The Heart of Wellness is in the Mind

On a physical and spiritual level, our entire health and wellbeing begins with our mind. Physically, our brain is the central hub for all the messages our bodies receive in any given moment. The hunger in our belly, the ache in our bones, the paper cut on our fingertip — these are the messages that must first be delivered through the neural highways in our brain, before they can be addressed in the rest of our body.

On a deep level, the thoughts we think determine the choices we make. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, who we are arises from how we think. When we are feeling hangry, do we reach for nourishing food or easy food that makes us feel worse? When we’re exhausted, do we seek out rest and replenish our energy, or do we continue biting off more work? Do we get excited about moving our bodies, or do we put off exercising because it seems like a chore?

Our health begins with our thoughts, and many high school classes neglect to teach mindfulness and meditation as a life skill. Meditation is a mind-body practice that can clarify our thinking and has been shown to affect long-term behavior change. Meditation is a learned skill that involves focusing your attention on the current state of your body, your environment, and your inner sensations. Prolonged meditative states can lead to myriad health benefits, like

  • stress reduction

  • decreased anxiety and depression

  • pain reduction

  • improved memory

  • reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormone, cortisol

  • increased melatonin, which can aid sleep

  • increased relative blood flow to the brain

    (Sharma)

Meditation is also believed to be a safe and positive way of supporting our endocannabinoid system, which is the bodily system that helps keep all our other systems in balance (McPartland et al). Meditation can relieve stress, reducing the demand on your body's endocannabinoid system. Though the benefits are numerous, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to making meditation a part of your life. The art of introspection and checking in with yourself is a highly personal experience and will vary from person to person.

Types of Meditation, as outlined by the NeuroMeditation Institute

The NeuroMeditation Institute has focused on four styles of meditation that can be explored for different purposes and outcomes, so that people can develop a personal connection to this incredibly powerful wellness tool.

Focus Meditation
  • Emphasizes holding attention on a single object

  • Can improve memory and reaction time, reduce mind wandering, and sustain attention

Mindfulness Meditation
  • A practice of learning to distance yourself from internal reactions

  • Observing your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations more objectively

  • Focus attention on the present moment

 
Open Heart Meditation
  • Activating and enhancing positive feeling states, such as love, compassion and, generosity and joy

  • Focus on sending those feelings out into the world, to friends, family, loved ones, and people suffering throughout the world

Quiet Mind Meditation
  • The traditional view of meditation: a state of consciousness that is pure awareness

  • A state of emptiness with no images or thoughts present

  • Can help reduce the amount and intensity of self-talk, thinking, analyzing, and processing


Click here to find the best meditation style for you through the Neuromeditation Institute

A consistent and thoughtful meditation practice can lead to many positive outcomes, and yet it can be a frustrating, challenging skill to learn in a world that has consistently taught us to be anxious, stressed, and reactive to the endless streams of information we receive each day. Like our overworked brains, whose inboxes are constantly flooded with urgent emails from the complex network of our bodies, sometimes people just need long breaths and deep silence. Solitude and a pause in the day. For all our bodies do for us, the least we can do is give them the gift of being present.

When it comes to staying vital and alive in this world, there are endless threats, real and imagined, to our wellbeing, and there is only so much we can control. The one thing we can control is how we talk to and treat ourselves. Meditation is a practice in meeting yourself where you’re at, accepting all parts of yourself.

Ani Pema Chodron says “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are.” While our endocannabinoid system works tirelessly throughout our bodies to keep us balanced through all the stressors and obstacles of our days, we can keep ourselves healthy by talking to ourselves the way we would talk to a best friend.

Getting Started with Meditation

Meditation is one of those things that can be an intimidating concept to a newcomer, but it's actually quite simple. Whereas a lot of people have the misconception that meditation involves thinking about nothing, it's actually based on the idea of just being aware of your thoughts and environment.

There are lots of phenomenal resources out there that explain and teach meditation. We really love Headspace, an app that introduces meditation in 10 minutes per day for 10 days. They break their concepts down with short, aesthetically pleasing animations and do a wonderful job of explaining the idea of meditation to the Average Joe. They also have lots of great information about the science behind meditation and its benefits on their website

Sometimes, the mind needs a little help settling down. Our friend Ruth Anne Spotts has graciously donated a few of her guided imagery audio files for anyone who needs a little assistance getting their mind and body to relax. 

Check out Ruth Anne Spotts' guided meditations!

Did you learn something new? Please remember to share it with someone you care about!
References
  1. McPartland, J. M., Guy, G. W., & Marzo, V. D. (2014). Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System: A Systematic Review of Potential Clinical Interventions that Upregulate the Endocannabinoid System. PLoS ONE,9(3).

  2. Sharma, H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. AYU (An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda), 36(3), 233. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.182756

This article was written by Kristen Williams and Kira G. and published on May 6, 2021. Copyright ©2021 Hempsley®, All Rights Reserved

Kristen Williams