Meditation has increased in popularity over the years and with good reason. It has been shown to be beneficial for our health and well-being. There are different styles of meditation that people can practice, including focused attention, transcendental and mindfulness. Consider 12 ways you can boost your health with mindfulness meditation.
Basics of Chronic Back Pain
Doctors label lingering pain in the body as a chronic condition. In fact, any ongoing pain lasting longer than 12 weeks earns this description from medical professionals. However, chronic pain does more than hurt your body. It can inconvenience your entire life.
Chronic Back Pain Explained
Concerning lower back, you may have sensations that vary from bone to nerve to muscle pain. Chronic low back pain arises from a variety of situations, and back pain can limit your motion in plenty of ways since your back forms the center of your musculoskeletal system. Falling may lead to this condition, whether you trip and fall in your house while cleaning gutters or slipping on ice in your driveway. Diseases such as cancer or kidney infections increase the risk of chronic back pain. Stress on your body may result in a ruptured or herniated disc, or muscle tension and the accompanying pain. Sports injuries, sudden movements, and awkward movements can all strain the muscles of your back.The list of possibilities goes on from here.
Traditionally, painkillers and physical therapy comprise the treatment protocol for back pain. While physical therapy may address the underlying cause, medication directly works to alleviate your symptoms. Other comfort measures and remedies create comfort but do not treat the reason for your pain. Some people use treatments such as acupuncture or massage therapies. When it comes to chronic pain, you want to do more than just mask the symptoms. You want to feel less pain all of the time.
While pain relievers offer go-to relief for back pain, the long-term effects of this treatment pose problems. Your stomach and liver may not like the medications as these systems strain to cope with these drugs. Opioid pain relievers may lead to addiction. The longer you use these medications, the chance you have of developing health disorders. Rest, ice compresses and exercise help as well. In some cases, surgery attempts to solve the problem. If you’ve tried any of these methods but still struggle with chronic pain, you know it’s frustrating. The good news is that there is another holistic solution.
Mindfulness meditation offers a solution for pain management without negative consequences or drastic actions. Furthermore, this alternative does not mask symptoms or hide underlying problems. Mindfulness meditation has no long-term complications, unlike constant drugs and surgery that still may leave you in pain.
Origins of Meditation
The ancient ritual of mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhism. However, other religions include prayer and meditation techniques similar to this practice. Shifting your thoughts away from the usual preoccupations lets you appreciate your current situation while changing your perspective, even regarding the experience of your pain.
How Meditation Reduces Pain
Be in the Moment and Reflect Without Judgment
Mindfulness all about being in the moment and reflecting without judgment. It allows you to experience or see something for what it truly is. This kind of awareness, as well as downtime from the act itself, can help us in both physical and mental ways. These basic tips can help you discover the advantages of meditation and how it can improve your quality of life.
1. Mindfulness meditation can lower stress and anxiety
Practicing mindfulness meditation can lower your stress and anxiety, which is important to many areas and aspects of your health. Meditation helps you to feel less stressed and is linked with decreased levels of cortisol. Combine this kind of meditation with yoga. Both of these will help not only the physical body but also our emotional state. Yoga is also good for your body and helps to increase flexibility.
2. Mindfulness meditation can help you feel less lonely
By practicing mindfulness meditation, it can help people feel less lonely. This is especially helpful for the elderly who are often isolated from family and friends. If seniors are lonely, it can raise the risks for other health conditions as well. Mindfulness meditation can help the elderly feel less lonely and also can help boost their health by reducing inflammation.
3. Mindfulness meditation can improve cognition and reduce distractions
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to train the mind to focus and concentrate. This skill can help you in all aspect of your life. Reducing distractions is another way to learn how to live in the moment.
4. Mindfulness meditation can prevent and help to treat depression
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has the potential to help prevent and treat depression. This kind of therapy helps people to recognize what is happening in the moment and form a better way to respond to it.
5. Mindfulness meditation can help to increase body satisfaction
Many people are dissatisfied with their bodies and this can be a major issue. This can especially affect women. Mindfulness meditation can help people work through issues and come back with more self-worth and an appreciation for their body.
