By Adrian Schirr of Forum Health Clarkston
It should be obvious to most by now: our fast-paced existence is only speeding up. With never-ending access to world news, differing opinions, and a myriad of positive and negative images, the constant stimulation turns to chaos. The mental distractions are interrupting the connection between the mind and body, allowing jumping thoughts and feelings of worry, panic, regret, guilt, and fear. It takes conscious effort and awareness to resist the noise. We need release—to connect all of the things happening at once and make sense of them. To experience true peace, we need the power of meditation.
What is Meditation?
At the surface, it’s simply the act of sitting still. It’s finding comfort in closing your eyes and giving yourself a few minutes to just breathe—to take a mental timeout. Easy, right? So, let’s go one step further. For the ones who know the power in its practice: meditation is medicine. In fact, it has a long history of health benefits.
The word meditation stems from meditatum, a Latin term that means “to ponder.” It’s an ancient practice. Some of the oldest records in India, dated back as early as 1500 BCE, mention Dhyāna or Jhāna, which is often translated as “the training of the mind.” However, some early written accounts of the different states of meditation in Buddhism can be found in the sutras of the Pāli Canon: a collection of scriptures from the Theravada Buddhist tradition that dates back to the 1st century BCE (positivepsychology.com).
While Buddhism (as well as Taoism and the process of Zen) was instrumental in spreading the value of meditation, the practice is pretty common today. The good news is that you do not need to be a monk, sage, religious leader, great philosopher, or even a yoga master to find inner peace. You don’t need a temple, church, or an altar to practice—your bedroom or any quiet place you feel comfortable works just fine (positivepsychology.com) .
But is it for you?
Who Should Meditate?
Well, first, the answer to that is everyone. Everyone should meditate. Every single day. You do not need to be in poor health to gain benefits from the practice. If the mind and body are already connected, think of meditation as a daily pick-me-up to feed and nurture that relationship. Imagine tightening that bond and the boundless rewards beyond that. Those who suffer with blocks are no exception:
Stress: Research has shown that meditation is an effective stress-management tool. When done regularly, the practice ultimately reprograms the brain to have a greater capacity to manage stress.
Fear: As with any emotion, meditation can help stabilize us through bouts of fear to help us understand it with clarity. Through each day, guide yourself to meet fear in a more positive and productive way with the power of meditation.
Addiction/Destructive Habits: Research suggests that meditation decreases unwanted behaviors by training individuals to be aware of their thoughts and cravings. They then practice different strategies to distance themselves from these thoughts, while gaining the strength to resist them.
Anxiety & Depression: Meditation-based interventions have been applied to the treatment of various mental disorders, with the most telling evidence for use in depression and anxiety. This is attributed to the idea that during meditation, the mind is strong enough to ignore negative sensations and thoughts.
Chronic Pain: A 2016 study, published in the The Journal of Neuroscience found that when combined with yoga meditation can help ease chronic pain by decreasing inflammation in white blood cells. Think: when inflammation goes up, pain goes up. Therefore, opioid painkillers target the inflammation to decrease the pain. This is likely how meditation works against pain—by lowering the inflammation.
But don’t just take my word for it…
From the Professionals
Kelly Scott is a yoga instructor and life coach. She is the owner and founder of Bound for Bliss, a practice that works in both group and private sessions while helping clients on personal and professional levels. The very foundation of what she teaches involves a heavy dose of mindfulness, which is loosely defined as a mental state achieved by working to focus one’s own awareness on their present moment.
I got the chance to ask Ms. Scott a few questions recently.
When did you start practicing meditation?
“Initially, I began meditating without even knowing I was doing it! As a stay at home mom running the household, going to school, and running a photography business, I gave myself 15 minutes every day just before the kids got off the bus. I would sit, close my eyes and focus on my breath. It helped me come out of ‘rush’ mode to be present with my kids and it gave me more energy.”
So, what do you know now? What’s the why you teach your clients now that you know how to apply it?
“What I know now is that Meditation is a great tool for reducing stress and it increases your ability to think clearly as well as your capacity for compassion and empathy.”
What’s happening while you meditate?
“In meditation, you’re increasing your focus, expanding consciousness/awareness through relaxation. A sharp mind without expansion causes tension, anger and frustration. An expanded consciousness without the sharp mind leads to lack of action or progress. So expanded consciousness + sharp mind brings balance to your life.”
Is there actual science behind the benefits of meditation?
“Yes! In the brain, beta waves are replaced by alpha waves—alpha waves induce relaxation and beta waves create tension. The frontal and parietal lobes, where we process sensory information and reason and plan, slow down, allowing the nervous system to rest and your body to relax and function better.”
Through her work, Scott has found the following benefits through the power of meditation:
On a physical level, meditation
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Reduces anxiety attacks
- Decreases tension-related pain (headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems)
- Increases serotonin
- Improves your immune system
- Increases your energy level
As you practice meditation on a regular basis you will find that
- Anxiety decreases
- Emotional stability improves
- Creativity increases
- Happiness increases
- Develop Intuition
- Gain clarity and peace of mind
- Problems become smaller
- Increases self esteem
For guided meditations, helpful tips, and teachings, follow Kelly Scott on her Facebook page: Bound for Bliss.
Time to Get Started
Here’s what you need:
- A Quiet Setting: Ditch the distractions, including crowded rooms, the television, loud music, and your cellphone.
- A Comfortable Position: You can practice meditation whether you’re sitting, laying down, walking, or in line at the grocery store. For now, try sitting or laying down. Once you’re a bit further in your practice, you’ll be able to open it up to a range of situations where you benefit the most, such as a traffic jam (with eyes open), family gathering, a stressful work meeting, or a long line.
- Open Attitude: You’re not here to judge yourself and no one is there to judge you. Let thoughts pass through your mind. Notice them, but don’t try to figure them out.
Let’s Do This
Many people believe that mediation is the practice of shutting down the mind. I can’t meditate because I can’t ever turn off my mind… Please know that can only happen if you’re dead. You are very much alive so your focus during meditation is aimed at building mindfulness and awareness. Let your expectations go—whatever you thought you knew or assumed about meditation is gone.
- Close your eyes.
- Relax your shoulders, allowing your hands to rest in your lap if you’re sitting or beside you if you’re laying down.
- Start by focusing on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
- Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose?
- Take a deep inhale through your nose, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly through your mouth, extending the exhale as your belly contracts.
- Continue to keep your attention on the breath and on how the body moves as you breathe without attempting to control its pace or intensity. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly.
- If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.
- Do not worry about time for now. Simply maintain this practice for as long as you can.
For a guided meditation, YouTube is a wonderful place to look. Simply type “guided meditation” in the search bar and pick one.
Remember that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. There is only awareness and non-awareness. When you notice your thoughts wandering, you’ve moved into awareness. Simply bring your attention back to the breath and continue your practice. It’s that simple. With consistent practice, you will eventually know and feel the power of meditation. At Forum Health, we teach our clients to be mindful in every part of their journey to a healthier life. From listening to their bodies to practicing mindful eating, our functional medicine programs are designed to be a whole body/mind/spirit experience. To find a provider, call (855) 976-5578.
Journal of Neuroscience
Kelly Scott, Bound for Bliss