September: The infamous back-to-school season, complete with too-busy days, overstuffed calendars and more stress than you’ve had since school ended in June. How to re-capture some of that relaxed summertime vibe, no matter the season? I’ve got one word for you: Meditation!
Yes, I know, you’ll do it when you’ve got more time, when you’re feeling less stressed, when the cows come home, yada, yada, yada. But now – when you’re in the middle of the September stress cycle – is actually the perfect time to start (or re-start) your meditation practice. Not only will you connect with an accessible, drug-free stress-buster, but you’ll also be gifting your heart, brain and gut with health benefits no prescription drug can touch.
So, while we’re all in that new school year/fresh start mode, here are a few thoughts to inspire you to get your meditation groove on:
Cool your jets – frequently and naturally.
On a psychological level, the stresses of modern life can make us impatient, rude, short-tempered, exhausted and not all that pleasant to be around. On a physical level stress’s downsides can be far more damaging, disrupting sleep, hormone regulation and digestion. That sorry state can also set off a host of conditions like IBS, bloating, constipation, etc., which over time, can trigger system-wide inflammation and set the stage for far more serious ills like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, neurological deterioration and more. How to side-step any number of these problems? You guessed it – by cutting stress down to size with a mind and body-loving meditation practice.
This is your body on meditation: Younger, happier, healthier.
While not a cure-all per se, meditation comes close given its purely positive impact on the body. A few of the big ones:
- Meditation encourages the release of feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, which boosts feelings of well-being, calm and empathy.
- Meditation helps cut physical pain by sending pain-relieving chemicals to the brain, as reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.
- Meditation helps lower blood pressure, stroke and heart disease risk, while also slowing brain and chromosomal aging. UCLA researchers recently concluded “that meditation appeared to help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons,” while another study out of UC Davis showed that meditation stimulates telomerase activity, which keeps your chromosomes young and is linked to longer life expectancy.
In my practice, I have seen meditation help reduce stress, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular function, strengthen immunity, promote clearer thinking, and help to make people less reactive to life’s situations and stresses.
Free, easy and no knots.
When some people think meditation, they think it’s about sitting in the Lotus position, folding your feet over your thighs, and saying ‘Om’ a lot. Sure, that’s one way to do it, but meditation doesn’t actually require any special contortions. You can simply settle into your favorite chair, meditate while standing, walking or lying down, on the commuter train or on line at the supermarket. Anywhere you can shut your eyes for a moment or two to relax, slow down your system down and literally just breathe will do. Consider it a vacation for your mind and body that you can take at any time.
There are no mistakes in meditation.
Meditation is a practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll get, and the better you’ll be at tapping into it when stress starts to rise. Think of it as a way to poke a hole in the stress bubble of life, on-demand. What’s more, there’s no wrong way to meditate – there are many paths. For some people joining an organized weekly, ‘group sit’ at a local meditation or community center or sitting with group of meditating friends are great options. For more solitary types or those who are short on time, guided meditations on YouTube, on-line audio courses or meditation apps make getting started – and maintaining – a regular practice much easier.
C’mon, get ‘appy!
If you’re just starting out, meditation apps are an excellent way to support this new practice and to make time for it in your schedule. Here are a few of our favorites – Headspace, Insight Timer, The Mindfulness App, Breethe and Simple Habit.
Got kids? It’s never too early to introduce them to meditation’s benefits, and there is of course an app for that – called Smiling Mind, which was originally designed with kids and newbies in mind.
So, are you ready to get serious about incorporating more meditation into your life? Then be sure to check out How to Start Your Meditation Practice for ideas and resources on how to started on your life-changing meditation practice.