Destressing Inside An
By: Your JNH Lifestylist
At first glance, meditation may seem like hocus pocus. Yet, meditation has been around for thousands of years and recent research has proven it to be beneficial in numerous ways. In times of stress, meditation can be particularly beneficial to your physical health and mental state. In this article, we will dive into the history behind meditation, what meditation is, the benefits of meditation, and how you can begin a regular practice of meditation, including meditating in an infrared sauna.
A Brief History About Meditation
Meditation is thought to have originated in India, with the first documented records of meditation dating back to 1500 BCE. There is also evidence of it being used in China around 600-500 BCE, but meditation did not fully expand worldwide until the middle ages. At this time, it began to be included in various religious practices, such as Judaism.
Around the 18th century, the practice of meditation became more popular in the western world. In the early 1900's, various publications, like ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead,’ gave way to more of an interest to the practice. Today, about 1 in 10 Americans have tried meditation . It has grown into an essential self-care strategy for some, helping them tackle the stressors and hurdles of daily life.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is often referred to as a quieting or clearing of the mind, including the absence of any thoughts. In one study, researchers defined meditation as “a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance” . These researchers also outlined two styles of meditation. The first style, called focus attention meditation, requires the intentional focus of attention on a particular object. The second style, called open-monitoring meditation, includes monitoring your experience from moment to moment without reacting. For the sake of this article, we will be primarily focusing on the first style, as this is the more commonly practiced form.
Essentially, meditation often entails setting a timer and sitting uninterrupted for a certain amount of time. Many individuals will close their eyes and focus on the natural movement of their breath or focus on a particular object in front of them. Thoughts may come and go as you do this. You are neither supposed to resist thoughts entering your attention span, nor are you supposed to let them take over your practice.
Many people find it takes many sessions to get better at clearing their minds. After all, meditation is not supposed to be easy. It is like exercising, but instead of exercising your physical body, you are exercising your mind, and when emotions run high, this can prove to be very difficult. Yet, the benefits of meditation show it is entirely worthwhile.
The Benefits Of Meditation
Numerous individuals use meditation as a way to relieve stress, while others may use it to develop their emotional and mental control, as well as create better habits or perspectives. The following outlines the scientifically-proven benefits that meditation has to offer:
1. Decrease Stress
Chronic stress can quickly become hazardous to one’s health and wellness. Inflammation, as a result of high levels of stress hormones, can cause various adverse health effects, but regular meditation may help reduce it in your daily life. Various research has been conducted on the link between meditation and reduced stress, and one 2014 study showed that an eight-week meditation program had a mild to moderate effect when it came to reducing psychological stress . In another study, researchers noted that their eight-week mindfulness meditation program decreased inflammation caused by stress . So if you are feeling stressed out, regular meditation practice might not be a bad idea!
2. Cope With Anxiety
With decreased stress, also comes feelings of less anxiety. Research has also shown this to be true, with individuals who continued with meditation practices in the long-term experiencing significantly reduced levels of anxiety . Yoga, combined with meditation, has also shown similar effects . Moreover, this reduction in anxiety also includes reduced phobias, paranoia, OCD tendencies and panic attacks.
3. Increase Your Attention Span
Do you find yourself always jumping from one task to the next? Perhaps you struggle to stay on task, and it has become an increasing problem in your day-to-day life. Meditation can help! Scientific studies show that regular meditation practice can help expand your attention span, potentially keeping you on task and helping you become more productive .
4. Decrease Depression: Enhance Emotional And Mental State
Meditation has shown to help improve some individuals’ states of mind, as well as help them form a more positive perspective on life and the situations that life presents. In a 2015 scientific review, researches suggested that meditation may decrease depressive episodes and disorders, specifically during the early stages of treatment . How does this work? Scientists theorize that due to meditation decreasing inflammation throughout the body and its ability to reduce stress, individuals may experience improved moods decreasing incidents of depression .
5. Promote A Better Overall Well-Being
Research has demonstrated that women who practice Tai Chi had increased self-esteem . Tai Chi is a gentle form of Chinese martial arts training that incorporates aspects of meditation. Other research has further indicated that meditation may lead to deconstruction and reconstruction of the ‘self’ . This may help a person reconnect with themselves and also view themselves in a better light, leading to enhanced wellness and an improved well-being.
6. Improve Your Memory
As many people age, their memory declines, but meditation may help you keep a resilient and sound mind. Research has even shown it may decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease . When using a meditation style where chants and mantras were included, individuals improved on memory tasks, and this was shown in more than one study. In addition to memory improvements, meditation may also improve attention and mental processing speed, keeping old minds young, and helping to prevent age-related mental changes .
