How meditation improves your physical and mental health
Thursday, September 1, 2016. Author Paul Rose
Thursday, September 1, 2016. Author Paul Rose
In a society where everyone needs to get somewhere, try harder, and be successful, it seems that there is little time for us to contemplate and reflect on the affect this lifestyle is having on our mental wellbeing. Sometimes taking your foot off the pedal just doesn’t seem like a practical option. However in reality it could actually help improve your mind-set, re-evaluate your focus and help you make better decisions.
Meditation is often construed as boring, time consuming, or just for those who have plenty of time on their hands.
When in fact, major companies like Apple and Google, countless celebrities, professional athletes are integrating meditational practices into their schedules on a daily basis - so could you benefit from it too?
Meditation is about improving one’s self-awareness over their body, emotions and mind.
It trains you to not become overwhelmed with the stresses of everyday life, to take a step back and understand that you’re able to control your own thought processes.
It can be defined by your own intentions, and help you target elements of your life where you wish to feel more at ease. Sleep, weight loss, and stress are some of the most common focuses, but it can also be used to improve performance at work or in the gym.
Most forms of meditation would appear to have low levels of physical exertion, which is generally not considered beneficial to weight loss. However, a number of studies have shown the advantageous effects of meditation in reducing body weight, particularly for those who are overweight or obese.
Meditative practice may improve a number of factors such as emotional self-regulation, eating behaviours, body awareness and exercise adherence in order to help promote weight loss. Apart from the usual culprits in weight gain (dietary intake and inactivity), many underlying psychological and biological functions related to stress, sleep, anxiety and depression may be directly or indirectly affected by meditative practices.
An increase in mindfulness, body awareness and eating behaviours tended to help those in the studies change their emotional eating and dietary patterns. This is great news for those of us who have an FTO risk allele who need to be aware of our tendency to over-eat.
Professional athletes and coaches advocate the use of many forms of meditative practices. Visualisation has become commonplace in the world of elite sports and performance. This practice has been shown to improve an athlete’s physical and mental preparation, self-confidence, and overall performance in a sports setting.
Elite level athletes perform on the big stage in front of thousands of spectators, week in week out. It is essential that they develop coping mechanisms in order to maintain focus and not become overwhelmed by the moment.
Stress will fuel an athlete's fear, anxiety and fatigue so keeping an athlete calm in scenarios where they need to be fully focussed on specific tasks is one of the multiple ways meditation can help enhance performance.
Athletes often talk about getting in the zone where their only thoughts are on the task at hand and they are completely in the moment. This zone is the connection that exists between the mind and body. With meditative practices you can train yourself to be present in your body with a single-minded focus and remove the distractions, which could obstruct such high levels of performance.
You cannot perform optimally if you are not getting the appropriate hours of sleep. A disrupted night's sleep can affect your body’s immune system, eating habits, muscular growth, fat loss and cognitive function. Regularly practicing meditation and it’s relaxation techniques will allow you to fall asleep faster, have a deeper REM sleep, and feel more rested with better sleeping patterns.
Meditation is a practice and in order for it to become a part of your daily ritual, consistency is key. Try to form a basic habit - put it in your diary or even set an alarm. Prioritise the health of your mind!
We would advise that you try to schedule your meditation into your morning regime. This allows you to start your day with the right positive mind-set and energy levels to prepare you for any situation that the day may throw at you.
Partner your meditation with a regular daily habit- before eating breakfast or after you brush your teeth for example will make it much easier for you to not miss it from your morning routine.
Being more mindful throughout the day ensures that you are looking at the aspects of your lifestyle which contribute to improving overall wellbeing and health; helping you stop things such as ‘stress-eating’ or ‘snacking’.
Alberts, H.J.E.M., Thewissen, R. and Raes, L., 2012. Dealing with problematic eating behaviour. The effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on eating behaviour, food cravings, dichotomous thinking and body image concern. Appetite, 58(3), pp.847-851.
Camilleri, G.M., Méjean, C., Bellisle, F., Hercberg, S. and Péneau, S., 2015. Association between mindfulness and weight status in a general population from the NutriNet-Santé study. PloS one, 10(6), p.e0127447.
Dalen, J., Smith, B.W., Shelley, B.M., Sloan, A.L., Leahigh, L. and Begay, D., 2010. Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary therapies in medicine, 18(6), pp.260-264.
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