6. Mindfulness meditation can help us learn more about our true selves
Mindfulness meditation helps us to see how true selves objectively and without judgment. It helps us put our flaws in perspective instead of amplifying or diminishing them beyond what they should be.
7. Mindfulness meditation can help us to lose weight
Mindfulness meditation can be a great addition to support your weight-loss goals. Seven out of 10 psychologists in a survey by Consumer Reports and the American Psychological Association found mindfulness training to be a good or excellent strategy for weight loss.
8. Mindfulness meditation can help us to sleep better
By practicing mindfulness meditation, you may be able to sleep better at night. A study conducted by the University of Utah found that mindfulness training can help us control our moods and emotions and also help us sleep better. Because of better emotional control, we can more easily wind down when it’s time for bed.
9. Mindfulness meditation can help to get over an illness quicker
Mindfulness meditation and exercise can help you fight off illnesses faster than you would be able to otherwise. It was found in a study conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health that people who do these activities have shorter illnesses and severity of symptoms. Because of this, they also miss fewer days of work.
10. Mindfulness meditation can overall help make you a better person
Mindfulness meditation can even help you be a better person by bringing out certain qualities. This is because it can make you more compassionate and exhibit more virtuous behavior.
11. Mindfulness meditation can help you even when you’re not actively practicing it
Even when you’re not currently meditating, it can still be helping your brain’s emotional processing. The way the brain responds to different emotional triggers is changed by mindfulness meditation. This effect continues when not meditating.
12. There are four different elements to mindfulness meditation
The health benefits of mindfulness are contained within four different elements. These are being aware of yourself, being aware of your body, regulation of attention and regulation of emotion. Meditation can be great for many aspects of your life. It can help you to stop judging yourself and others and see things how they truly are. By focusing improvement in these four areas, you will improve yourself overall.
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Anxiety is often a result of fear. Fear leads to worry, and over time anxiety and stress can negatively impact the brain’s function. Anxiety hinders brain health and your ability to work effectively. It is a stop sign at every intersection that you face in life and it may seem like you will never get the green light. It is natural to harbor some worry, but too much is harmful. Mindfulness meditation can help you to go and move forward, as well as relieve anxiety and stress.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness means focusing on what is going on in the current moment. Instead of allowing your mind and thoughts to wander, you focus the mind on the present. You remove any worry about the future or anxiety about something that happened in the past. You only pay attention to the here and now.
Focus and Concentration
Rather than just clearing your mind, like basic meditation, you start by focusing on your breath. Then, you shift your concentration to different bodily sensations. For example, if you think about a pain in your shoulder, you can imagine the main and tension dissolving away. You then shift your focus to a different part of the body, all the while reducing tension and stress.
As you practice mindfulness meditation, you begin to have a higher awareness of the present moment while staying active. This type of awareness can help improve your working memory, or your ability to remember things short-term, almost like a mental notepad. While you can remember large amounts of things, you can only think of a few at once, and those things are in your working memory.
When you face distractions, you can lose things from your working memory. By practicing mindfulness meditation, you can retain your focus on those things, thus improving your working memory. Mindfulness meditation requires constant attention, which entails focusing your attention, noticing distractions and choosing to ignore those distractions. Mindfulness meditation actually can change the structure of your brain and alter the connections between brain cells, which can further improve your memory.
How Does Meditation Improve Memory?
While mindfulness meditation can improve your working memory, regular meditation also works to improve your memory in a number of ways.
Meditation Strengthens Your Mind
Your mental capacity peaks at a certain age, then as you grow older it starts to decline. By meditating, you train your mind to achieve high levels of concentration and intense focus. These foundations of meditation strengthen and condition your mind, which can prolong the life of your brain and reduce memory loss.
Meditation Slows Down Aging
Meditation does in fact work to slow down the aging process. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Stress and the hormones released during stress are huge factors that can rapidly age you in a number of ways. One of those aging characteristics is memory loss. Studies proved that meditation reduces stress, thus slowing down its aging effects on your brain. Meditation is a natural method that makes the body slow down and the brain to focus. During this process, you’re focusing the art of slowing down. If you’re body slows down, so does your mind. When you’re mind and body are at rest, you tend to make better choices. This includes choices for your brain and your body. Meditation techniques promote a healthier state of mind.
