As the old saying goes, “a woman’s work is never done.” Whether we’re chasing children around the house or directing employees in the c-suite, the grind is never-ending. Over time, these activities can wear on the mind and body, reducing our overall health. It’s no secret an active lifestyle and healthy diet are great combatants against the stresses of everyday life, but many women are unaware of how powerful a daily practice of meditation can also be. In fact, females from all backgrounds and occupations can benefit from the most basic of practices. The key is just consistency. Thankfully, meditation only requires a few quiet minutes a day and can become second nature once a routine is established. Feeling unsure if a daily ten-minute pause is worth it? Here are five heroic roles meditation can play in the modern woman’s life.
1. Mind Sharpener
Looking to better manage and execute the family’s schedule? Need to excel at work for that promotion? In the same way we spend time in the gym to workout our body, time devoted to meditation is an opportunity to tone our mental muscles. By bringing our brainwaves into a relaxed, focused state, we strengthen our immunity to internal and external distractions. The practice stimulates our cerebral and prefrontal cortexes, which are responsible for memory, attention and perception. As a result, we are able to make wiser decisions and effectively solve problems throughout the day. Long-term practice has even shown to increase grey-matter density in areas associated with learning, self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Plus, a recent study from Leiden University demonstrated meditation’s positive effects on creativity and divergent thinking. Research concluded that participants displayed a greater capacity for innovative, groundbreaking ideas. Translation? Meditation can get us one step closer to achieving Wonder Woman status.
2. Stress Softener
Meditation eases the nervous system out of its comfort zone. As women, it’s natural for us to constantly busy ourselves. Relaxing downtime usually isn’t relaxing at all, as we’re filled with anxiety over what we should be worrying about next. Meditation is a daily reminder that stillness is OK. Overtime, this practice raises our relaxation threshold and equips us with the mental tools to keep negative thoughts at bay during life’s obstacles. No matter how grey the sky may become with stressful thoughts, meditation preaches a constant blue sky just above the storm.
3. Mood Booster
Get ready to smile more. Studies have found the production of GABA, a mood balancing amino acid, during meditation. This chemical inhibits nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity. Many will take this natural tranquilizer as a daily supplement, but meditation can give you the same effect free of charge. Battling spouts of depression? A 2014 research review published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that meditation relieves sadness in some patients as effectively as antidepressant medication. This result is thought to be caused by the practice’s stimulation of the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, areas of the brain responsible for the production of endorphins. In fact, The School of Behavioral Sciences at the James Cook University found the same mood boost in trained meditators post-activity as they did in runners. Not only was a similar amount of endorphins released, an additional increase in serotonin, dopamine and melatonin levels was detected, all chemicals linked to happy, go-lucky feelings.
4. Chronic Illness Fighter
Whether you’re already living with a chronic condition or simply seeking longevity, meditation is quickly becoming a popular therapy recommendation among physicians. Stress is inevitable throughout life, especially in this fast-paced modern world. While the detailed effects and mechanisms behind stress are still a great mystery to the medical world, we do know that extreme, chronic tension only taxes and worsen our biology. Meditation does not deny stress; it welcomes trials and tribulations. But rather than reacting to stress, meditation asks that we recognize and respond to these obstacles in a calm, reflective and peaceful manner. This dissolves the physiologic changes often produced by our body in times of pressure, such as heightened heart rate, blood pressure and inflammation. Plus, as mentioned above, meditation gives us the tools to navigate obstacles throughout the rest of our day.
So much of Western medicine divides the body into separate organs or sections, distinct in function and needs. However, it’s important to remember that the human form is holistic. All parts interlace to create the whole. When you consistent calm your mind, you promote balance throughout the rest of your being. Proper nutrition, activity levels and great genes can help provide a quantity of years in life, but meditation will help ensure quality as well.
5. Pain Reliever
Feeling the monthly cramps or lower back aches? Meditation eases the mental component of pain by guiding the mind toward more positive thoughts. Additionally, as stated previously, meditation lowers blood pressure and anxiety, two factors that can intensify discomfort. In 2009, a study published The Journal of Pain found participants’ perception of pain was significantly reduced after only three 20-minute sessions of mindful meditation. A reduction in this perception even lasted after the prescribed amount of meditation sessions. Such findings were concluded after a comparison of these results to a control group that utilized distraction therapy. While these participants did feel some pain relief, this reduction in discomfort only lasted during the time of the activity. So, if you’re ever low on time or money for a visit to the spa or chiropractor, as I’m sure we all are, take time to cure yourself, all within the comforts of your own mind!
I began meditating a few months ago as a way to help ease the symptoms of my own chronic illness and daily stresses. A simple 10-minute session every morning has given me more clarity of thought, a calmer demeanor, more confidence in social situations and a healthy body to match. While becoming Wonder Woman is certainly a dream of mine, I know that greatness can only be achieved when I stop and take time for myself. To all the women out there who devote their lives to the wellbeing of others, whether they are family, clientele, co-workers and/or loved ones, know that your best work will only come when you too are at your best. Give meditation a try. Your mind and body will repay you tenfold!