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How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners

10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation

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Mindfulness & Meditation for Stress Relief

Mindfulness and meditation can help build strength and resilience in response to the pressures of life. Through intentional breathing exercises, meditations, music, and soundscapes, mindfulness helps lower cortisol levels and interrupt the stress response. When used regularly, even in just a few minutes a day, these resources are a powerful toolkit for managing stress.

Browse Mindfulness & Meditation for Stress Relief Library
The more we practice mindfulness, the less we get caught up in stress, and the easier and more meaningful life becomes.

—Melli O'Brien

What is Stress?

Stress is a natural human experience of emotional or physical tension in response to daily pressures, unexpected events, or situations that feel out of our control. Depending on the situation, stress might show up as worry, excited anticipation, anxious thoughts, apprehension, faster heartbeat, sweating, upset stomach, loss of sleep, or a sense of being overwhelmed.

While stress and anxiety share some characteristics, they also have some key differences. Stress has an identifiable external cause (a test, a job interview, a troubled relationship), and its effects tend to dissipate once that event or trigger has passed. Some forms of stress can even be positive — that is, they can motivate or inspire us to give our best effort.

Anxiety, however, tends to emerge internally. It is the emotional response to the uncertainty or worry we might feel in anticipation of stressful situations, and it is marked by a persistent feeling of apprehension or dread that does not subside, even when the stressful trigger has passed or there is no identifiable external threat.

Cory Muscara

The Wisdom of Stress

Cory Muscara · 5-30 mins

How Does Stress Affect the Body & Brain?

Stress comes in different forms which can affect the body and brain differently.

Sometimes stress is temporary and is contained within a particular situation. For example, you might experience a frustrating traffic jam when you’re trying to get to an appointment. In the short term, your cortisol levels will spike, causing rapid heart rate, sweating, irritability, and maybe worry about being late.

In a well-regulated response, your body knows how to deal with stress once the temporary trigger has passed: your heart rate returns to normal, you calm down, and you problem solve the situation. For example, you might find a quicker way to your appointment or call ahead to let people know you’ll be a few minutes late.

Sometimes stress is ongoing or chronic: you go to an extremely high-pressure job every day, you’re experiencing financial struggles, or you have a high-conflict relationship. Long-term stress can cause physical responses such as headaches, stomach aches, rapid heartbeat, skin conditions, hair loss, or poor sleep. And because stress also activates the amygdala and the hippocampus — it can also impair memory and concentration, and it can make people more susceptible to anxiety and depression.

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Meditation

How Does Meditation Reduce Stress?

Meditation has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels and to reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of stress.

Meditation lowers cortisol levels, which reduces the inflammatory response to stress that can lead to things like digestive problems, skin irritations, poor sleep, and other ailments. Meditation also has been shown to shrink the amygdala, calming the fight-or-flight response and improving attention and memory.

Even with just 10-15 minutes a day, meditation is an effective stress management tool.

If you want to start experiencing the benefits of meditation for yourself, the following meditations are specifically designed to help relieve stress.

Vidyamala Burch

Breath-Based Body Scan

Meditation · 10 mins4.5

How Does Mindfulness Help Relieve Stress?

Mindfulness is not limited to meditation. In fact, mindfulness as a practice can be applied to the way we do almost anything.

Living mindfully is a way of going through your days by intentionally directing your attention and awareness to the present moment, rather than getting caught up in emotions, judgments, and stories about the past or the future.

Mindful living reduces stress in our day-to-day life, because when we are paying attention in this moment, we are less likely to be fearful, worried, or anxious about what has happened or what might happen.

There are other mindful practices that can help manage stress, as well. Mindful walking, listening to soothing music, deep breathing, and prioritizing high-quality sleep can all be positive ways to calm our nervous systems and cope with stress.

Music for Stress Relief

Music has a unique effect on the brain’s response to stress. Certain types of music have been scientifically shown to reduce cortisol levels, release endorphins that improve mood, aid in falling asleep faster, and lower heart rate.

For a wide variety of calming music, browse our playlists and soundscapes to help relieve stress and tension.

Floating on Lightbeams

Music4

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Start your day with an inspiring story or teaching from a trusted mindfulness teacher.

For everyday life

Quick micro-practices to use throughout the day.

Mark Coleman

3-Point Check-In

Micro Practice · 3 mins4.4

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The Mindfulness.com app offers access to guided meditations, talks, courses, calming soundscapes, and micro-practices for in-the-moment support — plus encouraging daily dispatches from Melli and Cory. It’s the perfect companion for the journey.

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