Mindfulness and meditation – Do they really work?
Mindfulness and meditation are health buzzwords nowadays. Everyone, even those who aren’t health practitioners, tout the amazing effects of mindful of these “new” practices.
Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.
Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”
“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress and relax the body.
Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
THE LINK BETWEEN MINDFULNESS AND HEALTH = STRESS REDUCTION
Seventy-five to ninety percent of physician visits are associated with stress related symptoms.
Stress reductions adds up to better mental and physical health.
Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces the stress hormone cortisol and helps improves sleep.
Its benefits are recognized in three areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But research is branching into exciting new areas.
Mindfulness for mood
The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.
In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared to people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness.
Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve mood.
Mindfulness for weight
Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Index).
How can this be?
One link is related to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related emotional overeating, cravings and binge eating.
Another application is “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is a “non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.” It’s the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process and “listening” more deeply to levels of hunger and fullness. It teaches discipline – how to avoid distractions like and smartphones while eating.
People with higher mindfulness scores also report choosing smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. Mindful eating = less junk.
Mindfulness for gut health
Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help digestion).In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction prevents negative changes in the gut’s microbes.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is being linked with stress and gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group receiving standard medical care.
Science is confirming beneficial health benefits of mindfulness meditation for moods, weight and gut health.
If the idea of mindful mediation is intriguing to you, check the links below to get you started.
Recipe (Relaxing Teas): Relaxing Herbal Teas
There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.
Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:
●Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
● White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
● Rooibos tea
● Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
● Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.