process of meditation here

Mindfulness is another such technique that can help to focus. Associate Professor Amishi Jha, University of Miami, explains it best in her video by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

She likens the mind to an MP3 player. "Our mind is really good at time travel," she said. "We can put the button on fast forward and think of the future, and we can rewind and think back on past experiences and even ruminate on those experiences.

Mindfulness is keeping that button on play, said Jha, "so we are completely present and aware in the present moment." The Mayo Clinic has advice on mindfulness exercise here.

There are several paid and free apps for meditation and mindfulness. "Calm" provides guided and unguided meditation programs at cost of $70 per year.

"Insight Timer" and "UCLA Mindful" are free apps. UCLA Mindful is developed by the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

The New York Times evaluated several apps and picked "Healthy Minds Program" as it's best free app.

If you are interested in learning and participating in an in-person meditation session, The Art of Living foundation is holding a group meditation event with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of SKY breath meditation on May 19 at the Irving Convention Center from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

Tickets can be purchased online.

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