Getting Started with Meditation as a Healthy Coping Tool
Just so you know, I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post, but it won’t affect the price you pay at all! All opinions are my own and I only recommend products I have tried and loved. I have a full affiliate disclosure that you can find here. I am not a medical professional and nothing I write is intended as medical advice. A version of this blog post was originally published on The Unchargeables.
You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of yoga in improving mental and physical health, and in improving flexibility. Due to the shared benefits, the words ‘yoga’ and ‘meditation’ are often thought of as synonyms. You may have rolled your eyes when you disclosed your invisible illness to someone and they suggested you tried to meditate or do some yoga ( I know I have!). Although meditation can be incorporated into yoga, they are different practices. While I was skeptical of meditation at first, it has actually helped me to manage my stress and life while living with Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and fatigue.
How Meditation Works
Meditation involves clearing your mind while maintaining a state of awareness. Or at least trying to! It is much more than sitting and concentrating in a quiet area for a designated amount of time; it involves calming your mind of all thoughts, achieving a deep inward peace, and maintaining attention and alertness in the process. In today’s world, that seems nearly impossible sometimes, but even the act of attempting it, helps me!
Have I gotten to the complete deep inward peace thing? Nope, not yet. But I have found that meditation is an excellent way to relax, to calm my anxious mind, and to take the focus off of my pain.
People often use certain postures, breathing techniques, and even chants to help facilitate the process of meditating, but these are not required. They are not the act of meditation itself, just the support tools. Personally, I like to meditate on my yoga mat and my meditation cushion. I also do it in bed to help me fall asleep!
Stress as a Spoonie is Extra Hard On Your Body
Meditation makes the body less responsive to stress hormones, which lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, improves digestion and immunity, and establishes emotional and neurological “balance.”
How does this work exactly?
According to what I’ve learned, it mostly comes down to hormones. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin increase blood pressure and heart rate, while “feel good” chemicals, such as serotonin, (which are released in a state of relaxation), work to repair cells.
Tips on Getting Started with Meditation
As a beginner, watching a video, or using an app that introduces you to the concept of meditation is the easiest way to get started. A guided meditation teaches you various techniques for facilitating the process. It is not as easy as I thought it would be, but I’m glad to have another calming tool in my toolbox. Personally, I love the guided meditations from Danielle LaPorte.
You may be able to find a class in your community that is specifically dedicated to meditation, but for now most of those things aren’t happening in 2020. For me, it’s always been easier to learn through online tools. Some meditation videos/audios can be found for free online. Try searching YouTube, or downloading an app. If you prefer a mix of yoga and meditation, the best types of yoga to focus on include Kundalini, Ananda, or Qi Gong, which is my personal favorite form of moving meditation.
Research shows that just 20 minutes of consistent meditation sessions can have tremendous health benefits. When my therapist suggested I try it, I was skeptical. There was no way I could do it for twenty full minutes! So I started with just five minutes at a time. Meditating before you go to bed can help you to fall asleep too. Personally, falling asleep is a struggle, and I have noticed that I fall asleep much faster if I meditate in bed.
Try getting outside! Many people find that sitting in nature – I just sit on my back porch – helps them to facilitate the process of meditation. It’s also a great way to get outside and absorb some Vitamin D.
Of course, everyone is different. To get started, experiment with different ways of meditating to see what work for you and what helps you the most. Also, try meditating at different times of the day and for different periods of time to find what works. It’s okay if you cannot calm your mind completely, (I rarely can!), you can still get many benefits from making the effort. Remember, you and your health are worth that effort!