This morning started as others have for the past few months, with 20 minutes of meditation. It’s made a huge difference in my stress and anxiety levels, my blood pressure, and my attitude. Friends comment that my energy is more relaxed. Most importantly, it’s been months since I experienced a-fib, or atrial fibrillation, with my heart. To say that a daily meditation practice has helped me is an understatement. Its been life-saving. The health benefits of meditation are real.
The Health Benefits of Meditation
More than an ancient practice, meditation is growing in popularity as studies reveal what the ancients knew; the health benefits of meditation. Meditation’s following is growing as people discover it helps reduce stress, ease anxiety, reduce blood pressure and live more healthfully.
Stress increases your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, and with constant stress, your adrenal glands overproduce the stress hormone, cortisol. Overexposure to cortisol affects the function of your brain, immune system, and other organs. Chronic stress contributes to headaches, anxiety, depression, heart disease, and even premature death says Harvard Medical School. Recent research also shows that meditation may help our brains to age better, slowing age-related cognitive decline.
How an EEG Lead Me to Meditation
Today, we live on a constant diet of stress in a non-stop world. I’m a high energy person, but I did not consider myself stressed out. The results of an electroencephalogram (EEG), also called a brain map, showed differently. An EEG detects electrical activity in your brain using small metal electrodes attached to your scalp in a cap. A computer captures the electrical impulses from your brain and detects abnormalities in your brain waves, or in the electrical activity. While EEG’s are often used to diagnose brain disorders, my doctor thought it might show clues as to why I was experiencing a-fib, because nothing else made sense.
The brain map showed that my brain went all of the time at crazy amplitudes and never rested. The technician, Jon, told me “you have a very busy brain!” And my response was, I’ve always been this way. My husband, our doctor, and Jon all told me I had to slow down. I resisted changing. What pushed me over the edge was when we sat down in church and our pastor taught on slowing the pace of your life. Talk about timing. I gave in and decided to try meditation to slow down my brain to improve my health. The first part of change is deciding that you want to.
What is Meditation
Meditation is simply the habit of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. You can practice anywhere, anytime. The longer you do it the better you get. I meditate first thing in the morning to start my day in the quiet of my bedroom. Find what works for you and give it a try. You don’t have to sit crossed-legged with your fingers touching as many photos depict. I lay flat so I can totally relax. And let’s address one misconception: meditation is not just for yogis in the Himalayas. Mediation is a part of all major faith practices, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
How I Learned Meditation
While there are books, videos and even apps to learn about meditation for your smart phones, I learned guided meditation from our massage therapist. After walking me through a meditation session, she gave me a pattern to follow on my own each day. I begin by laying down in a comfortable position and using ear plugs to shut out any noise. Then I follow a sequence Julie gave me focused on my breathing and my heart beat. Next I relax my body from head to toe, until I’m almost tingly am completely relaxed. When I’m relaxed I pray and ask God to restore me mentally, physically and spiritually. I breathe out stress, anxiety and fear, and breathe in healing light. The whole thing takes 20 minutes. This is what works for me; find what works for you.
Consider Meditation for Your Own Health Benefits
If the pace of life today has you stressed, anxious, worried, fearful, or with other health issues, consider meditation as an new tool for wellbeing. For a great article on The Science-Based Benefits of Meditation, enjoy this article. There are proven benefits for mental and physical health. Check out the many phone apps available. We really enjoy Calm. Another option, read about the health benefits of practicing gratitude.