Meditation: The Best Medicine?

“Meditation is for hippies”.

“I can’t shut my brain off for long enough to ‘do’ meditation”.

“Sitting in an uncomfortable position while burning incense isn’t really my thing”.

… Sound familiar?

In a society addicted to getting things done and checking items off our to-do lists, there is something seemingly “weird” about silence and stillness in our culture.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that the most recent Mental Health Commission of Canada Report indicates that 28.4 percent of Canadian adults report that the majority of their work days are “extremely” or “quite a bit” stressful (MHCC, 2015). In addition, an online survey lead by the Globe and Mail indicated that 59% of the 7,300 respondents reported feeling stressed, “on edge”, and unable to manage the pressures at work. Survey respondents who reported feeling stressed also indicated that they did not have coping strategies to manage their daily stress.

One evidence-informed coping strategy is meditation. A landmark study led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that an average of 27 minutes of daily meditation lead to measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, compassion, and stress regulation (Holzel et al., 2011).

I know what you’re thinking. Who has 27 minutes a day to dedicate to meditation? Rest assured, taking even a few minutes to meditate can decrease one’s heart rate, blood pressure, and production of cortisol – the stress hormone that makes us feel on edge and accelerates the aging process.

Next time you’re feeling stressed at work, simply close your office door, sit at your desk and close your eyes, and pay attention to your breathing for even just one minute.

Don’t worry about your posture.

Don’t worry about changing your breathing pattern.

Don’t worry that you may not become the World’s Best Meditator.

Simply sit and focus on your breath. When thoughts enter your mind, and they inevitably will, acknowledge them and then come back to your breath.  

Don’t have your own office? Head to the bathroom. Admit it, we’ve all snuck away to take refuge in the office bathroom. Once or twice a day, try escaping to a bathroom stall for one minute and just breathe. Believe it or not, this is meditation.

Meditation is increasingly being used as a medication as well as preventative medicine. In hospitals, businesses and community centers, meditation is becoming a more popular method of stress reduction. James Gordon (2009) explains that the word meditation comes from medi, the same Sanskrit and Greek root that is the origin of our word medicine. Medi means “to take the measure of”, and “to care for”.

Meditation … Medicine … Coincidence? I think not.

 

For more information on mindfulness and meditation check out our previous blog posts

References

Gordon, James. (2009). Unstuck: Your guide to the seven-stage journey out of depression. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.

Holzel, B., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36-43. doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

Livingston, G. (2015, February 6). Survey says: We’re stressed (and not loving it). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/life-at-work/survey-says-were-stressed-and-not-loving-it/article22722102/

Mental Health Commission of Canada (2015). Informing the future: Mental health indicators for Canada. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/document/68796/informing-future-mental-health-indicators-canada

Image Credit: 

https://theamericangenius.com/business-news/rare-business-case-prayer-meditation-work/