Have you ever felt like maybe life is moving too quickly? That there’s too much happening and you feel overwhelmed and anxious? That maybe all the balls in the air are only mere moments from exploding all over the place only to come crashing down and make a huge mess…? Like, everywhere?
You aren’t alone.
Between work, appointments, family errands, social plans, self-care and trying to balance it all – it’s difficult to feel good all the time. I won’t lie to you. Sometimes I feel like it’s all too much and suddenly my anxiety increases. And my stress. I don’t take care of my body or eat well like I should, and my overall mental wellness and physical health suffers.
And I’m a big believer in finding inner strength and wellness for natural health because our mind and body are connected.
So the thing that gets me through those dark days – or the moments when I just can’t take another emergency or crisis – is meditation and breath. Learning how to relax the mind and body. Because our minds and bodies are connected and the way we process oxygen has a profound effect on our healthy/happy levels. Some days I just need to stop for a couple minutes and take a great big deep breath and exhale. All the way in, all the way out. And suddenly, everything becomes less fuzzy and more manageable. It’s one of the cheapest (aka free) types of meditation or therapy there is.
Plus, I get a much needed time out.
When we’re anxious or highly stressed, our Sympathetic nervous system produces a chemical called cortisol (a necessary and effective chemical in our bodies that help with fight-or-flight scenarios). But daily stressors have caused our bodies to activate these life saving responses to ordinary, yet stressful, situations. And excess cortisol has been linked to unhealthy weight gain in numerous studies.
There’s also the added benefit that less stressed people tend to smoke less, eat more nourishing foods and exercise regularly – all of which translates into more fit bodies, clearer minds and radiant, younger looking skin.
Practicing meditation in the form of deep breathing allows the mind and body relationship to sync, causing our bodies and minds to relax. And this alleviates excess cortisol and the effects it has on the scale.
Meditation is an effective method to reduce stress, reduce anxiety and help create a healthier mind and body. And WebMD announces it officially: The way our brains process stress is directly related to the way our bodies takes in air.
Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion, making you feel short of breath and anxious. So taking long, deliberate, full breaths actually causes your body to relieve tension because more oxygen is getting to the muscles, allowing them to move fluidly and relax. This means signals from the brain get translated more effectively – which, by the way, is like a muscle in and of itself. So when it has proper fuel – good food, clean oxygen, fresh water – it simply works better. And when it works better, and we’re equipped to make better decisions. Stressful or not.
Moreover, taking those breaks, even if it’s just a couple of moments a day, lets us stop, drop and center ourselves. In a life jam packed with family, work, errands, appointments, social calendars, and semi-successful attempts at balance, even a few seconds for ourselves can make all the difference to our happy levels.
Deep breathing through meditation actually releases endorphins throughout the body. And endorphins feel good – both mentally and physically. Remember that mind body relationship we talked about earlier? Yep – applies here too. And endorphins are chemicals produced by the body that help alleviate pain naturally and make us feel happy.
Think of them like chocolate, but better.
Below is a recommendation for meditation in an optimal situation. But if you don’t have free space to perform the full exercise, don’t let that stop you from practicing this natural remedy for stress and centering yourself. If you’re in a meeting, the car, at the gym or even just sipping tea in a local coffee shop, you can literally do this here and now: Just open up your lungs, relax your muscles, and breathe deep.
Find a comfortable, quiet space where you won’t be interrupted for 2-10 minutes. You have permission to stop, focus and relax your muscles. Just be. Release any tension in your shoulders or hips or belly and be open to the possibilities of the universe. If you can, let go of any thoughts*. Inhale deeply. Fill your lungs with air, allow it to pass through your lungs and bring it deep into the belly. It should extend as you fill it with air. Hold for half a second. Then release and exhale. All the way in, all the way out, nice and slow. Find strength in the movement and this type of meditation. As you exhale, let go of any negative thoughts, energy or pent-up tension. If you want to, reach up to the sky as you inhale, open your body to the universe and curl up into yourself in a way that feels good on the exhale – this is mind and body yoga. Repeat for the duration of the time you’ve allocated for yourself to be in this moment. One breath, two or thirty – whatever you have room for. Enjoy the benefits of meditation for a healthy mind and body.
*It will be difficult not to have thoughts during this time at first. And that’s okay. Meditative deep breathing and the benefits of it will still find their way to you. If thoughts appear, try not to follow them. Instead, just notice that they’re there and let them effortlessly leave your mind just as they came in. Then refocus on the breathing. You can do this.
Kristy Gardner is a writer, photographer and the author of Cooking With Cocktails: 75 Spirited Recipes (Countryman Press). She’s written & photographed with Edible Communities, The Taste Canada Food Writing Awards, and CountryMan Press and has presented at The Food Blogger’s Online Summit. Kristy lives in Vancouver, B.C. and has a penchant for farm fresh cocktails, carbs, hiking in the backcountry, bad ’80s films, bourbon, and pigs. Stalk her at SheEats.ca.
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