The Magic of Mediation

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So I was walking with a friend this past week and she was speaking to experiencing anxiety because she was extra busy at work. Being a good naturopath, I casually recommended meditation as a means to addressing these new symptoms. The suggestion was shrugged off and we continued on, but in my reflection, MEDITATION REALLY IS a substantiated way to address anxiety. 

We’ve all experienced symptoms of anxiety at some point. Butterflies in our stomach, sweaty palms, chest tightness, heart flutterings, disturbed sleep; all symptoms of adrenaline pumping through our veins. For me, anxiety manifests as a ruminating mind, not being able to fall asleep, and a short temper. These are symptoms of our adrenal glands activating the ‘flight or fight’ response; our body’s cannot differentiate a lion from public speaking, they are both stressors.

Here are four reasons to use meditation: 

  1. Meditation helps regulate our emotions. Research shows that a daily meditation practice can actually REPROGRAM NEURAL PATHWAYS in our brain and therefore help our ability to regulate emotions (1). 

  2. Meditation allows us to gain perspective on the thoughts and storylines that induce anxiety. We learn to see these triggers, be with them, and release them. Ruminating and unproductive thoughts do not define us, and they are not real. Meditation allows us to change our relationship with anxiety and differentiate foe from friend. 

  3. Meditation teaches body awareness. Body scanning is a technique that involves mentally scanning your entire body and being with sensations felt at that moment. It’s a go-to technique that can be accessed by anyone and at any time anxiety begins to manifest.  

  4. Meditation shrinks the amygdala, the brain’s ‘fight or flight’ center, and thickens the cortex, associated with higher order brain functions. Our brains become programmed by the experiences it is repetitively subjected to. Constant anxiety reshapes the structure and neural pathways of our brain, particularly in the amygdala which is the part of the brain that regulates fear and emotion (4).

Unchecked anxiety and stress has deleterious effects on our health. Over time, repeated activation of the stress response leads to elevated blood pressure, formation of artery-clogging deposits, and brain changes that may contribute to depression, addiction, and clinical anxiety (2). Stress hormones in the blood make the liver produce more sugar (so we have more energy to run from the lion) however over time we become more susceptible to immune dysregulation and obesity (3). 

If you’re convinced and ready to bring on meditation, check out the app Insight Timer or Headspace. There are endless guided meditations, specific for your needs. Last night I put on a kids meditation for sleep to help wind down my toddler and she was out like a light.

Resources

  1.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/

  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5958156/

  4. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-does-mindfulness-meditation-do-to-your-brain/