What would you answer if I asked you this question? What is the #1 exercise in the world that you can do in 12 minutes? Let me give you a hint. You can practice it most anywhere and anytime: in your work clothes, your gym clothes or even in bed. It’s simple to do and takes little time. Just 12 minutes would be enough. Did you guess meditation? There are so many benefits so let’s dig in and learn more.
If you want to quickly improve your health and happiness, this practice does it. The best part is it takes very little effort. Paradoxically, the less effort you exert, the more benefit accrues. Any guesses what it is?
Benefits of Meditation
Over the years, I ask people who don’t do it, why not?
Many people say they still believe meditation has religious connotations. While it is true many devout people invoke this technique when they pray, you do yourself a disservice if you think about meditation only in religious terms.
Yes, the physiologic process of meditation happens during quiet times and times of prayer, however you don’t have to practice any specific religion (or any religion at all) to enjoy the health benefits of this process.
What Is The Relaxation Response?
In the 1970’s, a cardiologist named Herbert Benson studied meditation and wrote a book called The Relaxation Response. The ‘60s and ‘70s began a new era in health. It was a time when medicine and its scientific method wrestled with the world of
alternative and complementary healing. Back then, meditation was something done by strange, bearded men.
At that time, the concept of personality led researchers like Benson to uncover statistical correlations between so-called “type A” people and heart disease.
But as medicine and science advanced in the 1980s, few leaders in health care investigated a natural, simple, cheap solution to help these folks. The focus of medicine was on finding silver-bullet pills to cure disease, and pharmaceuticals were thought to be the answer to most every question.
To my way of thinking, this is a lazy way of looking at science and potential cures. As one of history’s greatest inventors, Thomas Edison wrote years ago;
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human body, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.
A century later, his message is still true. Swallowing pills and medicines are not the answer to everything. Many simple, common-sense activities promote good health and prevent disease.
That’s where meditation comes in.
The power of meditation comes from the “relaxation response” it elicits. Meditation actually changes our physiology. During meditation, our brain waves convert to a pattern that is as deep, and in some ways deeper than sleep. It is also more restful and recharging than a nap.
Meditation releases chemicals that are the direct opposite of the so-called “stress hormones.” These chemicals and hormones trigger pathways of healing and
A regular meditation practice lowers your heart rate and increases both your blood’s oxygen saturation and the delivery of oxygen to tissues. This is the exact same benefit of exercise.
A Scientific American article from 1963 showed yogis can actually lower their heart rates to one or two beats a minute by invoking this “relaxation response.” Now that’s what I call relaxed!
Perhaps the best part is that meditation has benefits identical to exercise but without the wear, tear, and stress on your body that comes with training too hard. Meditation can also:
• Increase your powers of concentration
• Help you live longer
• Improve your fertility
• Boost your immune system
• Increase your serotonin (the chemical that counters depression)
• Lower blood pressure more than any known drug
Of course, as with any lifestyle change, it is only effective if
you do it!
What Are The Different Meditation Styles?
There are many forms of meditation. Twenty years ago many people first learned to practice meditation by studying Transcendental Meditation (TM). Since then many variations of TM have emerged and you can find out about them by reading about meditation, relaxation, and awareness.
You can look at the works of writer Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is famous for popularizing the phrase “Mindfulness Meditation”.
Again, to reemphasize some of the benefits, just like exercise, regular meditation improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and actually lowers your resting heart rate, too. Meditation even increases the serotonin in your brain. This is the chemical that
antidepressant drugs try to increase.
I encourage you to start today and do it every day for 10-15 minutes. After a week you’ll feel better.
How To Meditate
Here’s what I do:
1. I sit upright in bed, or on the floor. Prop yourself up with pillows if you need to, but don’t put one behind your head. Try to keep your head nearly perfectly balanced on your neck, so that when absolutely relaxed, your head won’t tip over.
2. Next, begin saying a mantra. Choose any two-syllable word and repeat it silently to yourself throughout the process. Try to time your breath with each syllable. Inhale with one and exhale with the other.
3. Stay focused on relaxing and letting your breath slow down, but also stay lightly focused on the mantra sound.
4. I find that suddenly my mind will wander to all the things I need to do, or things I’ve forgotten to do. When those thoughts flood in, I slowly turn my focus back to my breath and the mantra.
5. Soon after a few attempts, Your breath and thoughts slow down. Occasionally, I find myself taking a super-deep, slow breath. Yet again, I’ll turn back to my breath and my mantra.
6. After 15 minutes or so, quietly and slowly take a few minutes to start to move your toes and fingers and then arms and legs as you come out of the “relaxation state.”
That’s it… It’s that simple.
You can take a class if that better suits you. A teacher will show you how to meditate and give you a specific, personalized mantra to get you into your state of meditation.
So enjoy adding meditation to your healthy lifestyle routines, and let me know how it goes! There are so many benefits to meditation for you to enjoy.
If you feel stuck and need additional support to adopt a new healthy habit or routine, consider working with me. We can partner up in setting goals, drawing on your skills and strengths, and implementing strategies to help you find your way to lasting healthy success.
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For over 15 years, Shelli has been a freelance writer and wellness habit coach on Joyinmovement. She writes about brain fitness, creating a healthy lifestyle, traveling the world, and making positive habits stick. Stop procrastinating! Take action, join her free newsletter.
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