Life is stressful, and it’s not getting any easier.
That’s one of the reasons that so many Americans are incorporating 20 minutes of meditation into their daily schedules.
“Meditation doesn’t get rid of stress or the grief, but it helps individuals change their relationship to it,” said Marc Potter, a licensed clinical social worker for Intermountain Healthcare. “It gives you the ability and the strength to cope with the stress you deal with everyday, whether it’s in the workplace or at home.”
A lot of people get into meditation involuntarily, said Potter. Something drastic happens to them; they feel like they’re hit with the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“That’s what happened to me,” he said. “I was at the height of my career, and I broke down. I went from helping mentally ill homeless addicts to becoming one. For those who come to me for help, they’re stressed out of their minds. Meditation brings a deep sense of calm and self compassion.”
What is meditation?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist and meditation pioneer, mediation —which is also referred to as mindfulness — is the process of quieting the mind’s constant chattering, including its thoughts, anxieties, and regrets.
How do I meditate?
The best way is to learn from a teacher; however, you can sit in a comfortable chair while focusing on your breathing. Pay careful attention to when your mind wonders. When you divert to another thought, don’t judge yourself. Simply escort your attention back to your breath over and over again.
Do I have to be Buddhist to meditate?
The answer is no. Though meditation is tied to Buddhism, the origins of meditation date back to 5,000 B.C. and can be found in most cultures throughout the world. You can be a wonderful Catholic, Mormon, Buddhist or atheist and still meditate. Everyone can benefit.
Speaking of benefits of meditation, what are they?
- It alleviates stress - In addition to giving you time to relax, meditation affects the whole nervous system by reducing the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) the body produces.
- It improves concentration - Once we learn to focus on our breath, recognize when our mind wanders, and return our focus to our breathing, we can use that skill in everything we do such as work, family time, and play.
- It leads to better health - Researchers have linked meditation to decreasing your blood pressure, sleeping more peacefully, managing chronic pain, and even to extending your life.
- It changes your brain - Research has proven that meditating impacts the brain as well. MRI scans show the amygdala shrinks after participating in a meditation course. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex thickens.
- It improves creativity - Blocks in creativity can have multiple causes, but whatever the cause, the result is usually because we get caught in a routine. Taking time to meditate allows us to unwind and reset allowing us to push through the blocks.
So what’s the moral of this story? What should you do now?
Stop cruising the internet, step away from your computer, and take 20 minutes to meditate.
“One of the highlights throughout my career,” said Marc, ”is when a few people have approached me and said ‘meditation changed my life.’”
Need additional guidance?
If you need some guidance, visit intermountainhealthcare.org and listen to CD #3 (scroll to the bottom of the page), which was created to help people in the workplace.