Health

Meditation — An affordable way to manage stress

BY JO-HANNA TAYLOR

Sunday, April 08, 2018

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WE live in a fast-paced society that has us filling many roles and meeting many unrealistic deadlines, causing unwanted stress.

Stress can be very debilitating as it affects our body, thoughts and behaviour. Numerous studies highlight stress as a high contributor to health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

In a world where many of us are racing against time, stress management is necessary as it provides healthy coping strategies to make the mind calmer and more focused.

An affordable method of stress management that I usually recommend is meditation. This is also one of our wellness dares for Month 4 of 12 Months 24 Dares: Meditate 10 minutes daily for April.

The subscribers (dare-ees) had a lot of reasons why they couldn't meditate.

“But it's so hard to concentrate”; “I can't stop my thoughts”; “I don't have the time”; “Meditation is linked to a certain religion”.

Excuses for not doing meditation are very common, especially in a culture that demands that you to keep moving and not waste time looking inward.

Let's look at actual facts of meditation and why meditation is so important.

What is meditation?

Meditation has been loosely used as thinking, but that is not really the case. Meditation is really about resting the mind and allowing you to be more aware of yourself in the present moment.

Dr Deepak Chopra, co-founder of the Chopra Centre of Wellbeing, states: “Meditation is a practice that takes us beyond the noisy chatter of the mind into a place of stillness and silence. It doesn't require a specific spiritual belief, and many people of many different religions practice meditation without any conflict with their current religious beliefs. They meditate in order to experience inner quiet and the numerous physical and mental health benefits of the practice — including lowered blood pressure, stress reduction and restful sleep.”

Why is it important?

There are tons of medical and psychological studies that scream the benefits of meditation from the mountain tops. Some common benefits include:

•Reduces stress: Meditation provides a sense of peace.

Consistent meditation has helped me significantly, but don't just take my word for it, there are many top executives, celebrities and successful entrepreneurs such as Oprah, Arianna Huffington (founder of Huffington Post), and Tupperware CEO Rick Goings that swear by it.

Many studies have found that it reduces stress significantly. Shapiro, et al, (2005) submitted a study of Mindfulness —Based Stress Reduction for Health Care Professionals in the International Journal of Stress Management and found increasing quality of life and self-compassion in test subjects who added mindfulness meditation.

•Improved productivity: Meditation helps to lower stress levels, allowing better memory for tasks and better decision-making.

•Improved Focus: Studies show that meditation increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention, positive emotions and self-control. This allows you to stay focused on tasks longer.

•Helps us to process emotions: Meditation brings forth positive emotions, leading to increased mindfulness, compassion and purpose in life.

6 tips to get started

1. Be comfortable: Make sure your clothing is comfortable, and choose to sit on the floor (with or without a cushion) or in a chair with your back straight and hands resting gently in your lap. Make sure where you are is a quiet and clean place.

2. Use a timer so you don't have to think of the time. You can stick with five to 10 minutes and slowly build your practice.

3. Close your eyes and start to focus.

4. Breathe: Observe your breath. Follow it in and out of your body. Allow your breath to be your anchor when your mind wanders.

5. Be Patient: Go slowly and be patient with your progress. Your mind will wander at first and that's okay. Just let it go and get back into observing your breath. You can start with five minutes and slowly build to 10 minutes.

6. Be consistent: Exercising once a month won't get you strong. It's about being consistent. Meditation is no different. Find five to 10 minutes each day.

Don't rob yourself of an opportunity to practise self-care in a truly beneficial and self-fulfilling way. Be sure to check out some meditation apps and videos on Youtube and you can always join the movement! Email us at 12months24dares@gmail.com or follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook using the handle 12months24dares.

Jo-Hanna Taylor is the wellness coordinator of 12 Months 24 Dares. She is an internationally certified America Council of Exercise Personal Trainer, Group fitness instructor and Power Vinyasa 200YT Yoga Instructor.

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