During these uncertain times, it is important to focus on ways to help manage fear and anxiety while coping with our ever-changing world as we know it.
Meditation practices can be a great way to help find balance as we learn more about COVID-19 and how it will affect our lives moving forward. Although we can’t rid ourselves of daily stressors, meditation may provide the mental shift needed to equip you for life’s oncoming obstacles.
Given all the buzz surrounding meditation, you might be tempted to dismiss it as trendy. But this centuries-old practice of calming the mind and easing day-to-day stress is backed by loads of scientific evidence.
How Meditation Can Help with Stress
According to Penn’s Program for Mindfulness, extensive research has demonstrated that mindfulness training improves mood and quality of life, increases working memory and resistance to distraction, and enhances emotional regulation.
Learn how meditation can help counteract the affects of stress and help reset our minds and bodies.
Meditating for a Healthy Mind
Problem: Two regions of the brain tend to play a special role in our mental health: the amygdala and the default mode network (DMN). The amygdala is the region of the brain that regulates concentration, memory and emotions, such as fear, anger and sadness. Although “feelings” aren’t inherently bad, they can sometimes go awry.
The other region, the default mode network, is the part of your brain that’s to blame for daydreaming and other distracting, wandering thoughts. Although daydreaming may seem fun and careless, when left untrained, our imagining minds may give rise to depression, anxiety and insomnia – which are not so fun or careless.
Solution: Establishing a daily meditation practice can decrease activity in these two regions of the brain, consequently calming our minds, thoughts and emotions. You may experience a sounder sleep, less anxiety and a more positive outlook on life.
Meditating for a Healthy Heart
Problem: When you’re having a stressful day at work or are overwhelmed at home, pesky “stress hormones” called cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine are released. These hormones charge forward, accelerating our heart rates and blood pressures and preparing our bodies for the perceived challenges coming our way, also known as our “fight-or-flight” response. This cardiovascular stress can lead to kidney damage, heart disease, heart attack and stroke – some of the leading causes of death in America.
Solution: Meditation activates our bodies’ “rest-and-digest” functions, which counteracts our “flight-or-fight” responses. Integrating the practice into a daily routine has been linked to lower heart rate and blood pressure, which may lower your risk of heart disease.
Meditating for a Healthy Body
Problem: It turns out we truly can worry ourselves sick. When we’re feeling frantic, distressed or overwhelmed, all functions your body deems “unimportant” are abandoned in order to divert energy elsewhere. Unfortunately, your body seems to think many necessary functions are expendable, such as our immune, digestion, reproduction and growth systems.
Solution: Meditation can help halt these misguided messages. By practicing regularly, we can soothe our nerves and help our systems run as they should, rather than operate in a reflexive, stress-induced shutdown mode. Some physical health benefits of meditation include:
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased immunity
- Reduced symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Ease symptoms of arthritis
- Increased fertility
Learning to Meditate
Meditation is simpler (and harder) than most people think. Thankfully, there are many different ways to meditate, such as mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation and tai chi. The basis of each form is to provide relaxed focus and quiet your mind so you can release inner tensions.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate – the key is finding a practice that works for you. Try to set aside team each day to establish a routine and get comfortable with meditating. Even just a few minutes a day can make a big impact.
Keep in mind that it may take some time to establish a routine and reap the benefits of meditation, but eventually, you’ll be on your way to living a healthier, more tranquil life.