Meditate Your Way to Better Mental Health
Our mental health is a precious thing that should be guarded and nurtured as much as possible. Without it, we will experience greater hardship in life and unnecessarily reduce the happiness that is possible for all of us. Pharmaceuticals are often the go-to for many, with increasing numbers of people feeling like they need drugs simply to cope with everyday living.
This is not to vilify these treatments, for in some cases, they may be just the ticket. But, for many of us, they are the easy way out since it is much simpler to pop a pill than to deal with our issues and find the root causes. Often times, they do not offer the relief we have hoped for and we are still struggling, feeling like there is no way to address our problems. There are several ways actually – all natural– but they require some work on our parts; but, if the end result is feeling better and feeling like we have control over our well-being, it is well worth the effort! In this article, I would like to talk about the one tool you cannot be without in your natural mental health arsenal.
Of all the self-development tools I have utilized in my own journey, I would have to say that meditation is the most powerful hands down and the Mayo Clinic reports that research over recent years is revealing what people have known for thousands – meditation is good for our physical and mental-well being.
Most of our mental anguish in life stems not from what happens to us, but how we react to what happens to us. Being only human, we do not handle the bad stuff so great, whether it is a major life-changing event or the annoyances of everyday life, like traffic, or dealing with family and professional responsibilities. Since we cannot place ourselves in a protective bubble…the best bet we have for improving our mental health is finding ways to handle life better.
By sitting quietly, whether focusing on a mantra or just following your breathing, you help strengthen this wonderful space that exists in all of us, a space where you can observe what is going on within and make conscious choices on how to respond instead of just reacting automatically. This space also helps you gain control of your raging river of thoughts and ,for times when you cannot gain control, meditation helps you develop the wonderful strategy of detaching from this stream and observing what is going on without judgment. You realize that all these thoughts and feelings are not you, but simply fleeting moments. Meditation also helps you live in the present moment. Most of us are usually focused on the past, reliving past hurts and regrets or worrying about the future and all the things that have yet to pass in our experience—and we all know the mental anguish this causes.
Besides helping us shift perspective and make positive changes in the mental realm, research suggests that meditation may actually change the brain.
Data published in June 2012 from the University of Oregon suggests that meditation produced specific changes in the brain that may contribute to reduced symptoms and development of mental illnesses as well as improve overall sense of well-being. The researchers used MRI techniques to observe the brain while the students were practicing meditation. Positive results were seen after just two weeks and significant changes after one month—and at this point, the participants had only been meditating 11 hours. This is not heavy monk-like meditation sessions—that works out to about 23 minutes a day. This is just one of many studies on the subject. It is fascinating because most of us think the benefits of meditation result from feeling relaxed and from changing our behavior—both are true of course, but it appears that it may make us feel better by making our actual brains healthier and function more optimally.
If you are seeking out ways to improve your mental health and conventional treatments are not working, or are not an option for you, seriously consider meditation– it works. Even if you start off with a few minutes a day, it is better than nothing. Anytime you can fit it in is good but I find right in the morning is one of the best times as it can help counteract that morning anxiety rush we all experience, thinking about the day ahead. You have more control than you think when it comes to your well-being; take advantage of all the tools available and you will see amazing results.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. She is particularly interested in Eastern health practices. Learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine at Solstice Medicine.