Meditation Helps You Remember
Have you ever misplaced something or forgotten an important date? It’s frustrating when you forget even the smallest details. You may think that many of your memories are long forgotten, but meditation can actually help you remember some of them. In fact,
memories aren’t actually discarded
Due to this rich history, meditation masters developed many techniques that help you achieve a state of relaxation and inner peace. To that end, let’s examine the amazing history of meditation that leads us to what’s happening in meditation today.
Meditation goes back more than 5,000 years. No wonder there is such a huge body of knowledge that contemporary masters have at their disposal.
Vedas of India
The first recorded mention of meditation comes from Vedic texts in India from about 1,500 BCE. After that, masters in China and Japan wrote about meditation, but experts generally credit Indian masters as the forerunners of the entire scope of meditation.
By 500 BCE, Buddhist monks were practicing meditation on a regular basis in Japan and China as the benefits of the form spread throughout Asia. Part of the spread of meditation goes back to 653 BCE when a monk by the name of Dosho returned to his native Japan after a visit to China. While in China, Dosho discovered Zen Buddhism and then brought his philosophies back to his homeland.
The spread of meditation throughout China and Japan fueled interest in meditation among Asian scholars who could read and write. This culminated in the publishing of the masterwork of yoga and meditation, the “Bhagavad Gita,” at around 400 BCE.
Spread to the West
By 20 BCE, Greek philosophers mentioned meditation in their texts. They often spoke of the importance in daily meditation. These philosophers considered meditation an important part of inward reflection.
Despite its widespread mention in written texts, early adoption of meditation usually occurred with religious scholars, yogis, and philosophers rather than the general populace. In fact, the word “meditation” is based on the Latin word “meditatum” which means “to ponder.”
Evolution to Today
It wasn’t until much later that meditation became a more accepted practice among ordinary people. When technology progresses and printing books became less expensive, more people had access to classic texts on meditation.
In 1927, a book publisher translated the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” into English and other languages, and interest in meditation grew. At this point, meditation turned into a modern phenomenon. By the 1950s, the Vipassana movement started in Burma. This movement led to the publication of “Dharma Bums,” by beatnik writer Jack Kerouac, in 1958.
His book furthered the idea of meditation as the movement continued to spread. People in the United States began to take notice, and in the 1960s both transcendental meditation and Hatha-style yoga began to take root.
MBSR in America
In 1979, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program started in America. This program promulgated the idea that people could use meditation to help ease the symptoms of chronic diseases, conditions and ailments.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, modern masters such as Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra rose to prominence with their bestselling books on how meditation enriches people’s lives and leads to higher qualities of life. In 2007, a survey noted that as many as 1 in 10 Americans, or around 9.4 percent, meditate in some fashion.
Deepak Chopra spoke and wrote about self-improvement and caught a lot of attention in the nation. Meditation techniques greatly reduce stress. When you take time each day to focus the mind, it slows down the rest of your body.
Mindfulness Meditation Now
Today, there are plenty of resources on mindfulness meditation that built on thousands of years of tradition, millions of pages of books and years’ worth of lessons. There are so many resources on mindfulness meditation, just about anyone can learn techniques for reducing stress, clearing the mind and becoming better people.
Taking just 20 minutes each morning to develop a morning meditation routine has the potential to completely alter your life in a positive way. You might not be sure if you can commit to slowing down, controlling your thoughts and participating in something from which you may not see immediate gratification. However, these incredible benefits of morning meditation, and the ripple effect it has through your entire day, may be enough to change your mind.
1. Enjoy a Sense of Peace
In the early morning hours, the world is generally much quieter than it is during the day. Your phone isn’t ringing, no one demands your attention and you’re not in the middle of an important task. This peaceful environment and lack of distractions are ideal for facilitating effective meditation.
Introduce Peace to Your Mind
Meditation allows you to introduce that environmental peace to your mind as well. One of the most noted health benefits of meditation is reducing stress and anxiety. Morning meditation allows you to carve out a piece of time for yourself to begin your day in a calm and relaxed manner.
