Both exercise and meditation have health benefits. Some take a structured exercise approach to wellness, while others grasp a more subtle meditative method. Many combine the two for strength, endurance, relaxation, and weight management. This article discusses the wellness benefits and an approach to beginning a meditation practice.
Both exercise and meditation promote wellness through physical health and vitality. Vitality is defined by the Encarta World English Dictionary as “abundant physical and mental energy, usually combined with a wholehearted and joyous approach to situations and activities.” Meditation has physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. It’s an opportunity to enrich the soul. Day-to-day you’re confronted with a flood of potential stressful experiences. Some stress is good but overall it’s how you handle change and responsibility that determines how stress impacts your life.
The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, M.S.W., and Matthew McKay, Ph.D., describes the four basic sources of stress.
- Your environmental factors: weather, pollens, noise, traffic, and pollution
- Your social stressors: deadlines, financial obligations, job demands, disagreements, personal demands, and the loss of loved ones
- Your physiological stressors: menopause in women, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, illness, injuries, illness, muscle tension, headaches, and anxiety
- Your thoughts: your brain turning on the “emergency response” when it interprets changes in your environment
Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on one thing at a time. The true benefit is achieving this single focus. Naturally your mind doesn’t want to stay concentrated on one thing as numerous thoughts appear. The art of meditation is quieting the mind and it takes time.
Meditation decreases your respiratory rate. As you calm your mind and concentrate on deep abdominal breathes, you lower your heart rate. This is excellent for people with high blood pressure. It also relaxes the other muscles in the body leading to a reduction in muscle tension and pain. Through guided and free-form meditation, the body and mind both become fluid and open.
As this is practiced, it improves your immune system. Physical and emotional distress, as some argue are one in the same, is reduced. Esther and Jerry Hicks, creators of Health, and the Law of Attraction Cards, through their connection with Abraham state “both ease and disease are symptoms of my balance of thought.” Research is growing in this area, and Hicks’ communicate that “illness is an exaggerated indicator of negative thoughts, and negative thoughts are resistance, no matter their subject. That is the reason that new diseases continue to come about. You have the potential for every illness in your body right now, and you have the potential for a perfect state of health in your body right now – and you will solicit one or the other, or a mixture, depending upon your balance of thought.” Another powerful card in the deck indicates “my body is affected more by thoughts than by substances.” So, does meditation and balance sound more appealing now?
To establish a meditation practice, begin slowly in instituting a passive state of mind. Find a comfortable spot to sit with your back straight. Center yourself by closing your eyes, pay attention to the sensations within your body, and take several deep breaths. Perform your meditative practice for the amount of time that’s comfortable for you and then build on it each day. If it’s five minutes, it’s okay. That’s five minutes spent balanced and centered in a wellness state of mind rather than a stressed state of mind. As your practice grows in time, so will your wellness. Consider using a kitchen timer or another format and set it for a predetermined amount of time. Resist the need to check the time – sit still and relaxed until the bell rings. Believe it or not, it gets easier. You’ll also want to extend your time as any time in meditation is relaxing.
If you’re struggling to clear your mind, then consider a few options. First, reduce your time in relaxation. If it’s only 5 minutes each day for a month, it’s still a few hours a month more relaxed than you currently are today. Secondly, consider working with someone or review DVD versions of guided meditations. This is oral guidance concentrating on relaxing your physical and mental body at the same time. It’s an excellent choice for beginners. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook explains in detail meditation exercises divided into five groups. Group 1 is basic with three meditations – mantra, sitting, and breath-counting meditations. Group 2 reviews releasing muscle tension through an inner exploration or body scan and a moving band meditation. Group 3 is about mindfulness and present-moment awareness through eating, walking, and seeing meditations. Group 4 is mindfulness of pain or discomfort. Lastly, group 5 is highly structured in letting go of thoughts. The workbook’s complete table of contents is as follows:
- How to react to stress
- Body awareness
- Progressive relaxation
- Applied relaxation training
- Brief combination techniques
- Recording your own relaxation tape
- Refuting irrational ideas
- Thought stopping
- Worry control
- Coping skills training
- Goal setting and time management
- Assertiveness training
- Job stress management
- When it doesn’t come easy – getting unstuck
As you become more confident in meditation, the next step in your growth process may be visualization. Esther and Jerry Hicks express “I will visualize well-being simply for the joy of visualizing. Take 15 minutes daily, thinking of pleasant scenarios regarding your body with the sole intent of enjoying your body and appreciating its strength and stamina and flexibility and beauty.”
…in Happiness and Wellth…Namaste
Jennifer D. Culver, CPC is a Certified Professional Coach with Jentle Wellness LLC, empowering individuals to become who they aspire to be – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. She excels in supporting you through your Transition. Jennifer is also a Reiki Master, an Author, and a student of Holistic Nutrition. To learn more about gaining support with your transition and to test drive a sample, click on http://www.jentlewellness.com and then click the button FREE Trial Session for a FREE 60-minute Transitional Coaching Session.