How Meditation Can Improve Your Health: Part 1 of 2

The most common image of meditation is one of a monk in a religious experience. However, meditation is actually a practice that anyone can do to improve mind function and overall health. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress levels and it can even help with conditions such as high blood pressure. Once you've become calmer and more peaceful through meditation, your life will open up to more opportunities and you'll find it easier to make healthy choices.

Meditation is known to decrease cortisol levels, the major stress hormone, in the body. Cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands and is responsible for that “flight-or-fight” feeling. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands kick into high gear to produce cortisol. Possibly one of the many reasons that people with chronic pain, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are so ill is because their body is constantly being bombarded with high levels of cortisol that has taxed their adrenal glands, making them more sensitive to pain and exhaustion.

After all, cortisol is a key contributor in regulating how the body uses carbohydrates, fats and proteins, blood pressure and blood sugar, keeping down Inflammation, the sleep wake cycle, and energy so the body can handle stress and restore balance.

What Exactly Is Meditation?

Meditation is a way of clearing the mind. Once you've gotten into a habit of meditating often, you'll discover that it's easier than you think. Some people sit in a cross-legged position when they meditate, but this isn't mandatory. Another sitting position might be more comfortable for you, but the key is to maintain a good posture. If you slouch, you're more likely to get tired and feel like falling asleep. You can also meditate laying down in a comfortable position. One great position is used in yoga called Savasana, also called corpse pose (lol). In this position, you lay on your back with your arms reached down at the side of your body with your palms facing up and your legs stretched long, hip width apart. Whether seated or in a supine position, it is important to make sure you have proper posture. If you are uncomfortable in any way, feel free to use pillows to align your body and to bring you comfort.

To get started, find a quiet place and get comfortable. Then start taking deep breaths in and

out. Pay attention to your breath. You might find it helpful to say a "mantra" to yourself as you breathe in and out. Your goal is to keep your mind clear of thoughts. Thoughts are inevitable though. The best way to eliminate them is to recognize that you've had a thought and then focus on your breathing and clearing your mind again. This will get easier with frequent practice.

You can use just about any mantra that will help you focus on a goal, putting negativity out of your life or that is spiritual. The Serenity Prayer - God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference is a good place to start. You can repeat over and over about a goal you wish to accomplish; I will not let pain affect my self-worth. If the people in your life are negative toward you; I will not let other’s negativity have a hold on me.

If you have an essential oil diffuser there are blends that you can use to either help invigorate you or bring you calmness. Some uplifting and invigorating EO’s are bergamot, grapefruit, myrrh, orange, spearmint and lemon. Some calming EO’s include fir, helichrysum, frankincense and lavender. Be sure to research the effect of essential oils on the body before using them to make sure you get the most benefit out of them.

In Part 2 of this post, we will dive more into stress and how meditation helps improve health.

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