Meditation - "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf"
“If you think there’s something missing from your life, it’s probably you.” Robert Holden (Both quotes from Marla Mulvey’s article, see below)
How do you get your YOU back? Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to this online assessment that helps people identify their core values. Spirituality and physical/mental health are two of mine. Recently, I’ve been meaning to revitalize my meditation practice because I feel better when I do it. Then it hit me. The reason I feel better is that meditation helps me align with these important values. Although values might not usually be associated with fitness, for me, these are “oxygen mask” values that, when nurtured, enable me to offer more to those around me. SO, if I’m out of sync with my values, I’ve lost my YOU.
Meditation or some kind of quiet time in the day may help give space for us to think about what’s most important to us and plan our days accordingly. Hopefully, the plan includes fitness!
In the article below, fellow Fitness Challenge participant, Marla Mulkey, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, provides a comprehensive guide to meditation.
Dear Mary, Many of us work hard to eat right and exercise our bodies, but often the mind gets overlooked when it comes to our health. As a society, we haven't been taught to give our mental strength the attention it deserves. Meditation, often considered an exercise for the brain, is a great way to focus on the health of the mind. Through this mindful practice, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes hormones called endorphins, which result in an amplified feeling of wellbeing. Mindfulness, in theory, is extremely straightforward. Simply put, it’s the practice of being fully present, fully aware, and fully able to engage with one’s current situation or environment. Why then, does it seem so elusive? So many of us are accustomed to over-stimulation from the outside world, distracting us. Our minds can be full of "noise", manifesting as anxiety which then has an effect on our bodies in the way of breathing. The breath is our support system. If we can slow it down, we can use our breath as a tool. Our breathing can mimic waves in the ocean and calm us. In the words of mindfulness master Jon Kabat-Zinn, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."
People often use meditation for stress relief, but there are many other benefits of creating a meditation practice, including: Anxiety: Relieving stress through meditation lessens anxiety, quieting the noise in our head, thus creating a calm space for the mind to relax by being present in the moment. Emotional Health: Routine meditation has been found to decrease inflammatory chemicals in the brain that can affect mood, emotions, and cause depression, which allows for more opportunities to focus on a more positive outlook on life. Cognitive Flexibility: Decreasing reactivity to external events and triggers is another benefit. Those who meditate demonstrate higher levels of self-awareness and focus and these are tools that help us become less reactive and more mindful of ourselves. Self-Awareness: Taking the time to sit alone can lead to a greater understanding of self and how that self corresponds to other people,. Sleep: Because meditation settles the mind and body, it is a great practice for helping people with falling asleep and staying asleep. Pain: Pain is connected to a person’s state of mind, so by relieving stress and balancing the mind and body, a person becomes better equipped to manage pain. Anti-Aging: Studies suggest that a longer-term, daily meditation practice keeps your brain from shrinking as you age and brings right (imaginative) and left (logical) sides of the brain in closer harmony. Lowers Risk for Obesity, Binge/Over-eating, and Emotional Eating: Chronic stress produces endocrine and immune factors that are contributors to obesity and emotional eating. Mind-body interventions, including meditation, are effective for improving emotional control, appetite regulation, healthy and sustainable weight loss, and behavior modifications.
To start your meditation practice, it’s a good idea to set a routine, even if you are starting with just a few minutes a day. Choose a time when you can take a few moments to yourself to find a quiet, relaxing spot. Parents, this may even be the bathroom! Once you are set up with your time and spot, find a comfortable position to either sit on the floor or in a chair - your eyes may close for this... 1. Set Your Intention: Come to your meditation ready to bring yourself relief, to connect, relax, or decompress. Whatever your reason for choosing meditation, this is what you want to come to the practice with. 2. Relax the Body: Once you are seated with your eyes closed, you want to focus on your breath, and how it is coming in and out of the body as you breathe. Move through your body in your mind and take note of any tension or pain. When you come to this area, stop for a moment and focus on sending your breath to that area. 3. Pay Attention to Senses: Keeping your mind focused on the sensations you are feeling is a good way to keep the mind centered, and to keep it from wandering. Or if you find it easier, you may choose one positive word or phrase to repeat, envision a beautiful place, or pray, and give full focus. 4. Come Back to the Body: If you do find your mind wandering, that’s okay-it's expected and normal, just keep bringing your thoughts back to your breath, word or phrase, favorite place you hold sacred, or prayer, until the end of your meditation. This may not be easy at first, but the benefits of meditation make it worth it to keep on trying to discover what is easy, fun, and sustainable for you! “If you think there’s something missing from your life, it’s probably you.” Robert Holden Sample Guided Meditations and Breathwork: Calm, 10-minute guided meditation Jason Stephenson, 10-minute 'Morning' guided meditation Optimistic, 10-minute guided meditation Wim Hof Method, 11-minute breathwork Other Websites: Ten Percent Happier, Meditate anywhere, anytime; Web + App + Podcast Headspace, Everyday Mindfulness; Web + App + Podcast Chorus Meditation, Meditation and breathwork "to the beat"; Web + App For further reading: How to Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life, Tiny Buddha Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness, The Skimm The 10 Minute Wellness Habit that Fights Inflammation, Well + Good It's the Spring Equinox! Let's explore the world anew again... Contact me for a free health history consultation at: marlamulkey.com
Sources: Twelve Science-Based Benefits of Meditation, Healthline Turn the Volume Down, Harvard Gazette The 5-Step Approach to Effective Guided Meditation, Dr. Josh Axe Five Reasons to Do a Body Scan Meditation, Dr. Josh Axe How Meditation Helps to Bridge the Right and Left Brain, EOC Institute