Just a few minutes of daily meditation can lead to better physical, mental health

By Rebecca Long Pyper

Feeling stressed? If you can spare 10 minutes a day, you can start overcoming anxiety and the hamster wheel of worry with the help of meditation.

“(Meditation) means that we’re mindful and that we’re calming the chaos in our brains,” said Karen Donaldson of EXCEL Weight Loss Solutions. A big part of meditation is mindfulness, or “hitting your pause button long enough to see what’s going on in your mind and your body,” she said.

According to Donaldson, meditation can improve every aspect of health, and she offers these tips for people who want to try meditation routine:

>> Start simple. Close your eyes, take three deep breaths and check your mind — is it racing? Are you feeling anxious? Are you physically hungry? Are you lonely? An important part of finding balance is living in the present, and identifying your emotions can help with that. Notice too if you’re worrying about the future or dwelling in the past; if that’s your MO, practice recognizing how you feel and what you’re experiencing in this moment.

Slow breathing is all about sending calming signals to your brain, Donaldson said. “We’re kind of in chronic fight-or-flight mode, and adrenaline is going and cortisol is going” — a chemical combination that leads to more fat stored in the belly, she said. “We’re not as productive in that moment as we think we’re because our minds are chaotic.” Slow things down by stopping for two minutes three times a day to calm and balance yourself with breathing.

>> Choose a strategy that works for you. Can’t sit still and clear your mind? Practicing mindfulness doesn’t require hours of silence with a Buddhist monk, Donaldson said. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly and breathing deeply. For those on the go there’s moving mediation. And for those into fitness, yoga can be a kind of mediation. Do your research and try the version best suited for you.

One of Donaldson’s favorites is guided meditation, where somebody else, whether in person or on recording, guides a person through it — that means no silence, plus a voice and directions to focus on.

Donaldson created a series of seven guided mediations; each recording is 10 minutes long, and the goal is to listen to one each day, then start the series again the following week. The recordings are set to calm music, and though the content is more related to weight loss, topics like self-esteem and listening to our bodies are also addressed. To purchase and download the series visit www.excelweightloss.com.

>> Make mealtime matter. According to Donaldson, many people have food anxiety, and since people have to eat, stress can spike multiple times a day. So practice mindfulness about food. “Every time a person sits down to eat, maybe they would just close their eyes and take a few really deep breaths in and out and just be in that moment — notice what’s going on in their body,” she said. Take note if you’re eating because you’re stressed or lonely; by taking inventory you’ll find out if you’re an emotional eater and what emotions trigger your cravings.

Emotional eating makes sense because food can calm the mind. Carbohydrates raise serotonin levels in brain and produce a feeling of calm, but eating when not hungry can lead to weight gain. “Through meditation you can calm your mind without the carbohydrates,” Donaldson said.

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