Meditation can help with depression, anxiety and pain. Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, taking care of your emotional health is incredibly important. A study at Johns Hopkins found that both meditation and antidepressants have similar levels of effect on depression, anxiety and pain. While this is not a recommendation to replace any treatment you may currently use, the study makes a great case for adding meditation to your daily routine.
Meditating provides great, long-lasting benefits. Harvard researchers conducted a study at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) showing that meditating for just 8 weeks grows grey matter in the brain. This growth happens in the areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, self-awareness, introspection, and compassion. Caregivers and patients alike can benefit from all of these qualities.
Starting to meditate, like creating any new habit, can be intimidating. Setting and accomplishing little goals for yourself creates a snowball effect--starting with a little nudge can lead to dramatic effects. If you begin with just 5 minutes of your day, you can see big improvements in as little time as a couple of weeks.
Research suggests that starting habits is significantly easier in the morning. This is because willpower acts as a muscle and, like your back or legs, gets tired out as you use it during the day. Train your brain so that it can handle new habits easily by starting them right after you wake up.
The best way to make a habit stick is to repeat it regularly. Even if it's just 5 minutes per day. Once you've started meditating in the morning, try to do it in the same place and at the same time the next day, then the next day, then the next. Eventually you won't even have to think about it.
The word "meditation" probably calls to mind a pretty common image: somebody sitting cross-legged with their hands on their legs. As long as you keep a curious mind about meditation it doesn't have to be that formal.
A quick way to practice mindfulness is with a breathing exercise:
Inhale and count slowly to three. Exhale on the same three count. Repeat as many times as you can.
As you do this, try to observe the rising and falling sensation of the breathe entering and leaving your body. When thoughts come to your mind, try to let them go and focus again on counting your breath.
There are many other professional holistic practices and integrative therapies that can help you center yourself. These are great to start with if you'd prefer a little guidance. Create or update your Wellist to get recommendations for holistic and integrative services for patients in the Boston area.
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