Hey, if you don’t mind, let’s step out of all the talk about healthy eating and exercising, and talk about meditation, stress, and mindset for a second.
Although we are conditioned to believe that going to the gym 3 times a week and eating our veggies are the crucial components of being healthy, there is in fact one component of health that is more important than all= Mental Health! You can be as strong and fit and eat as well as you want but if you are governed by anger, sadness, lack of worthiness, stress, or anxiety, eventually your emotional well being will take a toll on your physical well being!
What do I mean by mental health? To be mentally and emotionally healthy means managing our emotions, dealing with our challenges rather than avoiding them, seeking guidance for our destructive thoughts, finding ways to bring joy and happiness to your day, and taking time to be quiet, curious, and reflective. Mental health means a variety of different things to many people.
How does mental health relate to health and fitness? Well, if you are chronically overstressed, have negative self belief, or are so busy that you don’t give yourself 5 minutes a day to relax, how on earth are you going to foster a healthy relationship with food? Your ‘monkey mind’ will eventually get the best of you, convincing you that an extra few cookies every night isn’t a big deal, or that you are too stressed and overworked to make it to the gym. Where else could you see how an emotion that is not given proper attention could do some damage to the rest of the body?
I am no expert in mental health, nor do I have extensive experience researching and studying in this field. What I do know is that to grow, learn, transform, change, and create a well rounded whole body healthy life, it requires some time focussing inward. I have read numerous books, listened to many podcasts, and have countless friends who meditate regularly and enjoy it. Most recently I started listening to “10 % happier”, an account of a famous news anchor in the States who begins using meditation to support himself from his panic and anxiety. His name is Dan Harris, and I highly recommend his book if you want a good read from a skeptics perspective.
When we don’t go inward, and continue to live our day to day ignoring the behind the scenes, this can show up as physical symptoms (headaches, body aches, acne, upset stomach etc, I can speak from experience here).
Of course, you could now go google all the benefits of meditation, and read all about how it calms your nervous system, keeps you less agitated and calm in stressful situations, creates more focus and awareness in your life, allows you to sleep better etc. etc. Here is a good list to start with: http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/
But reading a list like that isn’t going to get you started. Nor does a doctor telling you to start exercising, or a friend telling you to start eating veggies. We don’t make a change until we are ready, and until we recognize some benefits within ourselves.
What does get people started in trying something new, and fostering a new habit, is experiencing results. So I challenge you, learn to meditate. Start today, try it, give it a good go- 90 days? 120 days? Stick with it and notice what happens in your life. Start with 5 minutes a day and work your way up. There are different styles of meditation (you could read more about them here: http://liveanddare.com/types-of-meditation/. Or you could simply set your timer for 5 minutes, sit upright on the floor, and try to follow your breath in and out of your nose for 5 minutes. You will see, it’s a lot harder than it looks for a variety of reasons, and that’s where the benefits come from.
I have always been on and off with meditation, and consistency is still something I struggle with. I have been ‘fairly’ consistent for a few months now. What I am finding is:
- More focus and presence when speaking with my clients
- Better ability to speak what’s on my mind.
- More comfortable looking in people’s eyes, because my mind isn’t racing about a million things.
- Sense of peace and calm
- Feeling more joy over small things
- Sense of trust and ease in stressful situations
- ability to be vulnerable with others
- Ability to support others from an authentic, loving place.
- Ability to talk about things that would have normally made me anxious.
- More freedom to put ‘relaxing’ things on my To Do list rather than Work, Work, Work!
Now, if I was totally not self aware, I may not have noticed any of these things. I could meditate and then go on my day to day without having any clue the meditation had any effect on me. But I’ve been studying, and watching myself closely. Also, I have had feedback from others.
So here is what I challenge you to do. Start with 5 minutes a day, and work your way up to 20 minutes (apparently 2 times a day for 20 minutes is the key, I have not got close to that yet).
Tell me what happens for you as you start meditating. What do you notice? Have you had a positive experience?
In case you are looking for some meditation resources, here are some that I use:
- Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV is like a netflix for spiritual people. To be honest, I don’t watch any of the shows (as they are all a little out there for me at this point), but I do the yoga and meditation regularly. You can get a free 30 day trial and try out all the meditation and yoga you like!
To check out GAIAM TV go to my website, under the ‘mobility class’ tab and click on the link “Watch MY YOGA on Gaiam TV TODAY”: http://www.optimal-health-coaching.com/classes-and-events/mobility-class/
2. Subscribe to Tara Brach online, or her podacast from Itunes. I listen to Tara’s meditations and ‘lessons’ regularly. Guided meditation is a great way to stay focussed, and get a sense of ‘what to do’ when meditating. http://www.tarabrach.com/
3. Here is a youtube channel with some free guided meditations that I enjoy:
I look forward to hearing about how you do with your meditation practice!