Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! This week, I thought we’d talk a little about whether mindfulness meditation could improve our overall wellness.
Have you noticed how many medical facilities are now recommending meditation and other mind-body practices as part of a comprehensive treatment program?
There may be good reason for that. According to Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman, authors of Mindfulness for Health, mindfulness meditation (the type most often used in hospital pain management) has many proven benefits, including
- Reduction of pain and the emotional reaction to it
- Improved mood and quality of life in chronic pain conditions
- Reductions in anxiety, stress, and depression
- Improved working memory and creativity
- Enhanced brain function
- Improved attention span
- Improved heart and circulatory health
The Mayo Clinic says, “Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health.”
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has this to say about meditation:
Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being. Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
There are many types of meditation, but the one most often used in clinical settings is mindfulness meditation.
Verywellmind.com defines mindfulness meditation as “a mental training practice that involves focusing your mind on your experiences (like your own emotions, thoughts, and sensations) in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation can involve breathing practice, mental imagery, awareness of body and mind, and muscle and body relaxation.”
NCCIH explains it this way: “There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging).”
Meditation Isn’t For Everyone
Although meditation is helpful for many people, it may not be right for everyone. Just as with everything else we might do for wellness, one size (or practice) doesn’t fit all.
In fact, in the post Mindfulness Monday Week 3, I shared this article, Mindfulness Is the Hottest New Trend — But Should It Be? by Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., which talks about how not only might meditation not be as successful as expected, it can even be harmful for some people.
The NCCIH also acknowledges that, “There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people with certain psychiatric problems like anxiety and depression. People with existing mental health conditions should speak with their health care providers before starting a meditative practice, and make their meditation instructor aware of their condition.”
Where Can I Get Information About How to Meditate?
If you’re thinking of giving meditation a try, here are a couple of places you can find information about how to get started.
Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, is a very down-to-earth, practical resource for learning mindfulness meditation. It takes you step-by-step through the process of developing a mindfulness practice. If you’re interested, you can follow my journey through the book by checking out my Mindfulness Monday series from a couple of years ago.
Mindful.org has many resources on mindfulness, including this guide to getting started https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/
Headspace also provides information about mindfulness and includes a beginning meditation practice https://www.headspace.com/meditation/how-to-meditate if you’re interested.
So What’s the Verdict?
The research so far seems to indicate that mindfulness meditation could help improve overall wellness, but as with any other wellness endeavors, you should do your own research. Make sure it’s appropriate for you before starting a meditation practice. The NCCIH cautions that meditation should not be used as a replacement for traditional medical care. Also, we make your healthcare providers aware of any complementary or integrative health approaches you use.
What Do You Think?
Have you tried mindfulness meditation? If so, how did it impact your overall wellness? Please share!
Mindfulness, An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, 2012, Mark Williams and Danny Penman, Fair Winds Press, Beverly, MA