“Meditation is like having … you know, your phone has a charger, right? It’s like having a charger for your whole mind and body.” – Jerry Seinfeld
We all lead stressful lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, parent, doctor, retail sales person, or a world-famous comedian. Stress, anxiety, and inflammation can be draining and leave you feeling hopeless. Maybe you’ve tried medication for stress and anxiety and haven’t experienced results. Or maybe you just don’t know what to do anymore?
You want peace. You want to live your life the way you should be able to. Meditation can help you achieve reduced stress levels and decrease inflammation that leads to chronic disease. It’s natural and better yet – it’s free. All it takes is some dedication to a daily practice.
Here’s how meditation works to lower your stress levels, stabilize your mood, and reduce inflammation:
- Increases awareness that allows you to rationalize obstacles rather than react to them
- Slows down breath rates which create a relaxing emotional response
- Reduces adrenaline from releasing excessively that leads to heart disease
- Decreases the activation of cortisol, the stress hormone
- Helps reduce and even reverse chronic pain symptoms
- Lowers your biological age and keeps you young
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice that is often associated with yoga. According to yoga tradition, the practice’s purpose is rooted in discovering the unity in all living things. Though the exact date for when meditation was discovered is unknown, archeologists do know that meditation has been practiced for thousands of years.
However, you don’t have to subscribe to a certain lifestyle, religion, or thought process to discover the benefits of meditation. You don’t have to wear yoga pants or get a nose ring.
Meditation is for everyone. It can help you reduce stress and anxiety in your life and reduce chronic inflammation.
Maybe you’ve tried meditation before and found it annoying and frustrating. Your mind wandered. You told yourself to empty your mind. But, instead you found your mind spinning with thoughts or at the very least constantly repeating the words “stop thinking” to yourself.
You aren’t supposed to concentrate on one thing or convince your mind to concentrate on nothing.
Meditation is a set of techniques that are used to increase awareness of one’s self and one’s surroundings. You can’t mentally will yourself into a state of meditation.
In fact, when you try to suppress a thought, your mind actually focuses on that exact thought instead. Think of it this way. Take a few moments to close your eyes and try to not think of a white polar bear. Did you find that a white polar bear kept appearing in your mind even as you willed yourself to stop?
Dr. Daniel Wegner, a Harvard psychology professor, found in a study from 1987 that when you try to suppress a thought another part of your brain checks in to be sure you aren’t thinking of that thought. This consequence results in you thinking more profoundly of the thought than if I had told you to think of the white polar bear.
Instead of purposely trying to purge thoughts from your brain, draw a greater awareness to them. Observe your thoughts rather than judge them.
From this state, you’ll experience greater peace and relaxation both in the moment when you’re meditating and throughout your day.
Meditation for anxiety and Stress
Meditation causes your body to slow your breath and mind. Some forms of meditation even ask you to concentrate on your breath. This type of conscious breath is called Pranayama.
During conscious breath or even as your breath begins to slow naturally, you activate the relaxation response. You signal for your hypothalamus to take over the function of controlling your breath. The hypothalamus controls the endocrine and the central nervous system.
Slower breaths signal for the parasympathetic nervous system to override the sympathetic nervous system. Your sympathetic nervous system is active when you are stressed, anxious, or feel as though your life is in danger. That is why it is often called the fight or flight response.
The sympathetic nervous system is great for keeping you out of danger, but when your sympathetic nervous system is constantly working, you’ll soon start to experience ill health effects.
When you’re stressed or anxious, your hypothalamus alerts your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, and cortisol causes your blood sugar to rise.
If this state is chronic, your body can develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and even a breathing disorder. Not to mention if your anxiety becomes a clinical condition. Anxiety can be seriously debilitating to a person if left untreated.
Stress can even physically age you. You have a chronological age and a biological age. You might be 30 years old chronologically, but high levels of stress will cause your biological age to be higher than your chronological age. You’ll have more gray hairs, more wrinkles, and maybe even develop chronic health conditions.
You can treat your stress and anxiety through a daily practice of meditation. In a study from 1992, patients who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and panic disorder with agoraphobia experienced significant reductions in their symptoms and profound behavioral adjustments.
A daily practice of meditation also reduces your biological age. A study found that when someone practiced meditation over the long-term their biological age was around 12 years younger.
Meditation also stimulates your pineal gland. Your pineal gland has also been referred to as the third eye. This gland is responsible for maintaining your body’s internal clock through circadian rhythms.
It secretes melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall and stay asleep. Sleep, mental health, and physical well-being are inextricably intertwined. A healthy pineal gland can lead to reduced stress and anxiety.
For additional support for your pineal gland, try Sunwarrior’s Ormus Super Greens. This nutritional supplement is great for regulating your body’s internal clock and getting more vegetables in your diet.
