How Can Meditation Help Me?

Life is full of ups and downs. And everybody tends to get overwhelmed at times. But there are many ways of dealing with what happens. Some people go to the gym to workout. Others meet up with friends and enjoy a nice meal with lots of conversation.  But sometimes it comes down to what we can do by ourselves, for ourselves. Many things are beyond our control. However, we can take responsibility for the state of our mind and meditation is a wonderful tool that helps us do that.

Meditation has been around for millennia. The earliest written records of meditation come from the Hindu traditions around 1500 BCE. Other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India around the sixth and fifth centuries.  The exact origins are subject to debate. But regardless of the origin, meditation practices have stood the test of time and are used all over the world.

Meditation is a way to transform the mind. Meditation practices can increase concentration, emotional positivity, clarity and a sense of calmness. Meditation can also give us the ability to see the true nature of things around us. There are many different forms of meditation, but they all have the same purpose, to calm the mind and help us find our center. When we engage in a particular form of meditation, we learn the habits and patterns of our minds and then we can actually change old habits.

Scientific research tends to focus on two types of meditation, mindful meditation and focused-attention meditation. Through the use of MRIs, scientists have developed a more thorough understanding of what actually takes place in our brains when we meditate. The most dramatic effect is that our brains stop processing information like they normally would. The frontal lobe, which is responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-consciousness, tends to stop functioning during meditation. The parietal lobe, which processes sensory information, slows down. The thalamus, which is the area that focuses our attention by interpreting sensory information, actually shows a slowing of incoming information. So all of these things combined, allows our brains to relax.

Meditation is a practice of focusing our attention and being aware of when it meanders and because of this, meditation can improve our focus when we are not meditating also.  It’s a lasting effect that comes from regular meditation practices.

Another positive effect of meditation is that it allows us to have less anxiety and stress.  The more we meditate, the looser the connections of certain neural pathways become.  The area of the brain that triggers strong reactions becomes less “tight” and in contrast, the frontal lobe strengthens, allowing us to more easily look at things rationally.  For example, sometimes when we experience pain, our minds go to the worst possible scenario and we become anxious. The more a person meditates, the more rational their thinking becomes and thus the feelings of anxiety decrease.

Probably the most studied benefit of meditation is compassion. People who practice meditation regularly have been shown to have more empathy. The part of the brain that processes emotional stimuli, the amygdala, normally slows down during meditation. But just like the aforementioned lasting effects of meditation, compassion and empathy are also affected long-term. Thus those who practice regular meditation tend to look at others differently and show them more understanding and compassion.

Memory is another area that is helped through the regular practice of meditation.  Studies have shown that those who meditate are able to adjust the brain waves that screen our distractions and therefore increase their productivity. Part of this is because meditation actually increases the amount of grey matter in the brain. The greater the amount of grey matter, the more positive the emotions, the less age-related diseases affect us and the less our cognitive functioning decreases.

Over time, meditation can greatly improve the quality of life in numerous ways.  Researching the different forms of meditation is the best way to get started. Try as many as possible and go with the one that resonates best with you. Your body will definitely thank you.

 

 

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Five Natural Ways to Cure Migraines

Many people get a migraine now and then, approximately 37 million Americans suffer with migraines. And usually they can be cleared up quickly with over-the-counter medication or other treatment method. Symptoms of a migraine can include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and even difficulty speaking. For some, migraines become so intense they actually have to miss work and put their lives on hold.

Migraines tend to be more debilitating than regular headaches and can literally ruin someone’s life. Unfortunately, science still can’t explain what causes migraines, it makes it virtually impossible to find a cure. But this is where natural medicine and nutrition excel in the treatment of migraines.

There are many natural approaches to treating migraines. We’ll examine five ways to naturally approach and treat migraines.

  1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a part of the Traditional Chinese Medical system that has been around for nearly 3,000 years. Acupuncture uses pressure points on the body to help decrease pain and inflammation, while balancing the energy within the body. When somebody is suffering from a migraine, all the energy is rushes to their head. By stimulating or poking pressure points on the feet, this energy can then be drawn down and reduced, thus decreasing the intensity of the migraine. Acupuncture can also help with the treatment of the other symptoms frequently associated with migraines.

  1. Diet

Your diet plays such an important role in your life. For many migraine sufferers, gluten sensitivities can be the main cause of pain. Gluten is a component found in wheat and it is known to increase inflammation in the body. Magnesium and B vitamins are also very important for migraine sufferers. Studies show many migraine sufferers actually have low levels of both magnesium and B vitamins. Magnesium blocks pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain, while B vitamins help decrease oxidative stress in the body that may lead to chronic pain and inflammation.

  1. Biofeedback

Another suggested natural cure for migraines, biofeedback provides information about muscle tension, skin temperature, brain waves and other body signals that helps reduce stress levels. Small sensors are placed on the skin to measure the aforementioned items. Using that information allows the migraine sufferer to change the blood flow to the brain, which helps manage the pain.

  1. Exercise

Everybody knows exercise is good for the body. But for people with chronic pain, it is even more important. Just by sitting at a desk, working on a computer all day, we are adding an additional 20-30 pounds of pressure to our necks! This can create stress and tension on the muscles and tendons in the neck and shoulder area, which can contribute to migraine pain and frequency. Studies show by merely adding in 20 minutes of stretching daily, migraines and other chronic pain levels can be significantly reduced. Plus exercise gets the blood pumping and increases oxygenation to the tissues. Both are important for relieving pain and inflammation.

