Happy Meditation Month!
If you are a patient here at Nourish, you know that we focus a lot on stress management. We focus on this, because we know the importance of continual stress management techniques in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Meditation, being one of these techniques, is a favorite because it is free and extremely effective. Did you know that most disease processes can be exasperated or even initially triggered by stress? The susceptibility of disease can lie dormant in the body, but when a significant life stressor or an additive effect of many small stressors are introduced, this can awaken that disease process. Reducing stress in your life, and being able to manage it effectively, is invaluable to your health!
Meditation has been shown in research to improve mood, decrease responses to stress, lower inflammation, reduce chronic pain and actually change the structure of our brains on an MRI. A Harvard study showed that the people in their study who implemented meditation classes, used 47% less overall medical services than the control group (1). That is actually quite amazing when you think about it, as well as cost-effective!
Although I love the fact that meditation is a tool that I can give my patients that is backed by research, this is not the only reason that I meditate or encourage my patients to do the same. We live in a world that is very fast paced. Many people, when they cannot keep up, will use sugar and caffeine in order to increase energy and productivity. When we want to relax and unwind, many people use TV or alcohol to do so. Although, in moderation, this is not a problem, it is important to implement effective self-care techniques that will not cause additional health problems on top of the initial stressor. Being able to utilize a self-soothing tool helps us decrease the need to reach out to an external source to manage our daily ups and downs. We are able to sit in feelings of discomfort a little longer, feel more patient with ourselves and those around us and have more confidence in our own bodies when we know we have the power to heal within us.
Although meditation has all of these benefits and is free, it is still not implemented very often. Many of my patients are intimidated by starting a meditative practice. I want everyone out there that feels that way, to know that they are not alone, and do your best to not let it stop you from trying. Meditation becomes easier with practice! At the beginning it is perfectly normal to feel like you do not know if you “did it right.” Do not worry, there is no wrong way to meditate and in time you will find what works for you. If silent meditation feels too hard to start right off the bat, try downloading a meditation app or a guided meditation off the internet. Other people enjoy more of a moving meditation such as walking meditation. If you think it will be difficult to initiate without a structured environment, enrolling in a class might be the best option for you. Regardless of how you feel the most comfortable meditating, you will still reap the health benefits.
Since May is meditation month, this is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself to start a meditation routine, no matter how big or small. You might just find yourself a little calmer, a little kinder and a little healthier. And... you may just learn a little about yourself in the process.