Oh will this grey weather ever end?! It’s not uncommon for southern Ontario to be grey in the fall and winter, but I swear I haven’t seen the sun in weeks! Since our brain needs sunlight to create serotonin this is putting a grey little cloud on my mood for sure. I’m like Eeyore with his cloud of sadness following him around wherever he goes.
My son has basically dropped his nap which makes doing light therapy next to impossible unless he sleeps in (he has an eye condition and cannot be around the light and I can’t do it after 5pm). However I still highly recommend it and you should check out my blog here on it if you are considering adding it to your natural regime to beat the winter blues.
In order to supplement the loss of this part of my healing protocol I’ve been meditating. This is something that I used to do a lot especially when I was studying herbs, but I have all but dropped the practice in the last three years. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I slipped right back into my practice like I had never left. Like putting on an old pair of jeans you thought you’d lost.
Depression and Meditation
Now just having me tell you, “trust me, meditating helps” might not be enough for you. Besides when most people picture meditating, they picture gurus bent into pretzel like shapes meditating and chanting on the top of a mountain. So to take on a task such as that might take some convincing (although I promise you, you don’t need a mountain or a pretzel to meditate!).
In 2014 an amazing study was published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) Internal Medicine found that mindfulness meditation may rival antidepressants in the treatment of the symptoms of depression! So while many health practitioners, natural and medical, have been stating for many years that meditation is a beneficial practice for those suffering from depression, it appears that we have some concrete proof now. I’ve linked the study above, you can also click here for an article published in Forbes that goes into the details of the study and the results they have found.
Because meditation, particularly mindfulness, is about being aware of your thoughts and feelings, it stands to reason that once you reach a certain level of awareness, that you can in fact work to shift those thought patterns and feelings.
As always, I am going to state the the “level” of depression I am talking about here is mild to moderate. I’m not saying that things like meditation, nutrition, light therapy and others may not benefit someone with a more severe case, but instead I state that medication and counselling may be necessary and should not be overlooked.
Other Health Benefits
One of the main health benefits of meditation is one that flows naturally from it – stress reduction. A reduction in stress can benefit us in so many ways. I will list a few here:
- Improved immunity – stress suppresses our immune response
- Improved fertility – many studies show that woman are more easily able to conceive during periods where they experience less stress
- Reduces inflammation in the body – stress leads to inflammation and chronic inflammation manifests itself in many ways (arthritis, asthma, chronic skin conditions etc)
- Emotional balance – those who meditate and experience lower levels of stress are better equipped to stabilize their emotions and experience fewer uncontrollable mood swings.
- Calmness and a more focused mind – we have all experienced “brain fog” and an inability to focus
- Lowers blood pressure – a study out of Harvard stated that daily meditation worked in a very similar way to blood pressure medication (without all the nasty side effects)
- Improves in sleep and sleep patterns
And the list could go on. But by now I’m sure you can see that the benefits of meditation are far reaching and stem beyond emotional balance and support!
How to Meditate
With such a diverse array of health benefits it’s a wonder why we don’t all meditate daily! So what’s stopping us? The main two responses are always the same:
- don’t know where to start
Guess what!? I can help with that. First, meditation doesn’t have to be an hour long venture. In fact I encourage you to not attempt anything longer than 5 minutes for your very first session.
There are many different methods for meditating. If you have practiced mindfulness or meditation in the past you probably have an idea of where to start. For those folks, I encourage you to deepen your practice, research different methods and if it appeals to you, add a spiritual element to your practice.
For those who have never meditated before I offer you this very simple method:
Deep Breathing Meditation
Find a comfortable spot to sit in. Not so comfortable that you will fall asleep, but comfortable enough that you won’t have to move about constantly. Please note that the room should be quiet and free from distractions (if sunlight is distracting for you ensure you have a way to draw the curtains or blinds) .
If you are sitting in a chair ensure you feet are flat to the floor. If you are sitting on the ground, cross your legs. Place your hands on your thighs, either palms up or down (which ever is most comfortable for you).
Close your eyes.
For the first minute simply breath normally, in and out through your nose. Observe your breath and how it feels moving in and out of your body. Relax your face and shoulders as much as possible.
Once you are relaxed, deepen your breath to fully inflate your lungs, counting silently to four. Feel your ribcage expand as you breath.
Exhale slowly, to a count of four. You will feel your navel moving towards your spine.
Make each inhale and exhale the same length. If a four count is comfortable for you continue with this. If you need to reduce it to three or increase to five that’s okay.
Be aware as your mind starts to wander. Do not judge yourself for your thoughts and emotions, instead honour them for that moment and gently push them aside and bring your attention back to your breath.
Continue this deep breathing for about three to five minutes. As you practice you will gradually be able to increase your meditation sessions.
Thanks for reading and continuing to read my blog. Hopefully you folks find this helpful and a healthy, nourishing way to spend some time.
In good health,