Happy February! In addition to Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, National Heart Health Month, I just learned it is indeed National Bird-Feeding Month. In Steamboat, we’ve also got Winter Carnival and Blues Break—it’s amazing we can fit all of this into 28 days.
This year, I want to take a different approach to Heart Health. What does Heart Health Month entail? Usually, it’s a month of reducing heart disease by smoking cessation, eating heart healthy foods, getting exercise, and reducing stress. I want to focus on meditation.
Meditation has been shown to decrease blood pressure, decrease depression and anxiety, improve sleep, reduce stress, improve focus and concentration, help with cravings and addictions, and according to a recent study in the American Heart Association Journal Circulation, improve blood flow to the heart and reduce mortality risk from heart disease.
We’ve had some great wellness speakers at Rakta this year including Jennifer Meister and Dr. Kristen Race. Dr. Race introduced a very simple and effective breath-based meditation technique that only takes 3-5 minutes a day. This breath-based technique was part of a lecture on overcoming obstacles in breaking and creating habits. During any meditation, we improve the function of our prefrontal cortex in the brain. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning, decision-making, moderating social behavior, and keeping our reptilian (impulsive) brain in check.
Studies support meditating during the day if you’re having a hard time sleeping at night. Just as one style of yoga doesn’t appeal to everyone, there are also lots of ways to meditate. Some people like going to a community guided meditation, others prefer an app on their phone. Some people choose a specific seated position and incorporate chanting, mantras, or certain hand gestures (mudras). It really doesn’t matter how you meditate, just that you do it.
What are the obstacles that prevent us from meditating? Most often, I hear people say: “I don’t have time.” If you fall into that category, try replacing one time a day that you typically spend scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or emails with 3-5 minutes of meditation. Often I turn to social media as an escape—I’m overwhelmed and just want to check out for a few minutes. Meditation is a great way to improve energy, clarity, and focus, and even though funny animal videos and cute animal pictures are so super funny and cute, they can wait.
Another comment I often hear is: “I can’t meditate, my mind is too busy.” Thanks to modern society, we ALL have monkey minds that are continually bombarded by everyday responsibilities as well as the pressure to multi-task and achieve. Allowing your mind to free form wander with gentle reminders to come back to the breath or a certain word (mantra) starts to create space between thoughts.
At a wellness conference I attended last June, I took meditation classes by Light Watkins, author of Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying. He presented a great analogy for the brain during meditation. Imagine your brain is a toddler let loose in your kitchen. All the drawers and closets have been opened and explored, and maybe things are pulled out and moved around. That’s the brain during meditation. Let it wander and explore without expectation or judgment of the experience.
We’ll be kicking off our February 10th through May 1st Meditation Challenge during our only Sunday Free Wellness meeting this month on February 10th at 3pm. Come learn more about the power of meditation, connect with an accountability partner, pick up easy meditation techniques to use at home, and take care of your heart!
In light and love,