Learning about how meditation restores your health was a life-changing moment for me. I was struggling with panic disorder and was having panic attacks while I was driving my kids to their after-school activities.
Not only was I dealing with anxiety but, at the same time, I was suffering from bone-crushing exhaustion and brain fog that made me feel like I was stoned 24/7.
I finally went to see someone and she ran some tests and found that I had stage 3 adrenal fatigue and serious gluten sensitivity that had the inflammation markers in my gut higher than any she’d ever seen.
All of this disruption going on inside of my body was causing my endocrine system to go haywire and I basically had zero resources to deal with any kind of stress.
Even if it was good stress, it was taking a toll on my body and sending me further down the rabbit hole of a mental, physical, and emotional hot mess.
Thankfully, my naturopath gave me some tools to fight back with and one of them was meditation.
It does take a little while for meditation to have any kind of lasting effects on your brain.
But, I felt immediate relief just from being able to clear my mind and sit peacefully.
For a type-a personality, letting go of all thoughts isn’t easy. But, I was desperate for something to help me, so I did anything and everything it took.
How long does it take for meditation to be effective?
For most people, meditation is going to be one of the hardest parts of their healing journey. The reason, the behavior that got you to this point of feeling crappy is the exact behavior you have to completely stop while meditating.
Meditating is the practice of sitting still and clearing your mind. And, that’s not easy for those of us who have type-A personality and are always trying to keep things in control.
Many experts recommend that you start with just 5-minutes of meditation per day. For me, this was more than enough to make me want to jump out of my skin.
But, I was having several panic attacks per day and I was desperate to try anything that might help. So, I stuck with it and now I meditate for 20-minutes per day as a general rule.
Knowing that meditation restores your health kept me motivated and consistent.
Sometimes, I stop everything I’m doing and take a quick 5-minute break. I am very mindful of my body and my stress management process. If I feel like I’m spinning out, I address it immediately.
Harvard University researchers conducted a study on the effects of meditation on the brain. They wanted to prove that meditation restores your health.
Over the course of eight weeks, 16 people were asked to meditate for 27 minutes per day.
After the eight weeks were over the researchers compared the MRI scans of the participants’ brains from before and after. They found that their brains had actually physically changed.
In fact, the areas of the brain that control emotions, focus, and thinking showed an increase in grey matter volume.
Can you imagine how your life would improve if you had better focus? And, were more in tune with your emotions?
When I first started to meditate, my body had this constant tremor of anxiety running through it. So, sitting still was terrifying to me. It made me feel claustrophobic and it was a serious challenge.
But, I knew that if I stuck with it, it would start to come easier. I had read so many studies about how meditation restores your health and I needed it to happen for me.
I remember listening to a YouTube video of a monk being interviewed about meditation for beginners. He said, “only focusing on your breath while you wash the dishes is meditating”.
His point was, there are a lot of different ways to meditate. You just have to find the one that you will do consistently.
Which type of meditation is good for my brain?
First, it is important to note that there is no one “right way” to meditate. There are dozens of types of meditation and then within each of those are several subtypes.
Meditation restores your health by literally changing the physical composition of your brain. So, you want to make sure you are consistent. You just have to find a way that is right for you and that you will do consistently.
Loving Kindness (Metta)
This is a particularly powerful mediation if you have people in your life who are causing you negative feelings.
The goal is to release the negative feelings and replace them with loving-kindness. So, as you breathe deep, you think of loving and kind messages. These are messages that you could say to the person or people who are causing the negative feelings.
You can repeat the messages in your head or out loud. They should be repeated until you don’t feel angry anymore. Instead, you should feel compassion and love for the person.
This particular type of meditation has been very helpful for people who struggle with the emotional effects of PTSD.
If you have ever taken a yoga class then you have been led through a progressive relaxation meditation.
The idea is to mentally scan your body for signs of tension and release them. You can start from your feet and move all the way up to your head.
But, you need to move very slowly and scan every part of your body.
This is very helpful if you have anxiety or are in a state of chronic stress. By reducing that chronic stress meditation restores your health.
This is a practice that encourages you to be mindful of everything that is happening at the moment.
This might sound like the opposite of meditation because, instead of clearing your mind, you are actually thinking of things.
But, mindfulness meditation is perfect if you’re dwelling on something from the past. Or, scared of something that might happen in the future.
When you practice mindfulness meditation, you clear your mind of those thoughts. And, focus on what is happening in the here and now.
Do a scan of the room, of your body, of your surroundings. What do you hear, smell, feel, etc.
Bring your awareness away from your obsessive thoughts and into the single moment where your body exists right now.
This is a form of mindfulness meditation. But, instead of being mindful of your surroundings, you are aware of your breath.
This is what I started with because it was the easiest for me to do and I was able to be consistent with it.
My panic was pretty severe so, listening to and focusing on my breath gave me some relief from the feeling of anxiety and that was gold.
This is a form of yoga that pairs certain poses with breathing and mantras. If you have a yoga studio near you, check their schedule to see if they offer Kundalini yoga.
It’s always easier to follow instruction from someone else than to have to do the poses, breathing, and mantras on your own.
This yoga is designed to take you out of your head and into your body to give your mind a break from thinking and stress.
Each type of mediation has its own benefits to the practitioner if practiced consistently.
6 Ways meditation restores your health
Meditation is one of the “alternative medicine” methods that has been scientifically proven over and over again.
In fact, I’m not sure why it isn’t “prescribed’ by doctors more often.
If I had never gone to see a collaborative care practitioner, I never would have tried meditation and I might still be having panic attacks every day. Possibly even taking debilitating medication like a valium.
The health benefits of meditation are vast
This is probably the number one reason that people try meditation. I’m living proof that chronic stress has a significantly negative impact on your health.
Your body’s response to stress is to release cortisol. If your body is releasing this hormone too much and too often, it can impact your sleep, increase your blood pressure, and cause anxiety.
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and thus, the cortisol levels in your body.
If your body is processing stress in a healthy way, you are going to automatically have less anxiety.
Meditation helps you to manage stress while keeping your hormones balanced so you don’t develop any of the physical ailments caused by chronic stress.
Couple meditation with a clean beauty routine and your skin will be glowing!
Some forms of meditation can actually help to improve your overall outlook on life. If you have a toxic relationship in your life and you practice loving-kindness meditation, you could actually see an improvement in your sense of self and outlook.
When I started to feel relief from my chronic anxiety and panic disorder, the feelings of peace and content that come with that were indescribable.
I felt confident and powerful.
Doing body scan meditation can actually teach you about your body and how you carry stress and tension.
If you do a few 5-minute sessions of body scan meditation daily, you will begin to learn what times of the day you start to carry stress in your body, which situations cause you to have more tension than others, etc
This information can help you to be proactive about how you go through your day and handle stress.
It’s been proven that meditation changes your brain and increases the grey matter volume in the areas that improve focus and concentration. Just like valuing experiences over possessions brings more happiness, meditation brings more focus.
Obviously, meditation relaxes your body which can help you to fall asleep. But, meditation also improves your sleep.
It has also been studied and proven that people who meditate fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than the people who don’t meditate.
Insomnia or trouble falling asleep are often caused by “monkey mind” or runaway thoughts. But, meditation can help to release those thoughts from your brain so you can calmly drift off to sleep.
Meditation can feel a little intimidating at first. But, if you start small and stay consistent, the positive impact that it has on your life is amazing.