Guest Blogger: L.M. Feltyberger
You’ve got your diet plan and shopping list. You’ve got your exercise videos, plans, or trainer. You’re working out, getting fit, losing weight, getting strong. Right?
Your brain is crying, “Don’t forget me!”
There are still millions of tiny little triggers inside you ready to continue perpetrating the evil unbalanced behavior that got you here. You don’t even know they’re there or why they’re there. Then there is that nasty little voice in the corner of your subconscious that is going to try to derail every good thing you’re doing. And that voice will be waiting for you to slip up just once so it can spew vitriol upon your burgeoning self confidence. Your poor psyche needs help too.
It’s time to help your body and your brain help themselves and learn a little meditation.
Wait, you’re saying, meditation is some screwy fluffy-bunny-new-ager nonsense taught by yogis and practiced by granola chewing vegetarians. And you should learn it too because it’s good for you.
What Meditation Does For Your Head
The most basic practice and purpose of meditation is to give your brain a rest! We spend all day immersed in mental stimuli, swamped by it. By using mindfullness focused meditation – concentrating solely on your breathing, an image, a mantra – you can gradually learn to shut out distractions and focus on just that one thing. Even if you’re not shutting them out entirely you can acknowledge thoughts and other outside stimuli and let them go. Letting go is good.
You’re doing focused meditation, slowing your brain down and focusing on just one thing instead of fifteen different things. You’re practicing Mindfullness – being in the right here right now, not an hour ago when your boss criticized your report or an hour from now when your kids need to be picked up. Your brain function quiets; info gathering slows to info coming directly from your body. You become more aware of yourself and how you feel. As your brain quiets the spaces between neural synapses stretch and lengthen, become more flexible. Tissue in parts of the brain that control emotions increases, making those areas much more stable. The little things that annoy you and foster anxiety won’t bother you as much anymore. As you learn to quiet your mind you’re going to be able to do it at night when you’re desperately trying to fall asleep.
As you get better at meditation you’re going to notice other benefits during the day when you’re not practicing. Your productivity will increase from your improving concentration. You deal with problems and issues much more calmly. Increased focus means more efficient info processing and better memory.
Now remember that plan you had about improving your diet and working out and getting healthy? It’s not as difficult to remember your healthy food choices. With anxiety on the wane you’re feeling pretty positive about trying new exercises, going to the gym. And because you’re practicing mindfulness things like cheating on your diet or not running as far as you thought you should won’t be the distressing obstacle it once might have been. You can let it go.
What Meditation Does For Your Body
If you start with the most basic meditative practice you’re going to focus on breathing. In and out, the most natural rhythm in your body aside from your heart beat. Meditating makes your breathing slow and deepen. You breathe and feel your chest and belly rise and fall with your breath; you’re using your diaphragm to breathe instead of your upper chest, shoulders and neck, allowing those to relax and release tension. Better breathing is more oxygen to the brain and to your muscles.
Your newfound self-awareness alerts you to how your body feels in exercise. An uncomfortable stretch tells you you’ve got too much weight on, or maybe your form could improve. You’re more attentive to what y ou’re doing, how you’re doing it, and how much you can take.
So you’ve lowered your stress and anxiety with meditation, and your blood pressure is lower. Great for your cardio- vascular health! By reducing emotional and mental tension your body is also losing the tension that accumulates when you’re really stressed out. You’re at much less risk for straining muscles that are too tight. You’re doing awesome!
Guided meditation – following a script or a recorded message – can help you manifest your goals. You’re training for a race, and you know the process and training you have to go through to get there. Focus on what you need to do, see every step you need to take to get there. See yourself working out, making time for training and running, increasing your distance and improving your time. When you see yourself accomplishing each step be aware of how you expect you will feel. If you’re feeling positive with each achievement the next will be that much easier.
And I didn’t even make you eat granola.
*Always consult your physician for proper treatment of physical and mental challenges, and before beginning a new exercise program.