healthy_livingMeditation has long been touted as one of the most simple positive activities you can undertake for good mental health. Recent research has shown that meditation can actually help to heal both the mind and body due to the profound changes regular practice promotes in the brain.
In our increasingly busy lives, finding time to ‘de-stress’ can be difficult. We lead a fast paced existence these days and are often encouraged to multi-task and strive to get more done in a day than ever before. While this no doubt has a positive effect on our productivity and the amount we achieve, living with high levels of stress can have a negative impact on your body.
Our bodies weren’t designed to be placed under a significant amount of stress for a prolonged period of time. Our long ago ancestors would have experienced small spikes of stress, necessary for things like hunting or surviving attack, but this would have been followed by a period of calm, allowing the body to rest and restore itself. These days, we tend to experience bigger spikes, and less calm periods, putting our bodies under immense pressure.
When we become stressed, or experience a stressful situation, our heartbeat, breathing rate and blood pressure all begin to rise. The longer or more often we feel stressed, the greater the demand placed on our bodies. Initially, our bodies work hard to regulate this increase, expending energy to keep things under control. Eventually however, our bodies stop coping so well, leading to fatigue and illness
Studies have also found that alongside fatigue and illness,stress can also contribute to weight gain and obesity. When we are stressed, we often reach for the nearest snack of comfort food. This is largely due to the adrenal glands relasing the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. While adrenalin is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response (no doubt useful when being stalked by a giant, prehistoric beast or fighting over the last berry on a wilting bush), it’s cortisol or the ‘hungry hormone’ that causes us to crave something sweet, gooey or crunchy.
Cortisol’s sole responsibility in our bodies is to make you feel hungry. This reaction would have been necessary after the adrenalin (and subsequent chase/fight/climb etc) seeped away, as our bodies needed to refuel and do so quickly. These days however, when stress levels are more likely due to the queues at your local carpark or the tantrum being thrown by your two year old, we don’t really need to fuel up, even though our bodies might tell us otherwise!
Learning a few simple strategies, like meditation, can be hugely beneficial for reducing your stress levels, and keeping them at a lower, more manageable level. While meditation won’t directly influence your weight loss, being less stressed will usually mean that you find it easier to eat better and say no to the typical foods be associate with comfort and stress relief. The primary purpose of meditation is to quiet your mind and help your mind and body to relax and unwind. There are many different ways to meditate and many people will find a method that works best for them but in the meantime, trying one of the below for 5-10 minutes is an easy way to dip your toe into the process.

  • Deep breathing – Concentrating on the movement of air into and out of your nose or mouth or counting the breath as it goes in and out is an effective way of calming your thoughts.
  • Emptying your mind – Imagining the thoughts in your mind floating or drifting out into the air around you and focusing on that clear space gives your brain much needed breathing room.
  • Close focusFocusing your attention on a specific object allows your to quiet the rest of your thoughts and concentrate solely on a single thing.
  • Movement– Using a physical technique like yoga, qi gong or tai chi to still the mind by coordinating the breath and the body with gentle movement
  • Using a mantra – Repeating a chosen word or phrase over and over, either  out loud or silently helps to focus the attention and release different energies.

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