By Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP
Tense muscles. Obsessing about the news. Anxiety about the future. Difficulty sleeping. Do all of these sound familiar? You’re definitely not alone. There’s no doubt that we are living with a lot of uncertainty right now.
How can we cope?
Doing Nothing to Cope With Everything
The answer might be as simple as doing…. nothing. Simply sitting still and mindfully clearing your thoughts through meditation has an astounding number of benefits that are vital right at this point in history.
In fact, fostering an ongoing meditation practice can change the structure of your brain, providing benefits that continue when you have finished meditating.
In short, meditation may be one of the best things you can do for yourself in troubled times.
The Benefits of Meditation
Some of the many positive things that can happen when you meditate include:
Lower Blood Pressure
Meditation can decrease the “flight or fight” hormones in your body. As a result of this relaxation response, your blood vessels open up, which in turn improves your blood pressure.
Less Stress-Induced Inflammation
Excess cortisol, one of the central stress hormones, can lead to inflammation in many parts of the body – a common example of this is the gut, with digestive issues being common during times of high stress. Because meditation can lower the amount of cortisol you produce, inflammation is reduced.
Despite all of the health benefits, the ultimate goal of meditation isn’t necessarily focused on physical results. It’s more a process of learning to embrace uncertainty.
A More Positive Outlook
Who doesn’t need a more positive outlook right now? Meditation has been found to actually alter (in a good way) the parts of your brain responsible for positive thoughts. As well, by becoming more aware of your thoughts, you can fend off negativity.
Reduced Anxiety and Fewer Obsessive Thoughts
It’s perfectly normal to be experiencing anxiety and obsessive thoughts when faced with a pandemic. However, those thoughts can spiral out of control and negatively affect family members as well as your health. High cortisol levels even lower your immune response, and we all want a strong immune system right now.
How Does Meditation Help with Negative Thoughts?
It can be difficult to imagine gaining control over the thought train when world events, and the changes to our daily lives, seem so overwhelming.
However, meditation teaches us how to experience and sit with those thoughts – without panicking or feeling like we need to repress them. With a little practice, you should be able to just sit with your thoughts and feelings, without judgment or analysis, and start to process them without spiraling out of control. You can be present in the moment without projecting into the future or ruminating on the past.
And right now, faced with so many unknowns, that’s particularly important.
Why Start Now?
You might feel that now is not a good time to start meditation. After all, you’re likely stuck at home and perhaps feel antsy and confined. Who wants to sit still? However, mediation has proven to be an effective mental health treatment, and right now we need to be focusing not just on our healthy body but also…a healthy mind.
How to Start Meditating
Many people find the thought of taking up meditation a bit intimidating. After all, it has had an esoteric reputation through the ages. It’s important to know that you don’t have to “master” meditation. It’s OK to be imperfect. Your mind will probably wander, and you may feel uncomfortable at first. That’s perfectly normal.
Setting Up Your Practice
The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to get started. In basic terms, you just need to:
● Find a comfortable place. Ideally, it will be quiet.
● Sit in a natural position.
● Breathe normally.
● Focus on your breath.
● Try not to overthink this: just focus on each exhalation and inhalation. It’s not necessary to force anything.
● If your mind wanders:
(And since you’re human, there’s a good chance that it will) try to sit back and “observe” your thoughts. Don’t analyze them. And don’t scold yourself for losing focus. It’s all part of the process. They are just passing through your brain.
How Long Should You Meditate?
You may have heard of people going on week-long meditation retreats. That’s great – but it’s not really necessary. Just a few minutes a day is a good start. In fact, studies have found that just five minutes can have significant benefits.
And who doesn’t have five extra minutes?
How Often Should You Meditate?
Consistency is a key component of a successful meditation practice. Try to carve out a few minutes a day to dedicate to your mental health. Some people find that it helps to make it the same time every day.
Resources to Get Your Meditation Practice Started
There are quite a few wonderful resources available to help you get started with meditation should you need a little help – here are a few of our favorites:
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics
There are many reasons to start meditation. Why not start now? Let us know how you get on – and remember that we are here to support your health and wellness.
Our clinic is still (virtually) open via telehealth – phone or video call – and our practitioners are available for essential care appointments. Simply send us an email or book online.
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP, is a woman’s hormone expert and the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone care center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 1600 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance and humor. Contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at www.wisewomanwellness.com. Attend a “virtual” introductory seminar, “End Hormone Havoc – Crazy Hormones Cause Fatigue, Weight Gain and Brain Fog and How to Fix Them!”, offered monthly, to learn about specialized thyroid, adrenal and female hormone testing and customized, bioidentical hormone treatments to achieve lifelong optimal hormone balance, increased vitality and longevity.