Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • March 2018
Written by 

Why meditation is great for your health

St. Francis de Sales once said, “Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”

Meditation has been growing steadily in popularity over the last two decades, but there are still plenty of people who dismiss the simple practice of mindfulness as nothing more than a waste of time. After all, with many of us leading such busy lifestyles, who has time to waste on, well, doing nothing but sitting around?

That’s just it. Meditation is so much more than “just sitting around,” and what many don’t realize is that a simple 15-minute meditation every day can do a world of good for your health, mentally and physically.

What is mediation and how does it work?

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the definition of meditation, and there certainly are plenty of definitions that are thrown around. However, according to FreeMeditation.com, “In reality, meditation is a state of awareness, not an act of doing.”

Meditation, while it may look simple, can be a bit more difficult than you might think until you’ve learned to do it correctly. It’s more than just sitting with your eyes closed for 15 minutes. As FreeMeditation.com puts it, “Meditation is a state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert.”

The idea of thoughtless awareness

Something important happens during thoughtless awareness — the stress-producing part of your mind is whisked away, and it happens without having any negative effects on your alertness, or on the effectiveness of your meditation practice.

As you sit and breathe, thoughts are still going to flood your mind. However, rather than engaging with them like you normally would, simply acknowledge them and let them float by. This thoughtless awareness enables you to focus on the present moment rather than dwell on the unchangeable past or undetermined future, and is said to be therapeutic both psychologically and physically.

That idea is what sets meditation apart from other activities like sleeping and relaxing. Meditation isn’t about focus, concentration, visualization or trying to escape your thoughts. It’s about the act of letting go and giving yourself to your inner silence for a while. You’re simply balanced, stress free (if only for a few moments) and enjoying the now, rather than focused on stress, your job, and the numerous other things that may be screaming for your attention.

Regular meditation practice and your health

Over the years, meditation has been found to support optimal health and wellness, both physically and mentally. In thousands of separate studies since the early 1930s, meditation has been clearly shown to offer a wide variety of benefits.

A sampling of research

  • “Meditation decreases oxygen consumption, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure, and increases the intensity of alpha, theta, and delta brain waves — the opposite of the physiological changes that occur during stress.” (Dr. Herbert Benson, Harvard Medical School & Author of the Relaxation Response)
  • “Seventy-five percent of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation and meditation can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed.” (Dr. Gregg Jacobs, Psychologist at Harvard)
  • “It is estimated that 80-90 percent of all illnesses are linked either directly or indirectly with stress. By reducing stress, meditation can boost the immune system to reduce health care use.” (National Institute of Health)
  • “Meditation and yoga lifestyle intervention significantly reduced the rate of cellular aging in an apparently healthy population.” (Madhuri Tolahunase, All India Institute of Medical Sciences)
  • “In a study investigating the impact of meditation on inventories of happiness, depression and anxiety, meditation was found to significantly improve all three.” (Journal of Clinical Psychology)
  • “VA-sponsored meditation programs show promise for reducing PTSD severity in veterans receiving mental health services.” (Kathi L Heffner, University of Rochester Medical Center)
  • “Relaxation therapies like meditation are effective in treating chronic pain, and can markedly ease the pain of low back problems, arthritis, and headaches.” (National Institutes of Health)
  • “Meditation may slow aging. A study found that people who had been meditating for more than five years were physiologically 12 to 15 years younger than non-meditators.” (International Journal of Neuroscience)

With all of these health benefits, why wouldn’t you want to meditate? Just like with a regular exercise routine, there’s the same excuse from many people: “I don’t have time.”

Making time for your practice

The ideal time for most meditation practices is just 15 minutes twice daily (once in the morning and once at night). However, sometimes sticking to that 15 minutes can be hard. Here are some tips to try.

Rather than focusing on the full duration (especially if you’re new to the practice), start with just two or five minutes instead. When you start with a shorter amount of time, you’re more likely to stick with the practice entirely.

Instead of trying to fit meditation into your daily routine, do the opposite — make meditation your base and build your day around it. Try to meditate at the same time every day, and make sure you have a quiet place to do so.

Final thoughts

When you start to feel overwhelmed, meditate. You might not think that a few minutes of thoughtless awareness could ever help you feel better, but it can — and it’s great for your overall health, too! 

 

Theresa Groskopp, CN

Theresa Groskopp, a licensed certified nutritionist, is the founder and president of Natural Healthy Concepts, which has a retail location at 310 N. Westhill Blvd. in Appleton. She firmly believes that the foundation of health and wellness lies in proper nutrition. To supplement proper nutrition, Natural Healthy Concepts carries a wide variety of pharmaceutical grade supplements, homeopathic remedies and herbs — all of which are derived from the highest quality ingredients. The store also offers a nice selection of natural health products, including nontoxic sunscreens!

Website: www.naturalhealthyconcepts.com
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