Why Meditation Matters
I never thought rock climbing would feel anything like meditation, but after my first rock climbing experience last week I can tell you that oddly enough they are very similar.
As my aunt-in-law pointed out during our family vacation rock climbing adventure together, rock climbing requires a heightened state of mindfulness. In that moment, as your body is hanging on the side of a cliff, you certainly aren’t thinking about emails that need to be sent, work that needs to be done or the long laundry list of other to-do items you might have.
While rock climbing I was in the moment, fully in my body and nothing else mattered.
That is exactly what meditation feels like. It’s a place of serenity when there is chaos swirling around you, an escape for rest and relaxation, and an avenue for healing to happen.
In our fast paced, modern world we have lost our sense of mindfulness. We mindlessly eat and react to situations rather than being present and proactive. We act quickly without thinking it through and later regret our decisions. We worry ourselves sick over the simplest circumstances, letting it distract us from creating what we really want to happen.
When we are mindful and present, it’s as if the world is moving in slow motion around us. We are able to observe, make choices that are in alignment with our health and come from a place of empowerment.
This is why meditation matters for your health.
As my dear friend and colleague Molly Hamill often quotes from Yogi Bhajan, “meditation clears the garbage from our subconscious. It’s like taking the trash out of our minds each day.”
Our mind needs a daily mental detox just as much as our body needs to physically detox every day. The study of epigenetics proves this to be true – our mindset can literally alter our gene expression.
As one study pointed out, mindfulness interventions such as meditation have the power to influence our genes and reduce inflammation in the body, making meditation a valuable tool for treating chronic inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune disorders, cancer, adrenal dysfunction, leaky gut, high cholesterol and so many others.
This graphic from Positive Health Wellness helps to paint the bigger picture of how meditation impacts the body on a scientific level as well. Meditation helps to lower cortisol levels (our stress hormone), increases our sense of calmness, and decreases feeling of anxiety, fear and depression.
In this week’s video and blog, I dive into more detail about how meditation positively influences gene expression, reduces inflammation and supports health improvement.
We can only heal in a relaxed state.
This is the critical foundation that meditation provides us – a relaxed place that allows the body to actually heal.
Meditation permits the body to slip into what is called a parasympathetic state, also known as the rest and digest mode. This is the complete opposite of being in a sympathetic state, also known as the fight or flight mode.
Most of the time we are in fight or flight, our stress response is heightened by the abundance of daily demands placed on us in our jobs and in our lives. This state keeps us alert, ready for action and survival.
This brilliant mechanism for alertness, action and survival takes a toll on the body when engaged for prolonged periods of time. When the body is in flight or flight, it directs blood flow outward, shuts off any unnecessary functions (such as healing) and conserves all of its energy to address whatever the threat, aka stress, is.
As I pointed out in a recent blog, our fight or flight function served a valuable purpose back in the day when our ancient ancestors were being chased by predators, such as lions. So while we don’t confront lions in our day, on a physiological level our bodies react to stress such as traffic, crappy co-workers or relationship challenges as if a lion was chasing us.
This constant state of stress chaos triggers inflammation which has the power to alter cells and create disease and dysfunction – and this is exactly what the study of epigenetics has shown us.
When we slow down and adopt the deep rhythmic breathing patterns usually associated with relaxation techniques like meditation, we are able to flip the switch. The body recognizes the changes in breathing and thought patterns, turns off the fight or flight response and turns on the parasympathetic mode.
Let the healing happen!
In a parasympathetic state, the body is relaxed and able to heal. All of its resources are directed inward to restore and rebalance. It is able to combat inflammation, repair damaged cells, to prevent or reverse disease and dysfunction- again, this is what the study of epigenetics has proven.
Meditation is one of the quickest, most effective and accessible ways to get yourself into a parasympathetic state. It doesn’t require any money or resources, and you can do it anywhere.
Meditation can take on many forms. It can mean sitting in silence, taking a leisurely walk, saying positive affirmations, doing deep breathing, chanting or it can even be rock climbing in some cases (as I experienced). The ultimate goal is to simply disconnect from the stress of your day-to-day life, to let any pent up energy flow through you and to free your mind from the vicious cycle of negative thoughts that we tend to get trapped in.
Having a daily meditation practice has helped me create the space for my body to heal from Hashimoto’s, mold toxicity, leaky gut, estrogen dominance and the flood of emotions related to the passing of my mother.
Some of my favorite meditation resources include:
- Molly’s fear releasing (for autoimmune), gut healing, sleep and thyroid guided meditations
- Insight Timer app with thousands of theme and different duration of meditations to choose from
- Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenges
- Binaural Beats – the use of sound frequencies to induce the same mental state as meditation
Give your body the gift of meditation, and let the healing happen!