Has “there just aren’t enough hours in a day!” become your life’s mantra? Our jobs, families, and endless to-do lists often keep us running incessantly from morning to night. It’s therefore no surprise that stress-related health issues are on the rise. In fact, according to one recent statistic from the American Psychological Association, more than 75% of all physician office visits are due to stress-related issues.
Chronic stress is directly linked to the top 6 leading causes of death: cancer, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, lung ailments, accidents, and suicide. We may be busier than ever today, but for the sake of our physical, mental and emotional health and well-being, we must find time to slow down and reconnect with our bodies and brains—even if just for half an hour.
No matter how hectic your day-to-day schedule might look, everyone can spare just 30 minutes at some point throughout the day—and you might be surprised at the amazing health benefits a 30-minute meditation can bring you. To help jumpstart your motivation and help cleanse your brain of worry about the past and the future, here are 3 important reasons why you should start your meditation practice today:
1. Sleep More Soundly
Are you exhausted all day, but wind up staring at your ceiling most of the night? Insomnia can have a profoundly negative impact on your health. When you’re dealing with chronic sleep problems, your daytime productivity bottoms out. Crankiness is common, which can cause tension at work or with loved ones. Our bodies suffer as well, with weight gain and chronic aches and pains being very common and unfortunate side effects.
Just 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce or eliminate sleep disorders—especially if you choose to meditate during the half hour right before bedtime. Why?
· Meditation increases the production of the specific brain waves responsible for inducing healthy, deep sleep.
· It also substantially encourages the body’s production of melatonin, a neurochemical that’s critical to helping you fall asleep.
· Negative thoughts about your inability to sleep can keep you awake, worrying endlessly about what tomorrow may bring. Meditating helps bring your mind to the present moment, allowing you to let those worries go—or at least, pause them until morning.
2. Lower Your Stress Levels
Meditating to help calm and quiet your brain is certainly not a new concept. However, more and more recent medical studies confirm that there is true scientific evidence directly linking meditation to lower stress levels; specifically, decreased levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone”.
Our bodies are still hardwired as they were thousands of years ago; when confronted with a stressful situation, our cortisol production skyrockets, and our adrenaline surges as we go into “fight or flight” mode. In some very extreme instances this is useful, as it allows us to quickly respond to potential life-or-death situations. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot differentiate between true emergencies and, say, an unexpected and angry email from our boss or biggest client first thing Monday morning. The end result is the same: our cortisol production spikes.
What does too much cortisol in your system look like over time? Symptoms of chronic excess cortisol include:
· Difficulty controlling blood sugar level
· Slowed metabolism/weight gain
· Difficulty with cognitive processing
· Bodily inflammation
· Muscle weakness
· Chronic, severe fatigue
· High or worsened blood pressure
However, making time for just 30 minutes of meditation per day can work wonders to help minimize or possibly even reverse all of the debilitating physical, mental and emotional effects that high cortisol levels can produce.
3. Get Heart Healthy
The research is in: those who regularly meditate are substantially less likely to suffer from a stroke, a heart attack, or pass away within the next 5 years. According to Harvard Medical School, meditation “helps reduce stress and anxiety, which can lower heart rate and blood pressure while reducing harmful hormones“.
Why? "It appears to produce changes in brain activity. It also can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of cortisol," says cardiologist Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Meditation is important—so is exercise. Although cardio can be very good for you, you likely don’t need to get dozens of hours of cardio exercise in every week to begin improving your heart health right now. In fact, here is a list of some great exercises for your heart that don’t involve cardio.
The wonderful thing about mindfulness meditation is that it does not require any kind of special equipment, clothing, or space—all you need is a small, quiet area in nearly any kind of room. If ambient noise is an unavoidable distraction, consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and playing soft music while you begin to settle in and focus on your breath. You can sit cross-legged directly on the floor; some prefer to use a padded seat cushion or mat. Using a wooden pillow can be a fantastic investment as well. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable to you, or you have physical ailments that prevent you from doing so, you may also sit with your back upright in a chair.
Once you are able to close your eyes, breathe deeply in through your nose and out from your mouth, and be still with your thoughts and emotions, you will be amazed at how quickly the half hour will pass. If a time crunch is an issue, set a soft alarm that will play through your headphones to let you know it’s time to finish—or better still, pick a 30-minute piece of music to play. Once the song is over, you know it’s time to open your eyes.
Many people find it easier to “get in the zone” while meditating with a small group of likeminded practitioners. If you might prefer to visit a meditation center rather than trying to practice solo, there is certainly no shortage of them in most cities—a beautiful change from just a couple of short decades ago. If you live in or are close to Sedona, Arizona, USA, or you plan on visiting the Sedona area in the future, please consider attending a class or retreat at Sedona Meditation Center. For more information on our services, including:
· Mindfulness meditation
· Natural healing
· Detox yoga
· Spiritual retreats
· Soul growth coaching
· Vortex tours
· Aura readings
And much more, please click here, call 928-282-3600, or email us.