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Meditation is on the rise among stressed-out Americans
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Meditation classes are now being offered at hospitals, in corporation headquarters, on college campuses and in prisons. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
In the midst of their busy lives, Americans are learning how to keep calm and say "Ommmm." Meditation, alongside yoga and other mind and body practices, is becoming more popular as people link its practice to happier and healthier lives.

The annual National Health Interview Survey, released this month with 2012 data, showed that around 18 million U.S. adults practice meditation, which represents 8 percent of the population. Meditation is also practiced by 1.6 percent of American children, the survey reported.

In a Twitter chat on Wednesday about the survey's findings, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health noted that research has linked meditation to reduction in blood pressure, anxiety, depression and a variety of other heath issues. Harvard Health, which also participated in the conversation, added that taking time to meditate each day is shown to reduce stress and pain.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that the meditation boom leaves almost no segment of society untouched. Meditation and other mindfulness practices have made their way into hospitals, prisons, military groups and millions of American homes.

"The unrelenting siege on our attention can take a good share of the credit," The LA Times reported. "Stress has bombarded people from executives on 24/7 schedules to kids who feel the pressure to succeed even before puberty. Meditation has been lauded as a way to reduce stress, ease physical ailments like headaches and increase compassion and productivity."

This perceived productivity boost is why the practice has also found a home on college campuses. Schools like UCLA have launched mindfulness education programs, teaching students how to use centuries-old strategies to calm their minds and bodies, Deseret News National reported.

The National Health Interview Survey, which analyzes responses from 34,525 adults and 10,218 children, includes questions about meditation in its section on complementary health practices.

These habits, which also include yoga, visits to the chiropractor and massage, are defined as practices that complement the health solutions offered through traditional medical doctors.

"People use mind and body practices to improve their general well-being or to help manage symptoms of #health problems," the NCCIH tweeted.

For example, yoga, the most popular complementary health practice among U.S. adults, is increasingly understood as a way to improve flexibility and manage chronic pain without taking additional medications or scheduling more doctors appointments. According to the survey, 22 percent of yoga practitioners said the practice was recommended by their doctor.
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