By Charleene O’Connor…
Meditation is worth a try for two great reasons: 1) Anyone can do it and 2) It has concrete physical and psychological benefits. For instance:
*Slow, regulated breathing allows your body to release “happy” chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, which all positively affect your mood and function.
*Five minutes (!) of meditation a day can reduce your anxiety up to 22%.
*Meditation will help you achieve deeper REM sleep. Slow, even breathing for 20 minutes before bed has been shown to help people wake up less during the night.
*People who meditate regularly experience an overall drop in blood pressure.
*Meditation appears to change activity in the pain-processing region of the brain. Meditators can get up to a 40% reduction in pain intensity. It can also reduce inflammation from conditions such as asthma, arthritis, tendonitis, etc.
Why does meditation work? The answer starts with the act of breathing itself. In many ways, breathing is the most important physical activity we do in life, but many of us in modern societies tend to ignore its importance. The average person breathes around 20,000-25,000 times a day—so if each breath is stressed or inefficient, imagine the effect that will have on the rest of your bodily systems. Meditation helps restore your respiratory function first, and that has a massive, positive effect on everything else.
Meditation also helps re-connect your brain to the rest of you. Slowly training your mind to focus on what’s happening in the here and now, instead of worrying about what occurred in the past or the future, helps reduce both regret and anxiety, which are the roots of stress. When stress goes down, the body reboots your Para-Sympathetic Nervous System, or what we at Nimble Fitness call the “rest and repair” system. Slow breathing also allows us to “pay attention” to our bodily systems in a way which is impossible if we’re on the go, trying to do a dozen things at once. These processes—actively reducing stress and being more present—help improve and restore all the body’s vital systems, including digestion, metabolism, cognition, immunity and so on.
It takes a small commitment to add breath work into your life, but it can offer you some amazing benefits!