By meditating every morning, you arm yourself with tools like happiness, better sleep, and a clear mind, all of which are effective at dealing with and conquering daily stress. Starting out your day in this way can help you handle the frustrations that arise throughout your day while reducing your overall stress and anxiety levels. Things like traffic jams, disagreements at work and other types of setbacks easily roll off of your shoulders.
2. Begin Your Day Feeling Refreshed
How many times do you press the snooze button before you actually get out of bed in the morning? While you feel like you’re getting more sleep, you likely awaken feeling tired and groggy. Hitting the snooze button may even cause you to oversleep and then rush around because you’re late. When you start your day in this kind of state, it’s harder to get going and you actually move slower. You may even find yourself making poor nutrition choices which slow you down even more.
Reduce Stress Immediately
The Importance of Sleep
Can meditation replace sleep? Mindfulness meditation for insomnia encourages better sleep, but it should not be used as a substitute for it. Sleep is vitally important to human biology, according to the National Institutes of Health. During sleep, your brain develops new connections and pathways to help you remember things that you learned during the previous day. A good night’s sleep improves learning and other mental processes because your brain works when you’re sleeping. This leads to better problem-solving skills, paying better attention and creativity. When your brain functions better, you have better productivity at school and work.
Your body repairs the heart and blood vessels when you sleep. While you sleep, your body also regulates your hormones with regards to appetite and blood sugar. A good night’s sleep can help fend off diabetes, obesity, heart problems and immune deficiencies. In short, a full night’s sleep keeps you in top mental and physical shape.
Meditation and Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, you open yourself up to a host of medical or emotional difficulties. That’s why you need all the help you can get when it comes to solving insomnia, and meditation is one possibility for you to examine. Mindfulness sleep meditation 10 minutes before bedtime will help you relax and fall asleep more easily.
Study on How Meditation Helps Insomnia
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine from February 2015 illustrates how mindfulness meditation helps middle-aged adults achieve a better night’s sleep. The study included 49 people who were middle age or older at the time of the study. All of these people reported having trouble sleeping. Half were put into a group that completed a mindfulness-awareness program that taught them meditation techniques, focus techniques, and ways to hone in on moment-by-moment thoughts and experiences. The other half went through a sleep education program without learning about meditation. Both groups met a total of six times over the course of the study.
The group that went through meditation training had less fatigue, fewer bouts of insomnia and less depression compared to the other group. The findings didn’t surprise one Harvard professor who is an expert on meditation. Dr. Herbert Benson says that mindfulness meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response. When the body undergoes the opposite of the stress response or the relaxation response, your body starts to heal pain, stress, depression, anxiety and high blood pressure. The trick is finding a way to meditate so you can bring on the relaxation response as you try to sleep. Practicing meditation for insomnia and anxiety will help clear your mind from the day so you can relax. There are a few things you can do to reap the benefits of meditation.
Using Meditation to Combat Insomnia
Meditation involves focusing your mind on the present without worrying about the past or the future. One common method to focus on just the present moment involves slow breathing. Just breathe in and out deeply, slowly and methodically. Listen to the sound of your breath, turn your thoughts inward and clear your mind as you listen to your lungs inhale and exhale.
Meditation triggers important changes in your brain, not simply by reducing the mental effects of stress, but by literally rewiring your brain to help you think differently. Talk about getting a fresh perspective!
Rerouting the “Me” Center
One of the most important conclusions from meditation and the brain research shows that meditation actually causes the brain to reroute thoughts, including sensory receptors that interpret fear, away from different portions of the brain that are “me-centric.” The brain’s default mode network, which controls wandering self-centric thoughts, gets a bit of a reboot during meditation. When you’re at rest, your default thoughts wander into daydreams. These wandering thoughts can lead to depressive thoughts and worry about the future. Meditation channels your resting thoughts away from your default mode network and helps to quiet the sometimes loud, distracting and wandering thoughts. Meditation brings about a mindfulness that channels your quiet energy to more positive thoughts.
Grow Your Grey Matter
Some people believe meditation is just a belief or a religious practice. While this is partly true, research shows that meditation improves your health. For centuries, Meditation has proved to bring many benefits to the brain and overall body health.
We all deal with stress in some form or another. It’s also true that not everyone handles stress in the same way. If you’re looking to reduce stress, boost your energy levels, and improve your health this new year, here are a few tips to make that happen.