Sometimes, when I learn something new about the power of meditation, I have to step back and just marvel at how unbelievable it can be.
For example, this: in a January 2016 study published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, just 3 consecutive days of consistent meditation practice was found to reduce the inflammatory hormone known as Interleukin 6.
High levels of this hormone have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune conditions.
Inflammation is at the root of many health problems
Inflammation is known to be a contributing cause of a variety of physical and psychological conditions including:
You see, inflammation is the body’s immune response to a potentially harmful agent. It may be relatively minor, such as when a cut or scrape becomes red and swollen.
Or it can be more significant, such as when chronic stress and the resulting consistent high levels of cortisol in the body lead to many of the same health conditions mentioned above.
Note: Weight worries are a consistent source of stress for many people. That’s one reason we recommend focusing on feeling good instead.
What if I’m too busy to meditate?
I totally get it.
As a busy working woman myself, opportunities to steal away to a meditation retreat come few and far between (and I do have the desire).
But let’s start with the amazing facts. In this meditation study, just 3 days of meditation reduced inflammation! Imagine what might happen in 5? Or 7? Heck, imagine if we developed a regular practice of meditating!
Like with anything else, you can start small. 5 minutes, twice a day…then 10…and on it goes. That’s what we call a practice.
When we begin meditation as a practice, we gradually experience a reduction in stress. Then we realize, hey! I feel good! This ‘feel-good’ outcome is, in essence, pleasure. Maybe just a little pleasure, but pleasure nonetheless.
Practice makes pleasure
We as humans are pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding creatures. We seek pleasurable activity, and when we find it – even it’s just a small pleasure – we want to keep doing it.
The more we practice meditation, the more pleasure we experience, and since we love pleasure, we end up wanting more. So we do it again.
It may not start out as AMAZING! Maybe it’s just a small pleasure we can build off of. And the beauty of it is that as we build our practice we experience the health benefits, including reduction in inflammation.
Three Simple Steps
So here are 3 simple steps to reduce inflammation:
- Accept “Monkey Mind”. Being distracted is part of who we are as humans. When you notice you’ve been distracted, you’ve stopped being distracted and instead are noticing it. That’s awareness! Now, bring yourself back to the meditation. This process actually ends up building concentration and helps you be less distractible.
- Commit to a regular practice. I suggest a few minutes at the beginning and end of your day. If this is totally new to you, start with 5 minutes each time, and go from there…
- Find Guidance. You can find guided mediations almost everywhere now. Here are a few of my favorite places to go:
- Green Mountain at Fox Run website: Free 5-minute guided meditations.
- 10% Happier – Dan Harris of ABC News provides an easy intro to mindfulness meditation. Free for the first week, then subscription available.
- Insight Timer – hundreds of free meditation of all types.
- JKZ Series 1, 2, & 3 – Modern day founder of mindfulness Jon Kabat-Zinn’s guided meditations.
A word about sleep: using meditation for sleep is great and can be quite helpful. But it doesn’t count as your daily practice. Count it instead as your sleep aid, and do your beginning and end-of-day practice outside of this time–preferably not in bed so it’s a ‘wakeful’ meditation.
So go forth in celebration of meditation, and in the reduction of inflammation! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the temptation).