Relaxation and meditation are just as crucial to health
as diet and exercise
by Willow Tohi
You gotta relax, man. Life in 2012 means a degree of stress, for just about everyone. Our bodies and minds can take a lot of abuse, but its all too easy to get into a negative cycle, and just keep sinking. You don’t sleep well, you get up late, so you don’t eat, your blood sugar is low, so your temper is short, etc. Stress. If you need more time, more energy, or better sleep, then its worth taking the time to relax and meditate. Believe it or not, this investment in yourself can improve these aspects of your life, and many more.
Everyone knows stress is not good for you. Prolonged exposure to increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline is harmful to your organs. This condition is usually exacerbated by tense, tight muscles (causing pain), shallow breathing, and digestive problems. With just five minutes a few times a day, you can improve your health and cut stress. Best of all, it costs nothing and requires no equipment.
I know what you’re thinking: “Where am I going to go at work to sit in a lotus position and hum?” Well that is not the only way to meditate. Meditation can be simply the act of quieting the mind, breathing deeply, becoming aware of your surroundings, and relaxing.
The benefits are many. According to Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, while meditation has long been known to provide peacefulness and physical relaxation, recent research supports the claim that it also provides lasting cognitive and psychological benefits.
Measurable changes occur in the brain, after only a couple of months, in the regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.
If you find that you like it, take it further with a course on mindfulness exercises. Your local library or community center may have some, or you could learn more online.
How to breathe, correctly
You know when you’re in an airplane and the flight attendant tells you to “put your own mask on before helping others”? That concept is true in many situations. You have to take care of yourself or you’ll have nothing to give to anyone else. Your productivity, health, and attitude all benefit from you taking time for yourself to reduce stress. An easy first step is to learn how to breathe, correctly. Most of us take rapid, shallow breaths. Shoulders go up, diaphragm goes in, and only the top portion of our lungs fill. Proper breathing expands your diaphragm, stomach, and ribcage – but not the pectoral area. Exhaling deeply is equally important so that you can better oxygenate your body and empty as much carbon dioxide and toxins as possible with each breath. Got a baby or a dog around? Watch them while they sleep. Higher oxygen levels in the blood increases function and health of the organs. It also improves mental clarity, mood, and stamina. More toxins are released through the lungs than through any other avenue of elimination.
Practice makes perfect
Practice breathing deliberately several times each day. For several minutes, slowly breathe in through your nose, filling your lungs entirely with air and expanding your belly. Try for four breaths per minute – quality trumps quantity. Exhale slowly and deeply through your nose, pulling your belly in. Then, continue, but exhale through your mouth for several more minutes. Use this kind of breathing when you feel stressed, when you’re exercising, when you’re trying to go to sleep, or when you’re trying not to lose your temper.
Why not decide to try some of these tips for three weeks to see if you notice a difference? The power of intent is a strong one. If you choose to develop some good habits, you will begin to feel better. Who knows – if this works you may go crazy and start going for a walk everyday too! Next thing you know, you’ll be in a positive cycle instead of a negative one.
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