That our fast-paced lives are taking a toll on our health is not new information. Lifestyle diseases now kill more people than communicable ones. Obesity, diabetes, and chronic stress (among others) set our economy back by $153 billion a year. Depression alone costs US workplace $23 billion in absenteeism.
What are Americans like you and me doing about it?There’s plethora of information out there about what to do to preserve our health and sanity but are we listening?Take for example, regular exercise. We are consistently fed how great it is but for all its benefits to health, heart, and mind, Americans are exercising less and less.
It’s not difficult to guess why that would be. The last thing a stressed out individual with further litany of duties lined up at home post-work wants is to work out. We are already exhausted by the physical and mental toll that our work takes on us. We barely get to catch up with our family the whole day. And then we have to cook, too.
We know we should do something about this treadmill-like existence but gaining control requires energy, which we are short on.
Fear not, though. One of the best and the simplest ways to regain energy is to turn to meditation – an age-old eastern practice, tried and tested repeatedly.
If you make meditation the pivot on which your day stands, you’ll find it to be a multi-pronged attack on your health problems.
Here are just a few benefits that a regular practice of meditation brings.
It reduces stress drastically
We are all reeling under stress. Almost everything stresses us out. Our jobs, our relationships, our ambitions, our responsibilities, our body weight, the list goes on. The fact that we ought to be eating well also stresses us out as it requires us to make good choices consistently. We have access to vast amounts of information on what to eat and how to work out, but the effect of all this on us is that we feel horrible when we slip up. We know we ought to be doing better and we want to, but we just can’t seem to.
Meditation is the best way out of this situation. Sitting straight and still and focusing on your breath has an almost magical effect on one’s nerves. Our heart beat steadies, our mind calms down, and the fog lifts. People and the world in general lose their power over us.
This calmness percolates into other parts of our life too. We make better choices because we don’t spend the better part of our energy fighting the negative or the irrelevant.
It stabilizes your blood pressure
A high blood pressure is body’s reaction to stress, whether physical or mental. A healthy body at peace with itself does not suffer from a blood pressure problem, and a healthy mind is the start of a healthy body. Losing negative energy is like a load being lifted from our hearts. We feel lighter and have far fewer grudges against the world.
It helps you sleep better
It’s not difficult to understand why a calm mind would help you sleep better than an agitated one. Not only that, the sleep that you get will be refreshing, not punctuated with nightmares or toilet breaks. You’ll be fresh when you get up, which means you’ll start your day on a positive note.
It sharply improves your focus
Just a few days into your meditation practice and you will find yourself gaining a number of insights out of nowhere. Meditation in essence is about gently focusing on one’s breath as thoughts (and sounds) come and go. You don’t seek to control anything, but you don’t react to anything either. This plugs the leak of energy caused by fighting or indulging the unhelpful thoughts (which our minds are usually flooded with).
Over time this focus gets ingrained in you and you naturally crowd the bad out of your mind.
A less stressed out and more focused person is in better charge of their life. You are more likely to avoid bingeing and more likely to stick to healthier alternatives. When you slip up, you probably won’t beat yourself up over it. What meditation essentially does is suck away the negative energy within you, which is what is driving the indifferent or self-defeating choices in the first place, and replaces it with a calm and clear mind — a mind that is not reactive and hence in better control of life.
It improves your libido
When your mind is not running around like a harried mouse, it stops to smell the roses. All kinds of positive energy abounds. Stress is replaced with calmness and a deep sense of peace prevails. You appreciate what is, which means your equation with your family and friends improves. You have lots of positive energy and love to give. This should have a very positive effect on your love life.
There are many ways to practice meditation; you just need to find the one best suited for your purpose. For most of us seeking to bring about a positive lifestyle change, mindfulness meditation is the best place to start. There are many videos on YouTube by some excellent teachers to guide you through the process.
Alternatively, you could sign up for meditation classes or join a meditation group in your area.
Visiting a meditation retreat to some place beautiful and calming is also an excellent idea. It can form a great introduction to the history and practice of meditation. You will meet many like-minded people and learn a variety of mediation tools from very experienced and knowledgeable teachers. Visiting a retreat will also give you an official license to drop all your worries and step into the present, and most importantly,remain there.
A tip: Since many retreats require you to be cut off from the world, you might want to let your friends know for how long you’d be gone. Ask them to check up on your house as well, if you live alone. Don’t forget to secure your house with a home security system if it’s going to remain vacant. The last thing you want to do on a retreat is to worry about what you’ve left behind!
Conclusion: For best results you must make meditation a regular (not necessarily daily) part of your routine. You will start small but the cumulative rewards will be big. You will put an end to worrying and running around in exasperating circles, and in the bargain gain good health, peace of mind, and improved relationships.