31 Days of Health. Day 12: Meditate

Welcome to Day 12!!! Today is a good one. Oh, who am I kidding? They’re all good!!

Meditation is training for your brain just as lifting weights is training for your body. And this training for your brain is not just a teaching method for remaining calm, it causes chemical reactions throughout your body that place you in a better physical state.

Meditating can reduce stress, thereby keeping stress-related hormones in check. Your body responds to stress in a way that is meant to provide us physical balance. Stress sets off an inflammatory response that raises adrenaline and cortisol, two stress-related hormones. In a fight-or-flight scenario, adrenaline gets your heart pumping to increase blood flow throughout your body, and cortisol raises your blood sugars…because who knows when you’ll get your next meal. These raised blood sugars are meant to provide you with the energy, strength, and mental stamina to get you through a crisis.

And your body can’t tell whether you are fighting a bear, or worried about finishing a project for work on time, so this inflammatory response is there to protect you. Cortisol, however, will shut down other processes that are not needed during a period of stress, affecting the reproductive, immune and digestive systems. This can result in irregular cycles for women, increased illness, reduced metabolism and constipation or diarrhea. Inflammation throughout the body can also result in cognitive decline resulting in poor concentration or memory.

As I have researched stress, I have found it is often at the heart of most preventable, chronic diseases including obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Find time during your day to include meditation. It is often ideal right at the beginning of the morning when it is quiet and the frequency of distractions is low. As with most new things, meditating for the first time is often difficult, but with practice, you improve.

Meditation is not always sitting in one place with your eyes closed and your index fingers and thumbs touching together in a mudra (pronounced “moo-dra”). Some forms of meditation can include focusing on a candle flame, walking, yoga, tai chi, creating artwork, playing an instrument or listening to music. To put it simply, meditation is being fully submerged in the moment without focus on outside stimuli.

Here is a common form of meditation you may incorporate into your morning routine:

  1. Sit upright. You may do this on a pillow on the floor, or on the couch or in a chair.
  2. Close your eyes or focus on one single point in the room.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose from your belly, for a slow count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a slow count of four.
  5. Exhale through your nose or mouth for a slow count of eight.

You can repeat this breathing exercise as many times as you like. If you have an untamed go-big-or-go-home mindset like mine, four times is enough. Do practice this exercise daily, however. With time, you will begin to reap the benefits of this beautiful, self-care activity.

With love,
Alyssa

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