Meditation is becoming mainstream, as our stressed out population struggles to manage everyday issues related to money, work, family and health. Meditation offers some peace, even during times of chaos. It is the practice of taking a break from the day-both mind and body. Meditation has been proven to lower blood pressure, improve sleep, manage stress, and even lower the risk for heart disease.
Dr. Herbert Benson, of Harvard Medical School wrote about the positive impact on health in The Relaxation Response. Based on scientific studies, Dr. Benson showed that relaxation techniques such as meditation have physical benefits, from lowered blood pressure to a reduction in heart disease. This book, published in 1975, is even more relevant today.
When stressed, the sympathetic nervous system, goes into “flight or fight” mode. In this state heart rate and breathing are elevated and blood vessels restricted. This reaction is normal when, for example, you are frightened by a loud noise. Living in this constant state of stress, however, is very dangerous for long-term health.
In contrast, meditation activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which allows breathing and heart rate to slow, and blood vessels to dilate. In this state the body is restful, balanced, and able to perform optimally.
Meditation doesn’t require equipment, extensive training, or even much time. Meditation usually involves these simple elements:
- Approach the exploration of meditation with an open mind
- Limit distractions
- Sit in a comfortable posture, with eyes closed
- Concentrate on the breath, a phrase, or an image
- Practice on a regular basis
Meditation is beneficial for all, but for those with chronic pain, insomnia, depression, or for those dealing with serious health issues like cancer or heart disease, meditation can improve outcomes. Meditation is available to everyone, is free or very low cost, can be done anywhere, and doesn’t require a lot of time.
You may choose to start with just 5 minutes of meditation in the morning, to get your day off to a positive start. You may calm yourself down, in the middle of a hectic day, by practicing meditation. Bedtime is another great time to meditate, allowing for an easy transition to sleep. Try one of the short, 5 minute meditations below for to improve your health…..especially that of your precious beating heart.
by Christy Coughlin