What are the necessary components to better health? Certainly diet, exercise, water intake, and proper sleep would all be high on the list. But there is one critical dimension that people often overlook and that is how you think or better yet, how you relax. In our 8 Weeks to Wellness program, people are expected to practice simple relaxation or meditation for just 10 minutes each day. Understand that all we’re talking about is simply quieting the brain and resisting the constant chatter of your left brain for just a few moments so that you can start developing a habit of relaxation and calmness. My experience is this is the hardest part of the program for most people and the part that people most often fail to implement. Perhaps it would help to share some of the reasons why this is a good practice.
Meditation has been taught in hospitals for years to relieve the physical pain as well as stress of those with chronic illness such as fibromyalgia and even cancer. It has also proven helpful to boost the immune system in these subjects. Recently, the National Institute of Health (NIH) reported that meditation may work by reducing the activity of the sympathetic (fight/flight) nervous system. Studies at Yale and at Harvard showed that regular meditation directly coincided with increased brain size and increased thickness of the gray matter and that this increase could be associated with decreased deterioration of the brain due to aging. As recent as 2010, Blue Cross-Blue Shied found that factors such as high blood pressure, insomnia, and heart failure actually decreased amongst meditators. Another study found that meditators had 30% higher levels of telomerase – an enzyme that protects the chromosomes of DNA from deteriorating and aging as quickly!
Everything I’ve studied shows that the NIH is right – meditation helps shut off the stress response in the body. This is the very reason that meditation provides all these other benefits listed and any more. Of course, there are many schools of thought and even spiritual outlooks on meditation. All I’m advocating is that you take 10 minutes of your day to sit comfortably and start practicing the art of quieting your mind and shutting off the stress. Try to focus on your breathing and think of nothing! For many people this is a tall task and getting a meditation C.D. or some relaxing music to focus on may prove helpful. There are also several meditation apps available, some of which can be found at the bottom of this article. But my experience is that meditation/relaxation provides the most dramatic effects for those whom it is the hardest to perform.
Recommended Meditation Apps:
Insight Timer, Stop, Breathe & Think, Calm, Aura, Omvana