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February 2021 Newsletter
If there is one thing common to all of us, it is the urge to be happy and satisfied in life. Physical or mental health problems such as depression, pain, loneliness, anxiety, sleep disorders are directly correlated to life quality. Unfortunately, some of these issues are increasing at a fast rate in our frantic world. For instance, in the US nowadays about 13% of teenagers experience depression before reaching adulthood. Consequently, methods which may decrease the risks for such disorders or at least reduce their impacts are becoming more and more popular. It can explain the popularity gained by meditation and particularly by its most popular form mindfulness, especially because it is considered as safe with no side effect on our health. This is the topic of HECL’s Newsletter this month.
Mindfulness at its core is being aware of your experiences as you are experiencing them and suspending judgment about them. These include sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Many people think of meditation as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration. This is of course true. Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. The improved focus you can gain through regular meditation may lengthen your attention span, boost your memory and mental clarity. These benefits can help fight age-related memory loss and dementia. It is also scientifically admitted that it improves sleep. A variety of meditation techniques can help you relax and control runaway thoughts that can interfere with sleep. This can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase your sleep quality.
Scientific findings also suggest that meditation helps with psychological distress, anxiety, anger and depression. Disorders from depression are often linked with the past and the feeling of a loss which has occurred, such as a lost loved one, job or valued object. With anxiety we feel we are worried about things that are about to happen or which we think could happen in the future. By cutting all the connections with the past and the future and allowing to be in the present time, mindfulness is a good technique to overcome or at least mitigate these situations.
The latest research shows that the benefits of practicing meditation go beyond mental health and may also have positive physical impacts. People with high blood pressure have their heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to poor heart function. A literature review and scientific statement from the American Heart Association suggests that evidence supports the use of meditation as an adjunct or complementary therapy along with standard treatment to lower blood pressure. It is proven that blood pressure decreases not only during meditation but also over time in individuals who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and arteries, helping prevent heart disease.
Meditation is a skill like others. When you start learning to build your muscles, you start with small weights and gradually increase them. The same approach applies to meditation. You start with short ones and then learn to vary the types you do. There are different types of meditation, often derived from the Buddhist practice. Mindfulness encourages awareness of a person’s existing surroundings. Crucial to it is the lack of judgement. Zen meditation, often guided by a teacher, focuses on finding a comfortable position, with focus on breathing, and mindfully observe one’s thoughts. Transcendental meditation is a spiritual form of meditation where practitioners remain seated and breathe slowly. The goal is to transcend or rise above the person’s current state of being. Movement meditation, such as yoga, is an active form where the movement, and not the thought, guide you.
In HECL we often promote holistic lifestyle modifications for better physical and mental health. We believe that the pathway to better aging lies not only in workout and physical exercise but also in nutritious food, good sleep and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. In other words, well-being is more attainable when the mind and body function equally well.
Meditation is a simple practice that can be done anywhere, anytime. We can do it anywhere; it does not require special tools or equipment. In fact, the only thing you need is a few minutes. Meditation courses, apps and support groups are widely available. To find out which styles is more appropriate to your needs or tastes, you may want to check out the free guided meditation exercises offered by the University of California Los Angeles. Of course, meditation is not supposed to replace conventional care but when done regularly it is one of the tools which may improve our health in a world where stress and worry are widespread.
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