Julianne Hough, actress and two-time winner of “Dancing With the Stars,” practices a meditation method known as “complete body scan” that involves checking in with her body from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.
After the body scan, she notices a difference in her breathing (more controlled) and what she calls a “total connectivity to all parts of you.”
New research suggests that Hough is onto something. A recent study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science had 135 participants listen to prerecorded tapes to see which provided the most favorable physical and psychological benefits.
Participants were divided into five groups. One had attention directed to their bodies; another group practiced “Loving Kindness meditation for the self”; another was instructed to feel compassion for themselves and someone they were close to; one listened to recordings focused on recent failures, or were asked to think about positive situations where they worked to achieve something great; and a control group was guided through a supermarket shopping scenario.
The researchers found that both complete body scan and Loving Kindness meditation calm the heart rate, switch off the body's stress response, and enhance a person's sense of mental well-being.
These exercises aren't Stuart Smalley-style affirmations; they're defined by use of self-reassurance and soothing in times of stress.
But whatever stress management technique you use, remember that managing stress helps keep you young.