You’ve seen the pictures before: A woman sitting cross-legged, her hands gently resting on her knees. She looks so peaceful. Ooooom.
That looks as attainable as a state of Nirvana and about as believable of one as Narnia, right? Think again. A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that meditating for just 12 minutes a day improved the moods and even increased the working memory of Marines during deployment. I’m betting that if men and women can find peace through meditation when heading into war zones, you can find peace during whatever’s waging war on your mental health (aka plummeting estrogen levels, menopausal weight gain, and, of course, the stresses of daily life).
“The same traffic jam can have widely divergent effects on the bodies of the people sitting in it. If we react as though we are being chased by a lion all day, every day, eventually those adaptations start to work against us,” says Josh Trutt, MD, a healthy aging expert. Menopause stress can contribute to memory loss, weight gain, osteoporosis, and even sagging skin! Basically, it can make us old!
Luckily, calming your heart can seriously quiet all that stress buzzing through your mind. Consider this: According to Trutt, the heart secretes a hormone called atrial natriuretic peptide, which affects the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Also, every time the heart beats, it sends a pressure wave through the arteries. When that pressure reaches the brain, the brain’s electrical activity actually changes, he says. In other words, your heart can help control how your body responds to stress.
“The heart’s electromagnetic field is by far the most powerful produced in the body; it’s about 5,000 times stronger than the one produced by the brain,” Trutt says. “The heart’s field not only permeates every cell, but can actually be measured eight feet away by magnetometers. Thus, it is quite literally true that people near you can be impacted by your ‘heart’s energy.’ It turns out that meditating does something very different from just relaxing,” he says.
“When we relax, our heart rate slows down,” Trutt continues. “But when we meditate, the interval between each beat of our heart changes and becomes smoother. That interval between each beat is called Heart Rate Variability (or HRV), and smoothing it out is what lets those Yogi masters live longer—in fact in 2010 the American Journal of Cardiology reported that maintaining a healthy HRV as we age actually predicts longevity!”
So now that you are motivated to meditate, here are three quick and easy meditations from Andy Puddicombe, founder of GetSomeHeadSpace.com, for finding menopausal bliss:
On the road: Flip road rage the bird! Sit up straight and focus on your butt pressing against the seat. Start by listening to the sounds around you—the wheels on the road, the purr of the motor—then focus on each of your other senses for a minute. Next, tune into them all, letting them come together in your mind like the parts of an orchestra. And here’s the key: Instead of seeing yourself as being affected (aka stressed) by it, think about how you are a part of this ever-changing environment.
During lunch: Do you eat your lunch—or inhale it? If you’re busy (and who isn’t?), lunch can become just another thing you multitask. Instead, consider being a bit more mindful of your meal. Before digging in, spend a couple of minutes doing nothing, just relaxing and leaving the day’s stress behind. Then, make like an “Iron Chef” judge and actually pay attention to what you’re eating. How does the food taste and feel in your mouth? How does it make you feel?
In bed: Lie in bed with your eyes closed (easy!). Now, rather than pass out (or toss and turn if that’s more your style), breathe deeply. Starting at your toes—and working all the way to the tip of your noggin, focus on each body part. Relax each muscle like you’re powering down your phone before a flight.
You don’t need to have candles and incense lit in order to meditate. You can take a no-frills approach to meditation; it can become part of many happier, healthier, and stress-free days to come.
Remember: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
Image courtesy of Chaiwat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net