Meditation? Not your forte? Not even just 10 simple minutes of meditation? Is improving quality of life and not dying early your forte? I thought it might be, so let’s chat about meditation. All I am asking for is 10 minutes here.
Speaking of minutes, there are approximately 1,440 minutes in a day, 10,080 in a week, over 40,000 in a month, and 525,600 in a year. Now that’s a lot of time! Or at least it sounds that way.
However, our reality (since perception is reality) seems that from the moment we wake up, to the time we lay back down, is only a blink of an eye. The time isn’t changing, but the busyness of our lives seems too. We often find we jump out of bed and hit the ground running. We are nonstop go machines. We only feel we accomplish something when we are “doing” something. But what is this “doing” that we are, well, doing?
I think this is a difficult question to answer sometimes. While yes, we can say we are going to work, playing, practicing, waiting, eating, preparing, etc., I think we often just keep going to keep going without any awareness at all. We are hamsters on a wheel. Not exactly the idea of your life you want huh?
Well, if you’re tired of running on that wheel then jump off and never return! Ok, I got a little overzealous there, but honestly I know we can’t leave the hamster wheel of life behind. Money don’t grow on trees, we all have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and ain’t nothing in this world for free. No we can’t slow down, we can’t hold back, though you know I wish we could. Oh, no, there ain’t no rest for the wicked, until we close our eyes for good. Those last few lines were for all my Cage the Elephant fans…you know who you are.
Ok back to life running amuck and what to do about. Since we can’t physically check out of life, we are going to have to do it mentally. The best approach to jumping off that hamster wheel is meditation. Did I just hear a groan? C’mon now…stay with me. Meditation is simply mindful awareness. If you learn the art (and it is an art) of meditation you will have increased the overall awesomeness of your life!
I fully believe we should structure our lives for happiness. So how does meditation some into play with happiness? Well to be happy, we have to be aware of what make us happy. The easiest way to do that is being mindful, which is exactly what meditation is! As mentioned before, you won’t need 20 hours a day of meditation. In fact, simply 10 minutes of meditation a day has a world of benefits. It seems to be that practicing meditation for 10 minutes , nearly every day (as consistency and frequency are crucial) is that sweet spot of time that gives you some amazing benefits without feeling like have just signed up for a new time sucking activity. So what are those amazing benefits of setting aside just 10 little minutes of time just for you? Well let’s find out.
The Great 8!
By meditating for just 10 minutes a day you will reap the following 8 benefits:
1.Reduced Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Stress, anxiety and depression can be a product of distracting and overwhelming thoughts. If you set aside time to calm your mind, focus on you (and not all those worrisome feelings and tasks), you will learn to deal with all that troubles you. Plus, meditation keeps your cortisol levels from getting jacked too high and too often…which can really send us into hyper-overdrive.
Learning to calm ourselves through meditation, will keep us from panicking, burning out, and help us get through painful times, both mental and physical.
Meditation also helps the body release serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects mood, among many other things). Boosting serotonin production can improve depressive symptoms and gives us an overall sense of well-being.
2.Improved Diet and Digestion: I do hope you have caught on that through meditation you become mindful. That includes being mindful of how and what you eat. When you meditate, you slow yourself down, and allow for the awareness of how your mind and body feels. Doing all this helps us learn to know when we are physically (not emotionally) hungry and to concentrate on eating foods that benefit us and learn to eat slowly and enjoy what we are consuming.
3.Improved Sleep: Meditation relaxes you and reduces cortisol (the hormone that wakes us up). With less cortisol pumping through our system when it’s time to go to bed, we will have the ability to more easily fall asleep and stay asleep. Plus, we all know if we can relax ourselves and let go of the day, sleep is no longer elusive.
Meditation also boosts melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep) production. With increased melatonin production we are able to fall asleep and stay asleep.
4.Reduced Inflammation and Improved Immunity: By meditating, you can change your body’s ability to deal with stress and lower Interleukin-6 (IL-6). IL-6 is produced at the site of inflammation and has stimulated T cells (thymus cells) and B cells (bone marrow- or bursa-derived cells) which are the major cellular components of the adaptive immune response. It may sound counterintuitive to want to reduce IL-6, since it does help us with acute injury and inflammation when we need it. However, IL-6 becomes a problem with chronic inflammation.
When our bodies are chronically inflamed, whether, from stress, poor diet, gut biome dysfunction, or certain diseases, IL-6 becomes a pro-inflammatory, creating a persistent inflammatory state and negatively modifying our immune responses. Through meditation, we can put IL-6 back to its intended use and create less chronic inflammation.
