I hope you are well during these challenging times. We have been through a lot lately—the Pandemic, and on top of that, the current war between Russia and Ukraine.
It can be a challenge to maintain our stability and equanimity in witnessing the horrors of war and dealing with the stress of the Pandemic. We must create resilience in our minds, emotions, and bodies to deal with these stressors.
To help increase your stability and physiologic reserve, I am devoting this issue of the Newsletter to Meditation, which is a core part of my Don’t Mess with Stress™ program. (1) I have written about meditation in a prior Newsletter. However, I feel it is an important linchpin in facilitating stress hardiness and reserve, the qualities that we need now more than ever.
Meditation can help us cultivate a mindset of calmness and centeredness, to thoughtfully respond in our decisions and interactions. It gives us time to pause during our busy lives. I have been meditating for a long time, ideally twice per day but not always, and it has been an anchor in my life.
In addition to having a daily meditation practice, I also recommend going back to the other three lifestyle basics as outlined in my book, Don’t Mess with Stress™: Diet, Walking(Exercise, Physical Activity, Dance, etc.), and adequate Sleep. Please go to Dr. Jill Baron Blog for articles about these 3 important behaviors, and check out my book, Don’t Mess with Stress™ for a more comprehensive discussion.
How Meditation Helps Your Brain Function Better
A lot of the research on meditation has been done on Mindfulness Meditation. The goal with Mindfulness Meditation is to have present moment awareness in a non-judgmental and non-reactive way, “with an orientation of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”(2)
Studies of different meditation techniques demonstrate that they increase the thickness of the brain’s cortex, the gray matter. This is important because thinning of the cortex is associated with memory loss, dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Depression, and Schizophrenia. (4).
This cortical thickness increases the more years you have been meditating. (5)
Meditation has also been linked to Increased neuroplasticity, cognitive and emotional stability, traits that we need to help us buffer the effects of stress. (6,7)
How to Meditate
There are many types of meditation–mantra based meditations like Transcendental Meditation(TM); Mindfulness Meditation; Asian moving meditations like T’ai Chi and Qi Gong; Walking Meditations, Breathing Meditations, Guided Meditations, etc. You can experiment or just choose one to start. Some techniques require initial in person instruction, and others can be learned via apps, books, or virtually. Please see below for a Mindfulness Meditation that you can do.
Don’t be intimidated that you have to start meditating for a long time. Just start with one deep breath in and out through your nose and focus on that.
Here’s one way to meditate:
Sit comfortably in a chair or on your bed. If in bed, your legs can be outstretched in front of you. You can lie down, but you may fall asleep.
– Close your eyes.
– Sit quietly.
– Have your awareness on your breathing, on the inspiration and exhalation.
– When thoughts come up, very gently shift your awareness back to your breath.
– Do this for 10 minutes.
– And then slowly open your eyes.
– Notice how you feel.
Try this for one minute per day. You can increase gradually aiming for 10 to 15 minutes or more, once or twice per day. Consistency is key to help build resilience.
For more information about meditation and resources for meditative techniques, please check out my book by clicking on the image below:
I hope you start doing a meditative practice. I think you will find it most rewarding.
Sending you blessings and peace,
Please feel free to read my past Newsletters on my blog Dr. Jill Baron Newsletters and Blog which has helpful tips for you to feel good and optimize your health.
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1. Don’t Mess with Stress™–A Simple Guide to Managing Stress, Optimizing Health, and Making the World a Better Place. Jill R. Baron, MD. November 2020.
2. Schuman-Olivier Z, Trombka M, Lovas DA, et al. Mindfulness and Behavior Change. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2020;28(6):371-394.
3. Desbordes G, Gard T, Hoge EA, et al. Moving beyond Mindfulness: Defining Equanimity as an Outcome Measure in Meditation and Contemplative Research. Mindfulness (N Y). 2014;2014(January):356-372.
4. Tahedl, M. Towards individualized cortical thickness assessment for clinical routine. J Transl Med 18, 151 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-020-02317-9
6. Lee YH, Shiah YJ, Chen SC, Wang SF, Young MS, Lin CL. Improved emotional stability in experienced meditators with concentrative meditation based on electroencephalography and heart rate variability. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Jan;21(1):31-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0465. Epub 2014 Oct 29. PMID: 25354314.
7. Lardone A, Liparoti M, Sorrentino P, et al. Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study. Neural Plast. 2018;2018:5340717. Published 2018.
Disclaimer: Please note that the content on this newsletter does not constitute medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.