(what does it have to do with nutrition??)
Lately I’ve been strongly encouraging all of my clients to include at least 5 minutes of meditation daily as part of their protocol. Many have had a practice in the past, and have fallen off, or only practice intermittently. Some have never even considered doing such a ‘woo’ activity and are a bit perplexed as to why such a thing might be valuable- “Isn’t that a nap?” is one question I got recently. 😊
Well, here’s the deal. I have come to believe that having a daily meditation practice of any duration is one of the single most effective things you can do to move your health forward and reach your goals. And, I’m not alone in thinking that, but more on that in a bit.
From a purely nutritional therapy standpoint it may seem like a stretch, although I will always make the case that wellness is what you’re after if you’re here, and wellness is far more than just nutrition. But, I can actually draw a direct connection to the work we do in session, and that is via the concept of the parasympathetic and sympathetic modes of the nervous system.
PARASYMPATHETIC VS. SYMPATHETIC
Some of you might get tired of hearing me talk about parasympathetic mode- I’m like a broken record when it comes to this because it’s just so darn important and if we want deep healing we MUST access more time in the parasympathetic.
Parasympathetic mode in a nutshell is the ‘restful’ state we are in during meditation, massage, sitting on a log in a beautiful forest, enjoying a meal in the sunshine in the Italian Alps, having a cup of tea by the fireplace, acupuncture, and so on. It is a state that allows the body to focus inward and devote more energy to bodily processes. Sympathetic state, on the other hand, is more of a ‘go-go-go’ state, like driving in traffic, getting kids ready for school, running a race, making a presentation, cleaning a room. Anything that requires action and an outward placement of energy. Neither is good or bad; we need both, but they need to be in balance. Can you guess which one we get stuck in, here in our modern society?
The truth is our physical bodies are a bit of a mismatch to our current modern life environment, as much of us live it. Time spent at desks, in cars, with chronic stress that isn’t alleviated by outrunning it (like a bear could be), all of these keep us in sympathetic and exact a cost. We need to take action to tip the scales in the parasympathetic direction if we want to address our health at the root.
Meditation allows the body to enter a parasympathetic state. Functions like digestion REQUIRE a parasympathetic state. So does detoxification, cell repair, and peristalsis, the movement of the gut, all of the inward processes required for deep and true health and healing. It may not seem like 5 minutes is much, but 5 minutes consistently can retrain your neural pathways so that you can drop into that parasympathetic state with more ease. And, if you can do more than 5 minutes, by all means do so! But as I have heard well known health practitioner Chris Kresser say, 5 minutes done every day beats inconsistent longer sessions done intermittently.
BLOOD SUGAR AND MEDITATION
Meditation buys us choice. Over time, this practice can allow us a split second of choice before we react strongly to some outward situation. This choice over how we react (if we choose the less reactive path) can reduce chronic stress over time (and improve our relationships to say the least.) Anything that reduces stress helps reduce blood sugar, which helps with inflammation and insulin sensitivity, among other things. (Remember that every stress response is a cortisol response.)
SO MANY BENEFITS!
But it doesn’t stop there. There are now all sorts of benefits from meditation that are being corroborated by science. They include increased will power (that certainly will help in the nutrition department!), and many other attractive changes to the brain. There is a wonderful new book out titled Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson that investigates this topic in detail.
Here are a few brain benefits of meditation listed in a Forbes article, link below: it can preserve the aging brain; it rivals antidepressants in effectiveness; improves concentration and attention; and reduces anxiety and social anxiety. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#5115cf414658
And it can boost immunity, and who doesn’t need that this time of year? Studies linked in this article in Medical Daily detail how even a conservative meditation practice can boost antibody levels and strengthen the areas of the brain responsible for running the immune system.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
And it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can just ‘close your eyes and do nothing’ as advocated by Susan Pierce Thompson in her book ‘Bright line Eating’ (yep, she brings it into her nutrition program too.) There are bazilions of apps and guided meditations out there if you want more structure. Two good ones are Insight Timer and Headspace.
I like to set the timer on Insight Timer for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, and then just settle into my comfortable big chair crosslegged or legs straight out onto an ottoman, and close my eyes and focus on my breath. You might like a regular chair, a cushion, or a meditation bench. I try to let thoughts flow by and focus on the present moment, just being and breathing. After a few minutes I can feel my mind quiet and my body relax. If I have time for longer sessions of 10 minutes or more, I can reach a wonderfully relaxed and contented state.
SUPPLEMENTAL SUPPORT FOR YOUR PRACTICE
I love two products together that I find AMAZING to support me in reaching a parasympathetic state for my meditation practice, and I am grateful for both of them. One is Vagal Tone essential oil (external) from Meo Energetics, and the other is nano-emulsified phytocannibinoid hemp oil (internal) from Prime My Body. I am amazed at how quickly and easily I can reach that relaxed state when I bring them into the picture. (I love to use them together, every day.) I keep both of these in stock if you want to try them out. But, don’t let it stop you if you don’t have these on hand. You can still get there just fine.
WHAT IS YOUR PRACTICE LIKE?
Now I’d like to hear about your meditation experiences, practices, questions, thoughts.
Do you have a daily practice? An occasional practice? How long have you been practicing?
What have you noticed has changed since you began?
Do you wish to start a practice? What is holding you back?
What do you hope to gain by doing so?
Does this post help inspire you to begin your own practice?
How can I support you in exploring your own practice?