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Meditation for improving your health and wellbeing
by Dr Kate Wood, Chiropractor, Mona Vale NSW
Dr Craig Hassed, a GP and lecturer at Monash University, says that one in six doctors teach some type of meditation, and more than 80% of GPs now recommend meditation practices as part of their patients’ treatment. Research supports meditation’s effectiveness in helping improve wellbeing or even symptoms for people with a range of conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, depression, anxiety, chronic pain and even cancer.
There are many different types of meditation, it's only a matter of finding the one that's right for you. I love guided meditation; it helps to keep my mind focused. I meditate every day without fail, even when I am sick.
In our everyday busy lives, it is so easy to go on autopilot and be influenced by everyone you come in to contact with. People are spending more and more time in sympathetic dominance − our ‘fright, flight or fight’ mode which is designed for survival. Research shows that stress can kill brain cells, decrease abilities of immune system, affect digestion, decrease sex drive, increase aging and damage DNA. In an extreme example, when we are running for our life, we need as much blood, nutrition and oxygen to move and for our brain to be alert, to survive. That's when our digestive and reproductive or immune systems come under the most pressure as they don't get enough of the blood supply or nutrients.
Hassed argues that very often our thoughts slip into a "default mode" – which involves replaying the past, worrying about the future and experiencing other negative thoughts – leading to "over-activation" of the body's stress response.
This stress response is designed to help you deal with dangers or threats. But when it is too frequently over-activated by threats existing only in your mind, it can cause ‘wear and tear’ on your body over time. This wear and tear can increase risk of illnesses: heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure or diabetes. Learning to switch off through meditation can reverse these effects.
Dr. Sarah Edelman is a clinical psychologist. She uses mindfulness meditation that teaches people to become an observer, to “learn to just watch with curiosity but without judgment'.
Meditation can help you to:
- Decrease stress and promote relaxation
- Manage and eliminate anxiety
- Cope with physical or mental pain
- Accelerate healing and wellbeing
- Improve mood and positive energy
- Increase production of substances that boost immunity, while reducing so-called "pro-inflammatory" chemicals that help cancer cells replicate and form their own blood supply.
Pick one of the following apps to get you started:
Relax and Rest – different meditations of varying lengths allow you to relax deeply regardless of how much time you have available. No previous meditation experience is required.
The Mindfulness app – This app can be used by everyone. It is easy to use and you can choose between different types of guided meditations, meditation in silence, guided introductions, and for how long you want to sit.
Headspace – Contains bite-sized techniques to help you sleep better, focus more and get some relief from a busy mind.
You can download these from the App Store or Google Play.
This blog post originates from the Whitecoat healthcare practitioner blog. Whitecoat is Australia's most comprehensive online healthcare provider directory and customer review website - think TripAdvisor, but for healthcare. For more information, visit the Whitecoat website.
Other meditation and mindfulness activities you might like to try
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.
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