For some reason Fall, to me, means a time for reflection. It’s the season that I, once again, begin taking my morning walks through my woods to commune with Mother Nature. While on these walks I also make sure to take 15 minutes to meditate. When I take the time to meditate each day I feed my mind, body and soul. It centers me. It’s a reflection of what has past and what I can do to bring a more positive future. Have you ever practiced meditation? If you haven’t then you certainly need to read further …
What is Meditation?
The practice of Meditation has existed for centuries. Most people relate meditation to the practice of Buddism. However, there are many other cultures that practice mediation as well. There are four common elements:
- A quiet, distraction-free environment, your environment can be wherever you feel most comfortable. In my case, it’s usually while walking in the woods or in my bedroom.
- A comfortable position, sitting, laying down, walking or whatever you are most comfortable with.
- A focus on attention, a chosen word or words usually called a mantra, a focus on an object or just being mindful of your breathing. I usually take focus on my breathing much like you would do if you were practicing yoga.
- An open mind, better explained as the ability of letting distractions or thoughts freely flow through your mind as they naturally do without the necessity of judgments or decisions. Think about it as the thought enters it must also exit as quickly as it came.
Are there health benefits to Mediation?
The answer to that question would be yes. There is current scientific data showing that meditation is effective for:
- Menopausal symptoms
- High Blood Pressure, to just name a few.
A small 2016 study funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that mindfulness meditation does help to control pain and doesn’t use the brain’s naturally occurring opiates to do so. This suggests that combining mindfulness with pain medications and other approaches that rely on the brain’s opioid activity may be particularly effective for reducing pain.
A 2014 literature review of 47 trials in 3,515 participants suggests that mindfulness meditation programs show moderate evidence of improving anxiety and depression. But the researchers found no evidence that meditation changed health-related behaviors affected by stress, such as substance abuse and sleep.
In a small, NCCIH-funded study, 54 adults with chronic insomnia learned mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a form of MBSR specially adapted to deal with insomnia (mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia, or MBTI), or a self-monitoring program. Both meditation-based programs aided sleep, with MBTI providing a significantly greater reduction in insomnia severity compared with MBSR.
Meditation-based programs may be helpful in reducing common menopausal symptoms, including the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, sleep and mood disturbances, stress, and muscle and joint pain. However, differences in study designs mean that no firm conclusions can be drawn.
In my personal experience, I started mindful meditation to aide in alleviating my severe menopausal symptoms. I had extreme anxiety, depression and insomnia. I would literally not sleep for 2 to 3 days at a time. When you add, hot flashes, night sweats and achy joints I was not very approachable as a human being that’s for sure. It became a matter of survival for me.
Still to this day, I continue to practice meditation using a mindfulness to my breathing on an almost daily basis. It’s a really simple technique that can be used anywhere. All you need to do is find your comfortable environment (it can be anywhere, a public restroom, in your car, your bedroom) then just close your eyes and focus on breathing in deeply and breathing out very slowly. This, for me, was particularly effective for anxiety and panic attacks. When these attacks came on I would catch myself either breathing very, very shallow or on the reverse breathing very, very fast like a hamster. However, just a few minutes in my quiet spot using this technique would center my mind and bring me to a calm place alleviating the severity of the attack. Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D. wrote an insightful article entitled Breathing: The Little Known Secret to Peace of Mind for Psychology Today. Emma talks about a small research study she conducted with veterans of war and the positive outcome she was able to attain. She also goes more in depth with the benefits of breathing. I highly suggest that you click on over and read her article.
In the cooler weather, I take advantage of each and every day to practice meditation while walking in the woods. For me, nature is a place that calms my mind, reduces my stress level and increases my happiness. When walking, I focus on the sounds of nature (the birds, the frogs, a babbling creek, the sound of the wind gently blowing through the trees). I feel the trunk of a tree, the earth beneath my feet. I see the beauty of a drifting leaf, the sun shine through the canopy. I smell the composting forest floor, the blooming wild flowers, the very essence of the woods. You see, this technique touches on all four senses and immediately it produces a calming effect for the mind. It doesn’t matter of its 30 minutes or 10 minutes you will most certainly come back feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. Not to mention, your blood pressure will be reduced, same goes for your stress level. You feel happier then you did when you entered the tree line.
If you are experiencing any or all of the symptoms I have listed above I highly suggest to take time out and begin meditation. You really have nothing to lose as there is no scientific evidence that suggests mediation to be harmful in any way. So, basically you have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
Have you ever practice mediation and if not, would you be willing to practice after reading this post?
See you in the comments,