• Michelle Martin

Meditation and Mindfulness...Do they really work?

Yes and yes! And I think many of you know I am a fan, having meditated daily now for the last three years. This has created a natural mindfulness in me that makes me more connected to other people, more careful of the food choices I make, an awareness to move my body daily and not react immediately to the external stressors we all face daily. Not saying it is perfect, but I do notice the difference.



But don’t take my word for it. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.


Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.” “Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body. Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” As I explained earlier, meditation helps enhance your mindfulness.


The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction


Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors' visits are due to stress?


Seventy-five to ninety percent!


So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too. Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

Mindfulness for mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.


Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression. While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods. And sometimes that is all that it takes to get us moving forward.


Mindfulness for weight


Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices). How can this be?


One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.


Another way it can work for weight is due to "mindful eating." Mindful eating is a "non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating." It's the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It's listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It's not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you're eating, like what's on TV or your smartphone.


People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. It seems that more mindful eating = less junk. Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.


Mindfulness for gut health


Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion). In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut's microbes.


Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.


The research here is just starting to show us the important gut-mind link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.


Summary


Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.


Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?


Listen to this snippet from this Saturday’s Deborah Heart and Lung Center Women-to-Women TALK Heart-to-Heart virtual health event to hear my coaching philosophy and a quick meditation you can do along with me, to get started. It starts at 57:15 minutes and ends at 1:05:00 minutes. I would love your feedback on it.


Best in health,


Coach Michelle


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