WHAT IS MEDITATION? - NOVEMBER 2017 - VOLUME 9, ISSUE 8

 
 

Volume 9, Issue 8

Meditation Reduces Stress and More

Last month we looked at mental stress and some ways to reduce its effects, including meditation. This month, especially since the holiday season is fast approaching, I'd like to take a closer look at meditation. I hope that you can use this information to help you enjoy a more relaxed holiday season. Read on below...

These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better as it is a step toward longevity.

Best wishes for a relaxed, healthy and happy holiday season!

Ramila Padiachy

Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM)®

Ramila
 

What is meditation?

Some people may think of meditation as prayer or worship, but it is, in fact, a form of mental exercise, of focused attention and awareness. It does not interfere with any religious practice. 


The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind. "Meditation is mind without agitation." When you meditate, your mind is free of scattered and racing thoughts. It is a state of consciousness. It is a state of stillness, where you can be observing your breath, listening to the birds or the waves, and feeling in total harmony with yourself without having any thoughts. Or you can simply observe your thoughts and let them pass without judgment. Some people would consider taking a walk in the woods (known as a walking meditation), or gardening or doing art to be meditation.


Through meditation, you attain mental calmness and introspection. Research shows there are also many physiologic benefits you can attain by meditating.  


Meditation allows people to take charge of their own nervous system and emotions. Studies show that meditation improves one's ability to regulate emotions.

 

How to meditate

There are many different techniques for meditation. You could start with guided meditation, either in a group setting or listening to a prerecorded meditation. You could repeat a word (mantra) to help you focus your mind, or just focus on your breath.  


Meditation does require discipline. You might start by meditating for 5 minutes at a time, and increase the time as you get more comfortable. There are many apps that you can download - find the method that works best for you.


Meditation requires consistency and commitment to a time every day in order to get results. It's not necessary to sit cross-legged with closed eyes; it really is a state of being where you are training your mind to be still.


A very brief summary of a few of the different types of meditation include:

  • Mantra meditation is where you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. Transcendental meditation is a well-known example of this type of meditation.
  • Mindfulness meditation is based on being mindful or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. You can focus on your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment. We shouldn't stop being mindful when we stop meditation; the purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become mindful in all aspects of our life.  
  • MBSR or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a well known practice developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He does not call this program meditation, but it is based on his many years of studying Buddhism and yoga, which he integrates with his background in science. The program supports Western medicine to help people manage stress, anxiety, illnesses and chronic pain.
  • Yoga can be done as a meditation where you perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. Moving through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more in the moment.
 

Why would I want to meditate?

In addition to reducing stress (and anxiety), there are many ways that regularly meditating can improve your life. Meditation...

  • encourages a healthy lifestyle. People who meditate tend to want to do things that are better for them, such as quit smoking, eat healthy food. 
  • slows aging. Studies show that meditation changes brain physiology to slow aging. Meditation is associated with longer telomeres, the caps on chromosomes that indicate biological age (rather than chronological age).
  • improves cognitive function and memory.
  • increases cardiovascular and immune function. Meditation induces relaxation, which increases the compound nitric oxide that causes blood vessels to open up and, subsequently, blood pressure to drop. One study showed that 40 of 60 high blood pressure patients who started meditation could stop taking their blood pressure medication.
  • decreases pain.
  • decreases inflammation at the cellular level.
  • increases positive emotions and happiness.
  • increases self-awareness.
  • decreases depression and negative emotions.
  • increases social connection.
  • makes you more compassionate, patient and tolerant.
  • increases acceptance.
  • makes you feel less lonely.
  • boosts your self-control.
  • improves concentration and ability to focus.
  • improves your creativity and ability to think outside the box.


Studies have shown that meditation changes the grey matter in the brain. In one study, a magnetic resonance image (MRI) was taken of 14 participants before and after they participated in the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for about 30 minutes a day. They were compared to 14 controls, matched on age and education, who were given the same 2 MRIs approximately 2 months apart. The MRI images focused on areas of the brain where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, and found increased grey matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in areas associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.


I hope this brief look at meditation encourages you to look into it in more detail and find a type that you like.

 

References

  1. Crane K. 8 ways mediation can improve your life. Huffington Post, September 19, 2014, huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/19/meditation-benefits_n_5842870.html Accessed September 20, 2017.
  2. Padiachy R. The Belly of the Beast. Stouffville: Black Card Books, 2017. 
  3. Mindworks Team. What are the different types of meditation? mindworks.org/meditation-knowledge/different-types-meditation/ Accessed November 1, 2017. 
  4. Eisler M. 11 mediation styles and techniques explained. May 6, 2015. mindfulminutes.com/meditation-styles-techniques-explained/ Accessed November 1, 2017.
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. Meditation: a simple, fast way to reduce stress. mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858 Accessed September 20, 2017.
  6. Seppälä EM. 20 scientific reasons to start meditating today. psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201309/20-scientific-reasons-start-meditating-today/ September 11, 2013. Accessed September 20, 2017.
  7. McGreevey S. Eight weeks to a better brain - meditation study shows changes associated with awareness, stress. news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/ Accessed February 1, 2017.
  8. Hölzel BK, Carmody J, Vangel M. et al. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatr Res Neuroimaging 2011;191:36-43.

Disclaimer: The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.

Supplements

There are some Nature's Sunshine supplements that are relevant to this newsletter. You can find information about these products and purchase them in our online store:

  • Stress Formula
  • RE-X
  • Passion Flower
  • Lavender, Organic Essential Oil
  • Melatonin Extra
  • STR-J
  • Stress Pak
  • Zerenity

For additional information, please email info@ramilas.com or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue letting friends and family know about this newsletter. Also, on our website, please see back issues of this newsletter, information about services, products and our clinic, and order products.

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