There is a Zen statement: “If you don’t have half an hour to spare every day to meditate, then meditate for an hour.” While many of us can agree that we need to create breaks in our schedule to relax, the idea of dedicating thirty to sixty minutes of our already overly busy day may scare us away from even trying. The good news is that we do not have to be a master yogi or spend hours meditating. Anyone can do it and benefits can be seen after just a few minutes.
Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About The Health Benefits of Meditation
What is meditation? It is a mind-body practice that increases mental and physical relaxation. In doing so, it can enhance our overall well-being; creative thinking; perspective; and ability to cope with stressful situations.
Specifically, the goal is to refocus our attention away from everything else. There is a saying that: “Meditation is like a gym in which you develop the powerful mental muscles of calm and insight.”
Are there different types of meditation? Yes. In fact, meditation has been described as “an umbrella term” for the many ways to achieve a relaxed state of being, inner peace and balance. While there are many types, most share these elements: a quiet location with minimal distractions; a comfortable position (e.g. sitting with legs crossed, lying down, or within our home or garden or favorite chair); concentrating in order to cut out all distractions (e.g. focusing on a word, a key teaching or saying, an object, our breathing).
Can meditation help me decrease the stress I deal with? Yes! We all know that when stress becomes chronic and is not properly managed, it can wreak havoc on our minds, body and spirit. We also know that relaxation is the opposite of stress. As a result, meditation decreases the release of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) and changes the frequency and amplitude of our brain waves. Meditation helps to provide perspective, calm – and aids against those storms of life on the outside from coming inside. In doing so, it can have a number of health benefits.
What are some of the health benefits of meditation? While we need to understand that it may not replace many proven treatment modalities, meditation can be used as part of a multi-faceted approach for a number of ailments with compelling benefits.
- Decreased blood pressure. The American Heart Association has released a statement that meditation may be considered by clinicians as a form of treatment for high blood pressure.
- Better sleep. When our minds are racing, it makes it difficult to drift off to sleep and stay asleep. By quieting our thoughts we are more likely to wake up feeling refreshed.
- Decreased depression and anxiety. Meditation has been shown to change not only our brain waves, but also the way our brain cells make connections, its actual structures (thickening some areas while making others less dense), and even molecules that send signals.
- Dealing with chronic pain. While it is not clear how meditation decreases the suffering of people who experience chronic pain, studies have shown some surprising results: relief can be achieved by beginners and much quicker than expected.
- Improved immune function. When our bodies relax, our immune system has the opportunity to prepare for battle against germs, foreign invaders, and cancer.
When is a good time to meditate? One of the beauties of mediation is that we can make it as formal or informal as we like, and thereby adapt it to our needs. There are centers, groups, and classes that are led by trained instructors to teach us advanced techniques. And because meditation does not require equipment or formal training, it can be done on our own, at any time. So, whether we are at work, sitting on an airplane or train, ready to go to sleep, or just feeling anxious or stressed, all we need is a few minutes to achieve our inner peace.
How can I meditate in just a few minutes? If we are seated, sit up straight, plant our feet on the ground, close our eyes, and repeat a mantra. A mantra can be a word or phrase that is religious or secular, such as “Om,” “I am at peace,” or “I love myself.” It helps to tune into our breathing as well. Take a deep and slow breath in from our nostrils and exhale gently either through our nostrils or mouth.
If we are on the go, slow down the pace and focus on each movement of our legs or feet, forget about our destination, and repeat a mantra.
If we have a faith we follow, consider engaging in prayer, praise or a spiritual precept, the most widely practiced example of meditation. It can be saying or reading our own words or verses, or listening to sacred music.
Meditation is a rich moment or collection of moments that we escape the noise and demands of our world to focus fully in the wonder of stillness and a knowing. There are healthy benefits in “being still” and meditating that will have positive affect on our body, our thoughts and feelings, and our behavior.
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Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.