Mindfulness is simply paying more attention to the present moment without judgement, allowing us to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and actions. It can help us embrace the present moment without dwelling on the past or future. An excellent way to incorporate mindfulness is through meditation, a great tool to promote improved health and wellness. For example, mindful meditation is used to manage and treat a number of ailments including anxiety, depression, insomnia, binge eating disorder, high blood pressure, chronic pain and has even been demonstrated to improve the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

True Wellness offers a wide array of meditation and mindfulness services, from workshops to regular classes, making it a great stop for anyone trying to work meditation into their routine or build upon their current practice. This Fall, Patti Moses MSW RSW of True Wellness will be offering a meditation class at the clinic.  Whether you have attended her classes in the past and are interested in building a meditation practise or are unsure whether you should make your way to future classes, here are 3 reasons why you should give meditation a try!

1) Mental Health Meditation is used by millions around the world to improve their mental health and reduce their stress levels, now becoming a common recommended practice by modern doctors. The goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts or emotions, but instead become more aware of them. Mindfulness practice develops our skills to be able to ‘step back’ and view situations from a variety of perspectives. Moreover, it has been demonstrated to alleviate anxiety, stress and depression, improve executive functions such as attention, working memory, learning ability, verbal communication and compassionate behavior, and promote overall feelings of happiness and wellness. How does meditation have such a powerful affect towards mental health? Since our brain’s structure is constantly changing depending on our environments and pressures, meditation has been actually demonstrated to change our brain anatomy! Moreover, it only takes about 2 hours of meditation for DTI-detectible changes in the brain to occur. Meditators have been shown to have more gray matter in areas of the brain important for attention, emotion regulation, sensory perception and mental flexibility (e.g. frontal cortex) which gives them a powerful boost towards their ability to process information. Furthermore, meditators have been shown to have less gray matter in the amygdala, which is typically enlarged during trauma and chronic stress. While it only takes a short amount of time to experience a mental health boost, the brain changes will diminish without continued practice. As a result, commitments to regular practice a great way to promote long-term wellbeing and mental clarity.

2) Chronic Conditions In an eight-week study of meditators, meditation was demonstrated to enhance antioxidant production, improve telomerase activity and reduce oxidative stress, making meditation a powerful tool against chronic conditions. Furthermore, meditation has been demonstrated to affect the autonomic nervous system, composed of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. For example, meditation has been demonstrated to reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system while increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. These alterations help to lower blood pressure, reduces atherosclerosis, lower cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline levels (stress hormones), dilate blood vessels, improve breathing and enhances digestion. As a result to all of these amazing health outcomes, meditation has become a more common practise prescribed by physicians to patients with a number of chronic conditions, from pain, heart disease to even cancer. For example, a mindfulness program was effective at reducing pain in chronically ill patients who had exhausted physical treatment possibilities. Moreover, meditation has been shown to reduce the need of antihypertensive medication and overall, lower mortality rates. If you suffer from a chronic condition, meditation may be worthwhile to help you manage your symptoms and improve your health.

3) Weight management Meditation has been more recently popularized within mainstream medicine due to its ability bring about healthier attitudes and behaviors. For this reason, meditation has proven very effective in weight management on both spectrums of weight loss and gain. Mindfulness interventions are increasingly used to address eating-related issues ranging from anorexia to binge-eating by cultivating awareness, facilitating self-acceptance and improving our senses of compassion, emotion coping and forgiveness. Moreover, since the body`s stress response typically involves feelings of hunger, preferences for fat and sugar, and abdominal fat gain, meditation can also improve weight management success by reducing stress. Mindfulness practice helps to put you in touch with your body and mind, helping you restore your sense of balance, well-being and life enjoyment, all vital when maintaining a healthy weight! How can you incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your routine? The first step for many is practicing in a guided environment, which can provide the tools to understand what works best. Finding a quiet space to use regularly would be the next step, so you have as few distractions as possible. Meditation can be done in a comfortable posture, sitting, lying down or even standing, gradually increasing the time that you spend practising. Having an open attitude is essential to teach you how to focus your attention on mindful thoughts, feelings and sensations in a nonjudgmental way. What should you think about during meditation? You may choose to focus on a mantra (a chosen set of word(s)), an object, your thoughts or your breath. If your thoughts start to wander, don’t suppress them but instead, gently bring your attention back to the focus. Slowly you will start to experience greater calmness, balance and relaxation. Meditation can help you change the way you think and handle your emotions, allowing you to better handle your daily schedule. It is easy to practice, costs nothing and can be part of your regular stress-reducing routine.

Try it! It may help lower your stress load, improve your health and build some muscles in your brain!

Interested in instruction? Watch for meditation classes and workshops offered at our clinic or contact Patti Moses for a consultation!

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Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 43:48–73 Goyal M et. Al. (2014)

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA International Medicine. 174(3):357-368. .Katterman S et. Al. (2014)

Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review. Eating Behaviors 15: 197–204. Monshat K and Castle D. (2012)

Mindfulness training: an adjunctive role in the management of chronic illness? MJA 196: 569–571. Reiner K, Tibi L and Lipsitz, J. (2013)

Do Mindfulness-Based Interventions Reduce Pain Intensity? A Critical Review of the Literature. Pain Medicine 14: 230–242

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