It’s been thousands of years since the first mentions of meditation in China and India. More recently, the many benefits of mindfulness have been well researched in the west.
If you’ve dabbled in sitting quietly or calming your mind for stress release, that’s a good start, because even a small meditation practice may also help with health and weight loss.
You’re working on your fitness level as a gym member, and you likely have been watching your dietary intake to help you live a long, healthy life. But a simple practice of meditation, or focusing your awareness to encourage clarity of mind, offers something tangible besides diet and exercise that you can do to gain benefits like lower blood pressure, stronger immune system and weight control.
Meditation for Health Benefits
Stress relief is one of the top reasons cited for people to explore meditation today. Studies have shown that people who meditate simply feel better and more in control, which alleviates a long list of ailments that can come from too much stress.
Physiologically, we know meditators can experience lower blood pressure and more equalized hormonal levels, especially surrounding fight or flight responses in our bodies. It’s that kind of stress that triggers the production of chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline, which lead to inflammation, which is connected to risk of diseases, digestive problems and a weakened immune system.
A daily meditation practice has recently been shown to promote positive cellular and neural actions, meaning it’s a boon to general health and wellness even at the microscopic level. It’s no coincidence that meditation rhymes with medication, given that the root of both words is medi or mederi, which means health or healing.
Meditation to Lose Weight
Meditation may seem a long way from the weight loss methods you’re used to. And it’s true, there isn’t a proven conclusion that meditating makes people successful in losing weight. But there is a strong connection supported by research regarding meditation combatting mood disorders, depression and anxiety, which often spark poor dietary choices, emotional eating and more.
In fact, the chemical process that mindfulness seems to improve is related to protecting body tissues from irritation and damage, which may be a boost to workout recovery. And as for the mind itself, the calm focus of meditation can be an antidote for the kind of unhealthy food and alcohol cravings that can derail weight loss efforts over time.
How to Meditate in 3 Easy Steps
Modern approaches to mindfulness don’t require you to sit for hours like a monk, to chant or even to cross your legs, in order to experience the positive effects of a meditation practice. Actually, you can take just a few minutes from your day and begin this new habit that is likely to bring you benefits of both body and mind, without any special training, equipment or knowledge. You only need three things to practice:
- A few minutes in a quiet location. It doesn’t have to be silent, but it should be calm. A walk in the woods, alone time before the kids get up, or simply in a chair with the TV turned off.
- Focused attention. You can sit, walk or even hold a yoga pose while you focus your mind on only one thing—it might be your breath coming in and out of your body, or the warm sun on your skin, or kind thoughts for the world.
- Patience. Your mind may fill with thoughts, the outside world may distract you, or your body might start to feel stiff and uncomfortable. All of these things are normal, and there is nothing you need to do about them, except patiently return your attention to begin again. Follow a natural, unhurried course and trust in your practice.