We all hear how great meditation is. And at some point we may have been advised that we should be doing it. To start a new meditation practice sounds easy, but I know first hand, it is not. It can be hard to start something so out of our norm when the benefits aren’t easily apparent. If we have chronic medical conditions, especially if they are rheumatologic, inflammatory or autoimmune, it can seem as if meditation isn’t for us. That perhaps we are too far down the “sick road” to get any benefit. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! EVERYONE benefits from a meditation or mindfulness practice – but what does it do exactly and how can it benefit you?
What meditation can do for you
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by concentrating on the present moment, while calmly accepting the feelings and thoughts that come to you. We can achieve mindfulness through the practice of meditation, which is simply focusing the mind in silence. Sounds simple enough, but it is hardly simple. Through a complex interplay of hormones, neurotransmitters and cytokines, meditation has been found to lower the impact stress has on our bodies. Whether the stress we experience is physical, mental, emotional, real or perceived, there are measurable physiologic changes in our body as a result. (And FYI – having a chronic medical condition IS a physical stress) The changes are extremely helpful when we are running away from a life threatening emergency, but don’t do us a lot of good while we are sitting in a business meeting.
If we don’t actively tell the body the stress repose isn’t needed, we can end up in a cyclone of stress hormones and inflammation hormones that can do a number on our bodies. Meditation is a tool (without any side effects, btw) that can be used to decrease this toxic impact on the body.
How that translates to how you feel
This then leads to lower pain levels and overall higher quality of life. People with rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic medical conditions, can see dramatic effects without any changes to their medical regimen. It can not only help you feel better today but it can help make sure that you are around for a long time to come. When we have a meditation or mindfulness practice, it leads to increased feelings of optimism and vibrancy. These are in direct opposition to the depression and anxiety we know are associated with multiple chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. But how does this lead to a longer life? Studies have shown that it is the presence of depression and anxiety with chronic medical conditions that can lead to higher mortality. Meditation can actively combat these mood disturbances.
And you don’t need to be a monk or a yogi to do it correctly. Lots of different activities can have qualities of meditation and finding what works best in your life is what makes it fun! Watch the video above for more information and let me know your ways of quieting the mind and getting zen.
In good health,