Meditation: A Prescription to Fight Stress

How were your holidays?  Celebratory?  Stressful?  A little (or a lot) of both?

Today, I want to give you something you can really celebrate???for your whole life.  Something so important to your health that I don’t just recommend it, I insist that you put it at the top of your resolutions list???doctor’s orders.

I’m sure you’ve heard of meditation.  The Beatles and their guru Maharishi Yoga helped bring the practice to the Western world.  The Dalai Llama does it.  Millions of successful people do it.

Once regarded as something like a superstition, meditation now has been scientifically proven to be an extraordinary, multi-faceted health enhancer???a wonder un-drug.

The Extraordinary Benefits of Meditation

Wow. Talk about improving the quality of your life. Here are just some of the wonders, each one medically proven, that meditation can bring us:

  • You can increase your brain’s ability to learn, remember, and regulate your emotions
  • You can reduce your level of and susceptibility to stress
  • You can lower your blood pressure
  • You can reduce symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions, like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • You can slow your body’s and brain’s aging process

When I first began to learn about and practice meditation, I’ll admit it???it wasn’t easy.  But I was so fascinated with the concept and these amazing, proven medical benefits, that I had to stick with it???not just for myself, but also for my patients.

After all, if a practice as safe as meditating can relieve stress, improve our health, and help us heal ourselves???all for free, all without drugs or medications???it is absolutely my duty as a physician to “prescribe” it.  That is what I intend to do today.  There is no better way for you to begin a new year???doctor’s orders.

You Are the Only Equipment You Need

Meditation requires only two pieces of equipment.  The good news is that you already have both:

  1. Your own behind and a place to rest it
  2. Your own active, engaged mind

Let’s focus on your mind first.  You know how it goes???millions of thoughts about everyday matters are constantly bouncing around in there. “Do I need to shop today? When’s my next physical therapy session? How’s my precious granddaughter? Why does my left big toe hurt?  Is it serious?  Who directed that movie we saw last night …?”

So considering all the traffic, another way to describe your active, engaged mind is “chaotic.” It’s only natural. We all have to-do lists that stretch from here to out the door and down the street.

But there’s more to life???and our health???than our to-do’s.  Meditation is about a not-to-do.

Meditation: Living Fully in The Moment

At the heart of meditation is what’s called “mindfulness.”  (Our kids and grand-kids would call it “chillin’.”)  The idea seems counter-intuitive at first, but it’s essential: you clear your mind of all that chaos???you take control and calm it.  It’s like turning down the volume of a blaring radio station until there’s only sweet silence.  You are then living in the moment. The health benefits begin to pour in almost instantly.

One wonderfully effective “how-to” technique is something you do thousands of time every day: breathe.  But here, you breathe in a way that’s very different than automatic, unconscious breathing.  As the name suggests, mindful breathing is deep, deliberate breathing that you fully focus on.  You control it, allowing nothing into your mind other than the sensations of inhaling and exhaling.  Do it sitting.  Do it lying down.  But do it.

Ideally???and this is something we western world folks aren’t taught in childhood???you begin each breath deep in your stomach, not in your lungs.  You’ve got it right when your stomach expands before your lungs, as you inhale through your nose.  You then exhale through your mouth, focusing on emptying your lungs, then compressing your stomach.

Highly Effective Meditation Aids

Another way to meditate mindfully is to focus on an object.  A single candle can do the trick.  You find a comfortable, quite place to sit, light the candle and just watch its flame dance and flicker.  No distractions, no “what’s for lunch?” Simply watch.  Start with five-minute sessions and build up from there. You’ve probably seen the intricate, colorful mandalas used in some types of meditation, and a Japanese rock garden is meant to serve the same purpose.

However you meditate, don’t expect perfection right away. Getting meditation right isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow, determined, and steady gets you across the finish line and into the winners’ circle.

As I mentioned, when I started out, I found it very hard to keep my mind from dashing into everyday chaos.  So I tried using some audio aids, called “guided meditation,” that gave me sounds and rhythms to focus on.  I use them to this very day and recommend them very highly.

My Medication Prescription

And I hereby do more than recommend you begin to meditate. The proven benefits are so profound, so life-enhancing and life-prolonging, that I insist you start right away.

Make meditation your new year’s resolution???doctor’s orders.

Have a wonderful 2015.