November 3rd 2021 , is National Stress Awareness Day. International Stress Management Association (ISMA) has instituted the first Wednesday of every November as National Stress Awareness to highlight the importance of becoming aware about stress and its ill-effects on living harmoniously with one’s natural rhythm and in turn health, mental and emotional wellbeing. The pandemic has had a multiplier effect on people’s stress levels leading to breakdown in emotional and mental wellbeing across most age groups. It has also accelerated the attention and focus by individuals, associations and National/International Health and Government bodies on addressing issues related to stress and its management.
The International Journal of Environmental and Public Health has recently published a mixed-method study conducted by US researchers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study has shown that Heartfulness Meditation, a simple heart-based meditation practice aimed at attaining a balanced state of mind, was associated with significant reduction in perceived stress and improvement in the quality of sleep, of participants who completed the online-based meditation program.
Commenting on the need to immediately address stress in one’s life, Mr. Kamlesh Patel also known as Daaji, Guide of Heartulness Meditation said, “the simple focus of life is to become better and better each day. To achieve this we need to be in a state of complete awareness about our self and raise our consciousness in tune with our true nature. Stress is the modern day ill created by our inability to focus on things that matter. Stress and its negative impact on our overall wellbeing has slowly but steadily taken control of every individual. While we know Covid-19 as the pandemic, the build up of Stress and its ill impacts is the bigger pandemic and equally a bigger health crisis. Stress needs our urgent attention as well and in consistent practice of meditation we have the most effective vaccination to ward of stress and is the Visa for living your life in joy.”
The Study and It’s findings :
The study was conducted by Drs. Kunal Desai, Priti Parikh and Alpa Desai of the Department of Internal Medicine, Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright University, Ohio; and Prof.Dr.Pratibha Gupta, Food Nutrition and Health Agricultural Research Development Program, Central State University, Ohio.
Stress and lack of quality sleep are considered serious public health challenges despite modern lifestyles, comforts, and technological advances. The COVID-19 pandemic has genuinely brought attention to this pre-existing stress problem by making it significantly worse.
The study aimed to investigate whether using a virtual heart-based meditation program is associated with improved stress levels and quality of sleep. The researchers enrolled 63 participants to receive an 8-week virtually conducted Heartfulness Meditation program. Of these, 36 (57%) completed the entire eight weeks of the Heartfulness meditation program.
The participants were recommended to attend a minimum of two out of a total of eight virtual trainer-guided group Heartfulness relaxation and meditation sessions each week. These sessions, conducted by one of the authors and a Heartfulness trainer (KD), included 5–7 min of relaxation followed by 20 min of meditation. They were also provided instructions on using the phone application called ‘HeartsApp’ on their phones. They could connect as an anonymous seeker with a Heartfulness trainer through the application and meditate without any audiovisual interaction. they were also suggested self-practices to the best of their abilities.
Dr. Kunal Desai, who led the study, said, “Our study showed that following Heartfulness meditation practice, PSS and PSQI improved significantly in the participants from different parts of the United States. About 31% were healthcare professionals, and the entire program was conducted virtually. Based on these observations, we propose that meditation programs offered via virtual platforms can offer a convenient, helpful, and easily accessible tool to a large community at once to help improve the psychological wellbeing of individuals.”
He added: “The results of qualitative analysis in our study bring a unique perspective to this aspect as we were able to show that the participant’s subjective experiences strongly supported the results of the survey findings. Thus, these results enhance our understanding of how Heartfulness meditation practice helps reduce stress and improve the quality of sleep. Our qualitative analysis suggests these effects could be because a simple heart-based meditation brought a ‘calming effect’ in our participants, resulting in ‘inner peace’. Such an effect also resulted in inner changes in our participants, including positive thinking, accepting and empathic attitude, and an increase in awareness of one’s own emotions and the needs of others.”
This study adds to the existing literature supporting the benefits of Heartfulness practice, as reported by some previous studies showing the benefit of Heartfulness relaxation and meditation to reduce stress, burnout, loneliness, and improve the quality of sleep.