The practice of meditation has existed for thousands of years, and it was originally meant to help deepen one’s spiritual self. However, today it has evolved to also be used as a purposeful way of quieting the mind and encouraging deep relaxation and stress control.
When practiced regularly, meditation provides tremendous health and wellness benefits. It can help you manage your stress level, lower your heart rate, and can even teach you how to calm yourself and slow down your breathing in stressful situations. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the benefits from regular meditation include:
• Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
• Building skills to manage stress
• Increased self-awareness
• Focusing on the present
• Reducing negative emotions
• Increased imagination and creativity
• Increased patience and tolerance
Studies prove that meditation training changes the “mental muscles” in the brain by increasing activity in the portions dedicated to processing stress, focus, and calmness, 1 making it the perfect complement to conventional treatments for mood, anxiety, eating and sleep disorders, as well as ADHD. This is such an important finding, that WCWCW decided to stop just recommending meditation and to start providing it to patients (see more info on this at the end of this article!).
Meditation also offers additional health benefits and may help people manage symptoms of medical conditions including:
• Chronic Pain
• Heart Disease
• High Blood Pressure
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Tension Headaches
A typical meditation can be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes or more. If you are just starting out, it might be helpful to participate in a group or guided meditation, where people share a setting, and someone skilled in meditation provides direction and guidance. Guided meditation can be a great way to get introduced into meditation, and teach you the foundations of breathing and quieting your mind.
A meditation session will usually begin with the individual in a comfortable position, sometimes seated on a cushion on the floor. The setting will be typically very comfortable with low lighting, and a quiet environment. The guide will provide directions on breathing and paying attention to your breaths. The idea is to free your mind of distracting thoughts as much as possible and focus on the quiet around you and the simple sound and motion of your breath. You can also pay attention to various parts of your body as you become aware of each area and it relaxes more deeply.
When I prescribe meditation, my patients will often respond “I know I should meditate but I’ve tried and I’m not any good at it! I keep thinking about my to-do list or my kids or what’s for dinner tonight…..” The important thing to remember is that meditation is a practice, meaning that no matter how many years you’ve meditated, the goal is not to simply start out with no thoughts whatsoever. The goal is to continue to have thoughts (because you will) but become less “interested” in them – to notice that they’re there but to decide you’re not going to attend to them right now.
Making the time and space to make meditation a regular part of your routine in itself is an act of self-care that will lead to positive results. Over time you will improve your ability to more easily access the meditative state, release your stress and manage your thoughts for clarity. In the hustle and demands of our too-busy lives, learning how to quiet your mind, slow your breathing and find a relaxed state can have multiple benefits to your life, health, and even your productivity!
Washington Center for Women’s and Children’s Wellness has recently announced the launch of Recharj Bethesda, at 6430 Rockledge Drive, Suite 400 in Bethesda. Starting November 15th, Recharj Bethesda is providing guided meditation 3 times a day at the WCWCW Bethesda office location. For hours and sign-up information visit www.Recharj.com.
1,Creswell, J.D., et.al: Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial; July 1, 2016, Volume 80, Issue 1, Pages 53-61.