Does anyone else almost dislocate their eyeballs from rolling them so hard, when someone suggests meditating 20 minutes a day? Thanks for the hot tips Gwyneth Paltrow, but unfortunately my personal chef is on vacation, my nanny called in sick and it turns out people actually expect me to work more than 3 months a year.
If I attempted to meditate for even 5 minutes, do you know what would happen? My kids. That’s what would happen. Those little ninjas can smell me. They would sense my calm and seek to destroy it.
Meditation sounds lovely. And if you have figured out a way to make it a part of your daily ritual then you are a superhero in my eyes. You are a zen mother f’ing badass and you should write a book. Seriously, people who can make this work are magical unicorns and I want their wisdom.
If you are like me however, and just the idea of taking out extra time in your day to meditate makes you want to pop a valium, then read on my friend. You are my people.
“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body. Luckily sitting in a candle lit room listening to your breath and not making a mental list of all the things you should be doing right now, is not the only way to meditate.
Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” The easiest way from me to think about this is learning to go with what is happening, rather than resisting it.
This comes up a LOT in my mom life. Maybe it comes up for you more at work, or in traffic, or around the house. There is so much in our life that we cannot control, and instead of accepting, and letting things happen in their own time we push our own agenda, become frustrated and anxious.
This does not come easy for me. I often need to remind myself that I don’t need to fit in one more errands today, and spend the day yelling “hurry up” to my kids. Instead I can deal with that one extra thing later (or sometimes not at all), put my to do list away, and just watch my kids play for 10 minutes. It’s funny because being present and in the moment with them for even just 10 minutes allows me to focus on my work or the never ending chores without the mom guilt later.
Mindfulness is not just important so that we don’t yell at our kids, or our coworkers, or the 30 cars in front of us that obviously didn’t get the memo that we are in a hurry. It is super important for our health, our sleep and our weight.
THE LINK BETWEEN MINDFULNESS AND HEALTH = STRESS REDUCTION
Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors' visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent! Now we might not be able to reduce the stress in our lives but we can change the way that stress affects our body.
Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can impact your physical and mental health.
MINDFULNESS FOR MOOD
The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.
In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.
Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.
MINDFULNESS FOR WEIGHT
Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).
How can this be?
One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to cortisol-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating, as well as change the way the body holds onto fat. More cortisol = more belly fat. Check out this previous blog post about cortisol reduction to help keep your adrenal health and weight in check.
Another way it can work for weight is due to "mindful eating." Mindful eating is a "non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating." It's the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It's listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It's not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you're eating, like what's on TV or your smartphone. Try to not do anything else while you are eating. There is a lot less mindless munching when you have to decide between snacking and putting down your phone.
People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.
Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.
MINDFULNESS FOR GUT HEALTH
Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion). In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut's microbes.
Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.
The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.
Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.
Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?
RELAXING HERBAL TEAS
There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.
Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:
Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.
If you do want to try to move closer to magical unicorn status and mediate here are some helpful apps, videos and podcasts to get you started.
How to Meditate video
How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video
Headspace App (free 10-day trial)
Daily Meditation Podcast
Hay House Meditations Podcast