Tag Archives: mindfulness

5 Ways Mindfulness Meditation Benefits the Body

Many people know meditation is beneficial, yet few know why. Meditation, which can be practiced in various forms, has been used throughout history to benefit the mind, body and soul. Now there is even more evidence that taking up meditation may be the right thing for you.

“We have known for a long time that meditation can help to promote wellness,” explains Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder of The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, located in McLean, Virginia. “Meditation can play an important role in how you feel, both physically and mentally.”

Clinical studies have demonstrated the benefits of meditation, including:

  • A recent research study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital that mindfulness meditation, over the short period of eight weeks, increased the amount of gray matter in regions of the brain involved in learning and memory, regulation of one’s emotions and self-awareness.
  • Other studies have shown that regular meditation helps reduce practitioners’ feelings of anxiety and fear and enhance their natural creativity and problem-solving abilities.
  • Mindfulness meditation increases practitioners’ empathy for others and can allow for improved communication and relations with colleagues, family and friends.
  • Studies have also shown that regular meditation, by facilitating relaxation of the body and mind, can help improve sleep, lessen the sensation of pain and lower blood pressure.
  • There is also clinical evidence that meditating regularly improves depression and increases practitioners’ overall sense of well-being by providing a method of letting go of fearful and negative thoughts and decreasing emotional reactivity.

“This new study by researchers at Mass. General Hospital is very exciting because it suggests that meditation may be able to help heal the brains of people who suffer with depression, anxiety disorders, and chronic pain” adds Kaplan.

Mindfulness meditation involves entering into and holding a deep state of focused attention or relaxation. Although many practitioners like to follow a regular routine, meditation can be done anywhere.

Whether you’re sitting on a bus or stuck at an interminable business meeting, it’s possible to enter into the state of alert, mindful awareness and reap the benefits of meditation– without missing your bus stop or falling asleep at your meeting.

 

Explains Kaplan, “Meditation is not about religion or beliefs, it’s about learning how to stop ‘time-traveling.’ Unfortunately, we spend a great deal of time either thinking about the future, which tends to engender worry or anxiety, or dwelling on the past, which often brings up regrets and loss. Either way, we are less able to dedicate all of our attention and creativity on what is happening in the here and now. Meditation offers us a means of staying more in the present moment.”

“So many benefits arise from doing mediation, and it is so convenient to do, that I encourage everyone to give it a try–20 minutes a day for four weeks–and see what happens,” advises Kaplan. “You may be surprised at just how much more focused and relaxed you feel, and like many of my patients, you may decide to make it a permanent part of your daily routine.”

About The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine and Gary Kaplan, D.O.

The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine was founded by Dr. Gary Kaplan, a board-certified doctor of family medicine, pain medicine and medical acupuncture. For more than 25 years, The Kaplan Center’s team of physicians, physicaltherapists and other health care providers have combined the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative practices to address chronic pain and illness and to help individuals attain optimal health for life.  A leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Kaplan is a Fellow of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine, including serving on the NIH Consensus Panel that authored a paper on the treatment of chronic pain and insomia with relaxation techniques. To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit www.kaplanclinic.com/.

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How’s your Mental Fitness?

brain fitnessYesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day 2014. Ireland has a very high rate of suicide and we have all been touched by it in some way. The stigma of mental illness is finally eroding and the fact that we have a day that allows talk and discussion is great.

Doctors tell us that our mental health is very important. Anyone of us can be affected by a knock that life throws at us. Having the tools in your mental fitness belt can help. The little things you do all add up.

1. Be mindful of negative thoughts and learn how to cope with them. They cannot be blocked but distracting yourself from them or giving yourself a break (be kind!) may help. If they get too much there are lots of people out there qualified to help you. And they want to help.

2. Tap into your ‘inner resource’. Clinical psychologist Richard Miller, Ph.D has recognised the importance of this and has been working a lot with trauma survivors including returning soldiers from war. Think of your happy place…be it a place, sound, smell etc. Tap into this and think of it a few times in the day – every day – until it becomes a part of you. So when a negative experience happens you can go to this ‘inner resource’ and maybe deal with what is happening in a calm, controlled way. See www.irest.us for more details.

3. Try become more mindful of where you are, who you are with, what you are doing. It may mean turning off the phone. Do one thing at a time. Become focused on what you are doing.

4. Exercise – the importance of this cannot be emphasised enough. There is so much information and studies on how exercise benefits one’s mental fitness. Join a walking group, join a gym, take up yoga!

5. Hobbies are a great way to switch the chattering mind off too. Doing something you enjoy not only occupies the brain but will release endorphins and make you feel good.

6. Set a personal goal, maybe give yourself a month to do it and then reward yourself with something on completion. Keep it simple but of course the reward can be big!

7. Express yourself! Tap into your creative side and help release some emotions …writing in a journal, art, singing (even in the shower). Anything that gets your tapping into the creative, left side of the brain.

8. One of the simplest ways of keeping mentally fit is to laugh. However there will be times when this is probably one of the hardest things to do. In this age of easy access to everything there is so much comedy out there. Have a go-to show on stand by that you know will give you a giggle…for me its ‘Saturday Night Live’ and there are plenty of old sketches on YouTube.

9. Have you ever thought of volunteering? It’s one of those win-win activities. As humans there is an inherent want to help others and the reason is that it in turn makes us feel good. The other side is the receiver of your help benefits too.

10. Self care – think of the flight attendant telling you that ‘when the mask comes down in the event of loss of cabin pressure, place on your own mask first before attending to those with you’. How important it is to look after yourself or you are no good to those around you…in a nutshell! Any of the above can be considered self care. Even 2 minutes of self care everyday is a good place to start. An hour massage once a month is a necessity not as luxury. Make  a point to make time for yourself. It’s an investment for your mental fitness.

What will you do to kick start your mental fitness regime?

Sites you might find it helpful to visit: