Exploring Meditation for Health and Mental Wellness

from the Live Your best Life Series

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

To begin this “Live Your Best Life” series, I am beginning with a “biggie” that is such a broad topic, some background and information is essential. Though this article is a bit longer, I encourage you to be open and potentially see something in a different way. I wish you the best on your wellness journey! Thank you for being here, for being a wellness-seeker, and for wishing to live better. This series will bring all kinds of topics and you are welcome to apply the parts that most appeal to you. There is an activity at the bottom of this article. Let’s get started.

Meditation may not be what you think.

I’ll be honest, as a Christian, I have always been a bit hesitant to consider a meditation practice. But after doctor after doctor has recommended meditation to me, I have been learning about it, bit by bit. The important thing to remember with meditation is that there are many methods and applications. Meditation can be adapted to suit your personal spiritual beliefs (therefore, I adapt the physical practice with my Christian beliefs and incorporate prayer), can focus entirely on physical wellness without the spiritual aspect (also an option for me), and can be tailored to your own personal desires.

The end goal is up to you. The “rules” are up to you. Learn what you can about meditation in its many forms and you can be sure to find the aspects of this ancient practice that will bring a greater sense of peace and wellness to your life, both physically and mentally, and if you seek it–spiritually.

Where did meditation originate?

Though meditation got its start in the Hindu practice of Vendatism around 1500 BCE, roots of meditative practices can be traced back to Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to name a few. Though meditation has a strong connection to spirituality, the mental health and physical benefits are undeniable. To put it simply: there are many ways to meditate and many reasons to develop a meditation practice that works for your lifestyle, your needs, and your spiritual beliefs.

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

The Argument for Meditation:

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health gives us information about the science behind meditation, and I recommend browsing the multiple links on their page for more in-depth information on this, if you would like to know more. Here is some information I found:

Meditation and the Brain

Some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.

  • In a 2012 study, researchers compared brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate. Results suggested that people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information.
  • A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.
  • Results from a 2012 NCCIH-funded study suggest that meditation can affect activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain involved in processing emotions), and that different types of meditation can affect the amygdala differently even when the person is not meditating.
  • Research about meditation’s ability to reduce pain has produced mixed results. However, in some studies scientists suggest that meditation activates certain areas of the brain in response to pain.

(US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)

Healthline website outlines benefits of meditation practice on their website:

  • reduces stress
  • controls anxiety
  • promotes emotional health
  • enhances self-awareness
  • lengthens attention span
  • may reduce age-related memory loss
  • can generate kindness
  • may help fight addictions
  • improves sleep
  • helps control pain
  • can decrease blood pressure

The article also states that “People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.” (Bold-emphasis mine.)

Mayo Clinic provides this list of benefits on their website:

Some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

Types of Meditation

As I said before, there are many different types of meditation.

  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Christian/prayer meditation
  • walking meditation
  • Body scan meditation
  • progressive relaxation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Breath awareness meditation
  • Kundalini yoga
  • Zen meditation
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • mantra meditation
  • Sufi meditation
  • Self-Enquiry or “I Am” Meditation
  • Vipassana Meditation
  • guided meditation

And there are others, but this list should give you an idea of how variable meditation practice can be. Explore the different types to determine which feels more comfortable to you. There are many apps and resources available in the various meditation types. Educating yourself with an open mind will help you to form a practice that can improve your overall health, or if you choose not to, will still help you to better understand others that choose to practice. The more you know, right?


Meditation Activity:

You all know I love poetry. So when I stumbled upon this terrific guided meditation that uses POETRY in the meditation, I just had to try it and share it with you. It was fantastic. Below you will see a copy of one of the poems used in the meditation and with the link to the meditation itself just below it. Enjoy!

Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

by Vanessa

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

Guided Poetry Meditation:

Guided Meditation: Mindfulness and Poetry Meditation #1

For further reading:

Medical News Today
Could Mindfulness and Meditation Really be a Good Thing to Try?

Thank you for being here on this wonderful journey we all have. If this is your first time joining us for the “Live Your Best Life” series, check out the tab for the series at the top of this blog for what you may have missed.

Christina

–-author of “organic,” a poetry collection that sits at the heart of this “Live Your Best Life” movement. You may find this bestselling collection on Amazon at ORGANIC–FIDDLEHEADS & FLOSS VOL. 1

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