School is back in session, you’ve spent the morning making breakfast, packing lunches, and helping your children get ready for school. You watch the clock ticking as you get yourself and everyone else out the door. Maybe, just maybe, you won’t be late to work — again. And, now, you’re stuck behind the bus. Sigh.
Sigh? Better yet — breathe.
Breathing can help prolong your life.
Well, especially when you combine it with meditation. In an age where we are constantly multi-tasking, plugged in, inundated with images, facts and emails and enduring constant overstimulation, it’s no wonder we’re exhausted and a little frayed at the edges each day.
And when you have added stress, it can affect your body in many ways, both physically and mentally. So whether you are going through a difficult time in your life or are struggling with an ongoing mental health issue, adopting mindfulness could be just what the doctor ordered.
According to Davis Plunkett, behavioral health services manager at Sun Life Family Health Center, he says that daily meditation (whether it’s for five minutes a day or an hour a day) can help with regulation of one’s emotions, weight loss, diabetes, and can even improve the quantity and/or quality of sleep you get at night.
“I recommend meditation to a lot of my patients as a way of dealing with anxiety or anything that is causing added stress in their daily lives,” Plunkett said.
According to the Project Mediation Organization, people who mediate not only have increased health benefits such as lowering heart rate and blood pressure, but have also decreased anxiety and have become more independent and self-confident. Some research studies have even indicated that meditation “may physically change the brain and body,” writes the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine on its website.
A study done by the Centre For Mindfulness Research And Practice at Bangor University in 2011 showed that 75 percent of people in the study suffering from insomnia were able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed after starting a meditation practice. Sixty percent of people with anxiety were able to lower their anxiety levels after about six months.
Plunkett, himself, has seen his own patients benefit greatly from taking up meditation.
“I’ve had patients that have been able to get restful sleep now,” he said, “and others who have been able to handle their anger or their stress in a more efficient manner, because they took a few deep breaths.”
The good thing about meditation is that it’s not something you need to invest a lot of energy or money in, either, Plunkett added.
“You’re basically investing in your health by taking a few minutes of silence. So many think it’s tied to religion or that they have to commit to becoming a Buddhist monk, and have visions of sitting lotus position on a mat. But I tell my patients, it’s much simpler than that:
It’s about doing what works for you.”
Plunkett recommends starting by carving out five or 10 minutes in your day to sit in a quiet place without any distractions. Wear something comfortable that isn’t constricting or distracting. You may sit or lay down. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose filling up your stomach area, and then slowly back out through the mouth. Do this for the time allotted.
And it can be harder than it sounds for those who aren’t used to sitting by themselves with their thoughts.
“The one problem I think that we have in our country is that we are so programmed by our cell phones and by the computers, that our senses are always stimulated,” Plunkett said. “We rarely have the opportunity to shut out the outside world and just sit in silence and be in the moment.”
Want to learn more? Visit www.howto-meditate.org, or explore YouTube for free guided meditations.
So take a moment: Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as necessary.