“We need a mini vacation…”
Ever feel like there’s just too much on your mind? Or maybe like you need a break from
thinking all together? We all have those moments when we feel overwhelmed by life. There are times when our minds are racing; there are deadlines, projects, dates, and favors that all need our attention. This is a time to take a couple of minutes to “reset”. Our productivity level drops when we become fatigued and mentally stressed. Therefore we begin to decline in our ability to function at an optimal rate of efficiency. We need to take a mini vacation. I’m not talking about spending money and taking time off work. Much more simple than that, I’m referring to a technique called meditation.
Meditation is a type of mind-body complementary therapy that has been practiced for thousands of years. There are many varieties of meditation, all of which help to produce a deeper state of relaxation and tranquility. These include, breathing techniques, yoga, qigong, guided imagery, and chanting, to name a few.
Just like our body needs sleep to rejuvenate and re-energize, the brain needs time to
rest as well. When we meditate and practice conscious breathing we give the body an
opportunity to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system and allow for restoration. This is an excellent way to give yourself an energy boost, mentally and physically without going into a sleep mode. We don’t always have time for a nap, and frankly “power naps” don’t work well for everyone. Meditation is a great option when you only have a short duration of time to dedicate. It can be done sitting in any type of chair and is especially helpful when you need some stress relief during your busy day.
Meditation and Health
The health benefits associated with a daily meditation practice are outstanding!
Research has shown meditation to:
• Increase longevity
• Promote healthy blood cells
• Reduce stress
• Improve sleep
When we look deeper into the body’s response to regular meditation, the results show positive benefits in several areas, especially that of the brain.
The Prefrontal Cortex
This portion of the brain naturally thins with
age. It has been proven that meditation can
reverse this process, which would otherwise
contribute to cognitive decline.
Temporoparietal Junction (TPJ)
This part of the brain governs
perspective and empathy. A meditation
modality called Cognitively-based
Compassion Training has been shown to
improve the ability of subjects to read
emotions on strangers’ faces.
This region of the brain is closely
correlated to one’s experience
with negative emotions like stress.
Stress can increase the density of
this region, altering the structure
of the brain. Meditating can help
reduce the density and maintain
the brain’s healthy structure.
Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC)
This region of the brain is associated
with creativity and self-reflection.
Research shows that meditation has
beneficial effects on the density and
structure of this region.
Meditation has been proven to strengthen your
pain response. The practice of mindfulness
improves the body’s physiological response to
pain as well as one’s perception of pain.
This part of the brain shapes new
memories from experiences. Stress
hormones have a shrinking effect on the
hippocampus, interfering with memory
and navigation. Meditation can help
maintain the size of this structure, which
is pertinent to our mental resilience.
Meditation may protect
against heart disease by
markers associated with
Meditation helps to dilate the
blood vessels, improving blood
flow and thereby lowering the
pressure needed to pump blood
throughout the body
Meditation is linked to
and strengthened immunity.
Consistency Is Key
Meditating every day for 5–10 minutes is better than 45 minutes three times a week.
It’s great to have an “aha” moment and do something good for yourself, like drink a green
juice or go for a run one day. That decision was certainly better made then just thinking about it, and you probably felt great afterwards! The key to creating a lifestyle that you feel great about is to make those decisions on a daily basis-thus creating healthy habits that serve you today, tomorrow, and so on.
To reap maximum benefits of meditation, dedicating a small amount of time each day is recommended.
“We are what we repeatedly do.” -Darren Hardy
I know the effort can seem daunting when you look at a calendar full of things to do, and
adding yet another item to that list doesn’t sound too exciting right?
