Going back to work after taking time off for the holidays can be a shock to your system, especially if you have significant stressors in your life like ailing parents, a demanding job, a long commute, health concerns in your family, or just the daily grind. Americans are increasingly turning to complementary and alternative medicine to find ways to relieve stress and improve their health.
One strategy growing in popularity is mindful meditation. The number of American adults engaged in meditation jumped from 4% to more than 14% between 2012 and 2017, and increased from less than 1% to more than 5% in children.
Dr. Sasan Massachi, a board-certified internal medicine physician, employs a holistic approach to your health at his primary care practice in Beverly Hills, California. He encourages patients to use a variety of methods to reduce stress for a better quality of life. One strategy that helps to restore calm is mindful meditation.
Mindful meditation is being fully in the present moment and not thinking about the past or the future — for example, what’s going to happen over the weekend or the next day at work. It’s all about being in the “now.”
Practicing mindful meditation is easy in that you don’t need any special clothing or equipment. Find a comfortable spot at home, in the park, or wherever you are.
You simply sit upright in a stable chair with your feet uncrossed and let your hands fall on your lap. You can close your eyes or gaze at an object in the room or at a distance. Concentrate on your breath: Breathe out and pause; then breathe in.
You may find that your attention wanders — possibly thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner tonight or the therapy appointment for your daughter. The challenge is moving your attention back to your breath and keeping it there, focusing only on the moment and not worrying about the past or the future. It’s not so easy to accomplish, but that’s your goal. Try it for five minutes and then gradually increase your meditation time to 15 minutes a day.
There’s a reason why more people are using mindful meditation to relieve stress: It works. Focusing on the present instead of the past or future has health benefits.
As Americans’ interest in complementary and alternative medicine has increased, the number of high-quality research studies on mindful meditation has risen exponentially. One study showed positive changes in the brain as a result of mindful meditation. After two months of meditating, brain scans of participants showed that changes in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions, were still present even when participants weren’t meditating but were involved in everyday routines.
And mindful meditation may even have an effect on aging. Your telomeres, on the end of your chromosomes, are associated with aging. People with short telomeres seem to have a greater incidence of serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Mindful meditation increased telomere activity in four randomized control trials.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health cites research that shows mindful meditation can help improve:
Are you ready to give mindful meditation a try? It’s a proven way to help your stress melt away, and it’s a healthy New Year’s resolution. Call or book an appointment online with Dr. Massachi for a compassionate approach to all of your primary care medical needs.