Just as a side note: it has been shown that those with compromised immune systems have slowed the progression of their disease by practicing meditation. If it has helped them, I think it’s worth a try.
5.Improved Cardiovascular Health: This goes back to all the above. By reducing cortisol, stress, anxiety, and inflammation and improving sleep, diet, and immune response, this all makes our heart and lungs (and all parts of our body) much healthier. A non-medication induced drop in blood pressure can do amazing things to improve your health. Plus meditating is so much cheaper and safer than any pharmacological solution!
6.Improved Concentration: Slowing down and learning to be aware of what’s going on in your mind will help you reduce the “clutter” and focus on the important stuff. Learning to push out thoughts that do not serve us at a particular time, and focus only on what is needed, enhances our ability to concentrate when we need to solve problems or complete tasks. Meditation teaches us this skill.
7.Find Acceptance: If we inwardly focus on ourselves, we become self-aware. In becoming self-aware, we come to know the person we truly are, how we really think and feel, and therefore can separate ourselves from the person we have created for the rest of the world to see. By knowing who we actually are, we can come to accept who we are. We are able to reflect on our actions and thoughts, the reasons behind them, and therefore hopefully learn from them. Through this effort we can offer ourselves a bit of kindness and accept the person we are, not what we pretend to be.
8.Slow the Aging Train: To understand how we age we first have to understand about telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes. Yep, they already sound important. Telomeres shorten with mitosis and the longer a person is around the more mitosis they experience. So simply said, when we age our telomeres get shorter.
Fun fact about telomeres is that it is also getting shorter with poor emotional health, chronic stress (mental or physical) and inflammation (didn’t we see those earlier in this article?). So while we can’t stop the minutes of our lives passing and mitosis occurring, we can reduce our stress, inflammation, and the dings to our emotional well-being. And yes, you guessed it (since hopefully, you read it above) meditation can reduce all these, keep our telomeres longer for longer, and keep us from aging too rapidly.
I hope you can now see why it is crucial that you meditate, even just for 10 minutes each day.
If you are new to meditating it can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. The three easiest ways I have found to begin meditating are as follows:
Just Breathe: Seriously! Find yourself a quiet spot, even if it’s closing your office door in the middle of the day or lying in your bed before you get up. Now breathe in your nose, hold it, and then breathe out your mouth. As you breathe, concentrate on your breath and how it moves in and out of the body.
You can do this on a 4 count or a 3-7-8 count.
The 4 count: breathe in for the count of 4, hold it for the count of 4, then breathe out for the count of 4, repeat.
The 3-7-8 count: breathe in for the count of 3, hold it for the count of 7, then push the air out for the count of 8, repeat.
You may become a bit light headed, but it’s ok because you should be sitting or lying down. Plus it will pass soon and usually ceases the more you practice.
Go to Yoga Class: Breathing and mindfulness are major parts of the yoga practice. To start it’s best to try a Restorative Class. You will never be the same…in a good way!
What to remember:
All it takes is 10 minutes of meditation to reap benefits such as:
- Reduced Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
- Improved Diet
- Improved Sleep
- Reduced Inflammation and Improved Immunity
- Improved Cardiovascular Health
- Improved Concentration
- Improved Acceptance
- Slowed Aging
You can practice meditation through:
- Guided Apps
That’s it. Simply put, 10 minutes of meditation equals a lifetime of health and happiness, with zero medication side effects. By meditating you become mindful and aware of you who you are, what you need, and what brings you joy. So take YOUR 10 minutes, and for those 10 minutes focus on YOU, the real you, not the hamster on the wheel.
Epel, E., et al. August, 2009. Annals of the New York Academy of Science. V: 1172. Pages: 34-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057175/
Corliss, J. Updated December 22, 2015. Harvard University. Harvard health Publications. Mindfulness meditation helps fight insomnia, improves sleep. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-helps-fight-insomnia-improves-sleep-201502187726
Rea, Shilo. February 4, 2016. Carnegie Mellon University News. Neurobiological Changes Explain How Mindfulness Meditation Improves Health. https://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2016/february/meditation-changes-brain.html
Gabay, C. July 28, 2006. Arthritis Research and Therapy. Interleukin-6 and chronic inflammation. V:8(2). doi: 10.1186/ar1917.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3226076/
Corliss, J. Updated December 14, 2016. Harvard University. Harvard health Publications. Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967