I’m here to tell you that meditation is NOT something to add to your “to-do” list. It is
something to incorporate into your routine and way of life. The best way to remember to actually do it, until it becomes an habitual practice, is to associate the time with something else you already do (and won’t be stopping) on a consistent basis. For example; when you take a lunch break, before eating use 5 minutes to do a breathing exercise, or try out a guided mantra reading. Maybe evening is better for you, so before going to bed spend 15 minutes doing a body relaxation technique to help you sleep better. By practicing a few minutes at the same time everyday you will begin to look forward to that little bit of love and dedication to yourself.
Today’s Effort- Mindful Meditation
Try one of the meditation suggestions below, take a yoga class or choose another form that interests you. Select a time to practice each day. Begin with 5-10 minutes and gradually increase the time you spend, if desired.
Soft Belly Breathing
Practice in bed in the morning or evening, or sit in a chair, supporting your own spine by sitting upright.
Place hands on your belly, thumbs at the naval, fingertips pointed downward.
Inhale and allow the belly to expand under your fingertips, exhale and the belly contracts.
Close your eyes and envision a beautiful wave: Inhale-the wave rises and the belly expands.
On the exhale – see the wave return to the ocean.
Bring your focus on keeping a rhythmic breathing pattern, where the inhale and exhale are equal. Allow the expansion and contraction to become natural.
Soft belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digest) through the phrenic nerve that runs down both sides of the diaphragm. This type of breathing will provide massage to the heart muscle, and can reduce tension in the neck and shoulders.
I am whole and complete. My body is full of health and vibrant energy. I am a being of greatness. Each day I give myself love. I am whole and complete.
Speak these words (or a version that resonates with you) out loud or silently in your head.
Repeat several times. Breathe slowly and rhythmically as you speak.
Full Body Reset
Begin by sitting comfortable with your feet flat on the ground. Close your eyes and take a few breaths to calm the body and become present. If at any point you find your mind wandering, bring your focus back to the word, One.
In your head say the word One. Repeat this word 3-5 times, each time accompanied by a slow breath. Inhale through the nose, and exhaling through a slightly open mouth.
Now bring your attention to the feet. Tighten your feet and toes, clench them. Inhale slowly and on your exhale release the tension in your feet, wiggle your toes and rest them. Now move your focus up to your calves and knees and thighs. Squeeze your legs, tighten the calf muscles, and again, inhale and on your exhale slowly release the tension in your legs. Moving upwards, focus on the buttocks, inhale, squeeze and with the exhale let all tightness go-feel your bum soften into the chair. Inhale and bring attention to the lower back and stomach. Sit up tall, inhale, and as you exhale feel the breath flow out and squeeze your stomach muscles completely inward. Move attention to your hands. Create fists and squeeze your hands tight. Feel the heat build up and then with a slow exhale, open your hands and let go of the tension. Rest the hands on your lap. Now onto your shoulders and neck. Lift the shoulders up towards your ears squeezing everything tight as you inhale. Exhale and drop the shoulders. Repeat this step again. Let your neck become loose and drop fully into your shoulders. Now inhale and focus on your jaw and face. Tighten and clench the jaw muscles, wrinkle the brow. Feel the lips and cheeks clench. Now release all this tightened energy with a long slow exhale. Inhale again and say the word, One. Continue to inhale and exhale slowly while repeating the word One. If you find your attention drifting, use the word, One, as a way to reconnect with your breathing and keep bringing your attention back to your sweet breath flowing in and out.
When you are ready, open your eyes.
The power of meditation and attention to breathing is a tool we can use anytime, anywhere. There is no restrictions to who can utilize this type of exercise and the benefits are becoming more recognized. I hope you have a great experience with adding more mindfulness into your day. Perhaps you already have a practice that works for you? Make a renewed effort to implement a daily routine. Feel free to share with our tribe what types of meditation you enjoy!
Be proud of yourself!
Join us every Sunday for the next edition of Starting Your Week Strong.
Learn about cultivating more self-love in last weeks’ blog Love as Medicine
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Are you curious about how to harmonize your health goals and fit wellness into your busy schedule? Contact me today for more information about Today’s Effort Health Coaching.