  1. Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is another area proven beneficial for migraine sufferers. Chiropractic manipulation helps reduce oxidative stress at the cellular level. Oxidative stress damages tissues and can ultimately lead to disease. Studies show chiropractic adjustments can help decrease tension and relieve pain almost instantaneously.

If you are one of the 37 million Americans who suffers from migraines, you are not alone. But the silver lining is that there are natural cures out there that can help you get your life back. Hopefully one or more of these remedies will help you too.

 

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It’s All In Your Head: Headaches and TCM

There are four main types of headache: tension, cluster, sinus and migraine. And, there are varying triggers for these headaches, such as food, stress, hormones, dehydration and weather. Fortunately, eliminating the triggers and finding natural ways to prevent and help an ongoing headache are possible. continue reading »

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Seven Ways to Set & Achieve Goals 

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, setting goals is one way to help you get there. Often, when people have no goals, they lack motivation, focus and direction. Setting goals also provides a benchmark to determine whether or not you are succeeding. But how do you set goals if you’ve never done so before? Or what if you have set goals in the past, but you didn’t achieve them? Do you just give up and tell yourself that goal setting doesn’t work? That’s one option, but let’s put things into perspective.

  1. Set goals that motivate you. What does this really mean? The goals you set for yourself should be important to you, making you feel there is value in achieving those goals. Setting goals irrelevant to your life, will not inspire you to take action. To determine if a goal is important to you, write down “why” this goal matters.
  2. Break the larger goals down into smaller, more specific goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose 60 pounds over the next year, break that down into smaller more achievable goals. Set a goal of losing five pounds per month for the next 12 months. This makes the larger goal more feasible and accessible.
  3. Write down your goals. The physical act of writing down a goal makes it tangible and real. And writing those goals in ink versus pencil, makes it more permanent. Also, be conscious of the wording you use. In place of “I would like to” use “I will”. This gives your goals more power.
  4. Make an action plan to achieve your goals. In other words, don’t just focus on the end result. Spend time working on the steps it will take to get you to your ultimate goal.
  5. Adjust your goals periodically. Goals may change as you age or as you start to change. Your goals should be adjusted accordingly, allowing for flexibility and growth.
  6. Be specific. Even though your goals may change periodically, you still want to be as specific as possible when setting a goal. For example, don’t just set a goal of “getting fit”. Set a goal of running a 5K marathon by a certain date that will help you achieve the fit and healthy lifestyle you are ultimately striving for.
  7. Don’t give up. Many times, when we are faced with failure, we tend to give up on our goals. But some of the most successful people in history failed numerous times before they got it right. And they all had to stop, adjust and reevaluate their goals as they went along. The difference between winning and losing is staying the course. If there is something you want to achieve, set a goal to get there. And above all, never give up. We are capable of doing and achieving so many things in our lives. All it takes is determination and goals.
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Five Ways to Wake Up and Get Active

Everybody experiences times where they have no motivation. Lack of motivation can be caused by many things: the weather, depression, nutritional deficiencies, rejection and even not exercising. For many, this seems contradictory. If I have no motivation, how am I supposed to go exercise? Well, it all comes down to choices and doing what is best for your body.        

Lacking motivation can be detrimental to your health. Even though everybody knows they should be exercising, eating right and getting proper sleep, many of us choose not to. This becomes a bad habit that can actually develop into depression, fatigue, insomnia and even nutritional deficiencies that cause worse physical problems. We tell ourselves we don’t have time or we have no motivation or willpower. These are just stories we tell ourselves. Everybody has time to care for themselves. It’s just a choice we have to make. So here are some ways to help us wake up, get motivated and get moving.

1.      Acupuncture – Acupuncture can help put the pep in your step when it comes to motivation. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), lack of motivation is considered a sort of blockage along the energetic pathways that run throughout the body. Most commonly, this affects the gallbladder and liver pathways. Over time, this lack of motivation frequently develops into depression.  When the body is depressed, nothing seems possible. But there are underlying causes to depression that begin with lack of motivation.

2.      Feng Shui – This ancient art is used to energetically balance the home through the placement of the furnishings inside. The bedroom is particularly important because we spend so much time there. Feng Shui tells us your bed should be placed where it allows you to see the door without being in the direct path of the door opening. This allows for a sense of security, which can lead to more restful sleep.

3.      Gratitude – Being thankful for everything you have in your life really does make a difference. Instead of seeing the day ahead of you as a burden and worrying about everything you have to do, be thankful you woke up again. This will shift how you look at things throughout the day and the rest of your life.

4.      Exercise – Whether you’re a gym rat or not, exercise is vitally important.  Going for a walk or a jog first thing in the morning can be refreshing and get the blood pumping. Studies show regular exercise in the morning can actually lead to more energy the next day.

5.      Meditate/Pray – Meditation and prayer allows the body to relax and the mind to calm down. Using this tool shortly before going to bed can be very beneficial. And as we all know, when the mind is quiet, the body relaxes more and we get better, more restful sleep, which gives us more energy and motivation to tackle the next day.

Try incorporating one or all of these practices into your life and see how much it affects you. And remember, studies show it takes 21 to 30 days of doing something consistently for it to become a habit. Are you up for the challenge?

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