7. Improve Ability To Show Compassion
Compassion refers to the feelings of sympathy you feel associated with someone else’s suffering. It can motivate us to help others in their times of need and create stronger bonds in relationships. With meditation increasing positive thinking patterns, it can also allow you to become more compassionate toward others and yourself, in particular, when using kindness meditations . Kindness meditation, also called loving-kindness meditations, help guide you toward self-love, increased connection with others, and a more positive outlook. Often, these are guided meditations that help you look at situations or individuals from a positive perspective, and they frequently involve repeating the phrases, or a similar variation of them, ‘may you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy.’ This can help alter your train of thought and guide you toward a more positive thinking pattern.
8. Helps With Addiction Recovery
Interestingly, meditation may aid previous drug users in overcoming the hurdles associated with addiction. It is theorized that meditation can do this by helping the person develop the mental willpower and discipline to say ‘no’ to their addictive impulses. It can further help in other addictive behaviors, such as binge-eating and emotional eating .
9. Achieve Better Sleep
Many individuals use meditation to help ease them into sleep. In meditation apps, you will often see a category specifically aimed at helping a person fall asleep, and in today’s society, this has never been more important. With technology and screens all around us, our brains are overstimulated, and this heightened stimulation and level of alertness may make it difficult to fall asleep. However, scientific evidence continues to show that meditation can help individuals fall asleep, including those who have insomnia . Since meditation can help alleviate stress, it can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Unsure how to include meditative practices in your life? You can easily incorporate meditation as part of your pre-bedtime ritual by performing a short meditation within the hours leading up to your bedtime (there will be more on this below!). You may even be surprised at how effective it can be!
10. Decreased Pain
Like most of our thoughts and feelings, pain is perceived by the brain, and pain can also increase under stress. Various research has shown increased activity in the pain centers of the brain with regular meditative practice. What does this mean? These individuals reported less pain, with researchers concluding that meditation potentially decreased these pain sensors, which may help combat chronic pain conditions .
11. Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can overwork your heart and lead to other health complications. Studies show that meditation may help reduce high blood pressure, leading to better overall cardiovascular health . Experts suggest this is achieved through a reduced stress response, which is a major beneficial effect of meditation.
Getting Started With Meditation
Undeniably, meditation has various health benefits for both the body and mind, and it can be practiced in various ways. There is meditation with music, guided meditations, movement meditations, and more. Many apps offer these variations, giving you countless options to choose from, but why not take your meditation into your infrared sauna sessions? Even if you are a beginner, you can reap the benefits of meditation and infrared therapy in one simple session. In addition to the meditation benefits, you will receive all the health-related benefits of infrared saunas, such as improved skin health, improved immune function, increased athletic performance, further reductions in stress, increased relaxation, and more .
When combining your infrared therapy benefits with meditation benefits, you may want to bring a timer into your infrared sauna session (JNH Lifestyles infrared saunas have a timer built into their digital control panels). This will allow you to set a time cap for your meditation. Many people choose to start with a minute or two, which if you are a beginner, is a great starting point. Remember, it can be difficult to sit still and focus on an object or your breathing for any length of time, but practice makes perfect!
Ideally, you would not want to bring electronic devices into your infrared sauna session, as they would serve as a major distraction. These devices can also get quite hot, and most technology does not withstand high temperatures well. So, here’s what to do:
Step 1: Find a comfortable seated position. You should remain sitting up tall, while not holding onto any tension.
Step 2: Close your eyes (or if you prefer, fix your gaze on a particular spot or object).
Step 3: Notice the movement of your breath, do not change anything. Just take note of it and draw your attention to the natural flow of your breathing. Follow each inhale and exhale.
Step 4: If thoughts appear, let them, but then gently put them off to the side and always continue to bring your attention back to your breath.
Step 5: Continue this process until your timer goes off.
When you find the time feels too short, add a minute or two. You may find yourself meditating for ten minutes or more before you know it. Ideally, you want to build up to the amount of time you are in the infrared sauna. This can ensure your infrared therapy session is as relaxing and beneficial as possible.
Try Meditation In Your Next Infrared Therapy Session!
Combining these two practices will substantially improve your overall health and wellness. It can also offer a more relaxing infrared sauna session, and who doesn’t want that? At your next session, try meditating; check-in with yourself and ask after a session, ‘How do I feel?’ It might even be beneficial to keep a record; write it down in a meditation journal. Meditation may be hard at first, even borderline frustrating, and that’s okay. Like anything in life worth attaining, it takes practice. Stick with it, and in time, you will begin to notice all the benefits that come with a regular meditation practice!
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