How To reduce inflammation in the Body Through Meditation
Inflammation helps to repair injuries. Chemicals from white blood cells are released and flood the affected area. This increase in blood flow allows your body to get to work in repairing the area.
However, the process does cause pain. And if you’re in a chronically inflamed state your body will actually begin to work against itself. Chronic inflammation can lead to:
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic muscular injuries
- Heart Disease
Scientific studies have shown that a daily practice of meditation will significantly reduce inflammation, decrease chronic pain symptoms, and even prevent disease.
Dr. Kelly Brogan, a board-certified psychiatrist, discusses the relation between meditation and reduction of inflammation in this video below.
If you are a beginner at meditation, the first step to helping your health through meditation is determining which technique is best for you. Try different techniques at first to determine which type of meditation helps you the most.
Don’t determine your success during your meditation practice. At the end of the day, reflect on how you reacted to stressful situations and your mental clarity during difficult tasks. Did you refrain from yelling at the car who swerved in front and cut you off? Did you find that you accomplished tasks more productively?
Introspection will grow over time as you continue your practice. Remember just like anything, you won’t be an expert your very first try.
In a study from 2013, scientists questioned whether meditation could modify inflammatory and antiviral transcription control pathways that control gene expression. They found that meditation reversed pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased antiviral response genes. Meditation improved inflammation levels.
Another study confirmed that meditation helped patients manage and reduce their chronic pain levels. After a period of ten weeks, 65% of the patients reported that their pain reduced by 33%.
When you look at the effects of meditation on cancer, this study found that patient’s cognitive functions and quality of life increased through meditation. 81 cancer patients were studied for almost a year to see how meditation affected their lives.
At the end of the study, they concluded that meditation was beneficial for cancer patients and have a larger follow-up study planned to observe cognitive abilities further.
If you want to decrease inflammation even more, try Sunwarrior’s Omega-3 supplements. Sunwarrior goes straight to the source for their ingredients. Rather than fish oil. Sunwarrior chose algae since fish receive their Omega-3 from algae anyway. Omega-3s reduce inflammation caused by injury and arthritis.
1. Mantra Meditation: Focused Attention Meditation
Focused attention meditation techniques such as Mantra Meditation, Samatha (Buddhist meditation, Chakra Meditation, Pranayama, and other similar practices work to focus on a single object during the practice.
The singular object can be a mantra, your breath, a part of the body, a thought, or an external object. The longer you meditate the stronger your concentration becomes on your chosen object.
This form of meditation can have many benefits that carry through into your day. For instance, if you meditate on the idea of patience, you might find that throughout your day your mind remains focused on patience. In stressful situations, you are more likely to be rational and stay calm since the idea of patience still lingers in your brain.
You’ll also find that you have deeper and more sustained concentration levels since you are training your mind to concentrate for long periods of time in this form of meditation.
2. Mindfulness Meditation: Open Awareness Meditation
Open monitoring meditation techniques such as Mindfulness Meditation, Vipassana, and some types of Taoist Meditation serve as a way of bringing a greater sense of awareness to ourselves and allow us to focus more intently on the present moment.
In this form of meditation, you allow thoughts to enter your mind, and you simply observe them. You acknowledge each
thought that rolls into your mind without judgement then redirect your thoughts to the present moment.
You even notice the sounds and sensations you experience while meditating rather than blocking them out. This method allows you to concentrate on what is happening in the now.
Practicing Mindfulness Meditation can have positive effects on stress. You learn to accept conflict that arises during the day and know that it will pass. The practice also is wonderful for staying present and developing stronger and more fulfilling relationships.
3. Savasana: Effortless Presence Meditation
Effortless Presence Meditation practices like Savasana, Self-Enquiry Meditation, some forms of Taoist Meditation, and Raja Yoga are similar to the principles found in Mindfulness Meditation. However, this type of meditation is a more introverted, quiet, and relaxed state.
If you’ve ever been in a yoga class, you’ve probably experienced corpse pose or Savasana at the end of the class. You are asked to lie on your back open and fully relaxed. You completely release any tension that your body holds and are present without any effort.
The benefits from this form of meditation are similar to Mindfulness Meditation, but more concentrated on restorative benefits such as reduced stress levels and increased energy.
Effortless presence meditation isn’t the same as sleep. When you sleep, are you fully present and attentive? No. With effortless presence meditation, you’ll get the benefits of sleep with a greater sense of awareness.
STARTING YOUR PATH TO HEALTHY LIVING
There is so much more to a holistic lifestyle than a meditation practice. When you start your journey to healthier living, there seems to be so much information to weed through. It can be confusing and difficult to determine what you should focus on first.
That’s why we developed a short 15 Point Guide to Essential Health. Take charge of your own health. With a little help, you’ll be living a healthier more fulfilled life in no time.