Reduce stress plus inflammation, and uncover repressed emotions.
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Inflammation and Chronic Symptoms
Meditation relieves chronic symptoms by reducing stress, which causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation is said to be the most significant cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Over 50% of deaths can be attributed to inflammatory disease. There are many causes of inflammation, including the food we eat, sedentary lifestyles, toxins, alcohol, smoke, and of course stress. You may be genetically predisposed to certain chronic health problems, but many scientists believe that certain stressors turn on those genes, and if you minimize contributing factors, like poor diet and lifestyle, you can keep symptoms from becoming chronic or occurring at all.
How Does Meditation Relieve Stress?
Meditation relieves stress by allowing you to quiet your mind and listen to your intuition. Many of us, especially empaths and highly sensitive people, ignore, or stuff down negative emotions. By not allowing these negative emotions, we deny our innermost desires.
For example, you may not like the way your boss is speaking to you at work. Instead of asking to speak to him/her in a private meeting, with a calm, assertive manner, you think, “Oh, what good would it do?”, and you ignore that emotion, while it brews in your subconscious mind. Then you go home, and your spouse didn’t tell you he was coming home late, your teenager is talking to you disrespectfully, and you stuff down your feelings about those situations too. But, your body knows.
You have a stiff neck. You don’t sleep as well as you normally would. The next morning, you have a headache as you think about seeing your boss again, and you have to get your teenager up for school. Now, add on top of this, your mother calls with some scary test results. You are worried about what those mean for her future.
You can see that if you don’t have an outlet for some of this stress, it could increase your cortisone levels (stress hormone) for an extended level of time, therefore increasing inflammation, and eventually chronic symptoms.
With meditation, you can relieve thoughts of worry, anger, grief, and other negative emotions for a time, which allows your nervous system to recover briefly. Think of your energy as a cup of water. Each time you experience a stressful interaction or thought, a hole gets poked in your imaginary cup. When you allow yourself to quiet your mind through meditation, you plug those holes back up, and save your water (energy) from all spilling out. You can now take on more water, and if more holes are poked in your cup, it will take longer for your water (or energy) to flow out.
If you were to continue, without filling those holes back up, eventually, your water (energy) would drain, and you would be more susceptible to illness.
Meditation is a safe and effective way to reduce stress. Meditation:
- Relaxes you
- Offers tranquility
- Allows for quicker emotional recovery after your trauma response is triggered
- Lowers hormonal and inflammatory levels
- Lowers stress levels
If You Are New To Meditation
When I first decided to meditate, I sat on my bed, legs crossed, and eyes closed. I probably lasted one minute before I decided I didn’t like it. Then I saw the Headspace app. I did the free challenge they offered. I liked the first few days, where I was guided on what to do. One day, during the challenge, there was a long silence. I didn’t like that part. I kept checking my phone to see if it had somehow stopped playing the meditation. When the speaking part started back up, it would jolt me out of my relaxed state.
I finally found other guided meditations that I liked. They allowed me to relax. A few apps I really like are, Insight Timer, and Curable. Insight Timer has thousands of different types of meditations, and it’s free. Everyone can find something they like.
Curable explains the science behind how meditation can relieve chronic symptoms. They also have journal prompts and meditations. There is a fee for this app, but if you’ve ever bought a subscription to Netflix or a magazine, it’s similar, but way better for your health. Also, this app is eligible for HSA/FSA purchase.
Things You Might Not Think of As Meditation
As I learned more about meditation, I realized that I had been meditating in my own way, without realizing it, for years. I would drive home from work every day, in silence, with the radio off, to decompress from my stressful teaching job. Here are a few other ways that you could try, if you are not loving traditional meditation:
(These should be done in silence, or with light music playing in the background.)
- Doing repetitive mindless activities
- washing dishes
- mowing the lawn
- Meditative hobbies
- jigsaw puzzles
- Tai Chi
Some Improvements My Clients and I Noticed
When I started making meditation a daily practice, I began noticing that I had more focus throughout the day. I no longer walked into the pantry, wondering, “Why did I come in here?”. I was less reactionary to triggers, like stressful behavior incidents at school. I had more energy at the end of the day, and was more patient with my own family.
Some of my clients have noticed that they are stress eating less often, have less angry outbursts, and can focus on their goals instead of reacting to negative situations. One client even noticed reduced digestive symptoms.
Let me know in the comments if you love meditation, or you are inspired to try it. Also, have you reduced any unwanted symptoms, or behaviors?