Meditation offers practitioners powerful benefits, yet many people are confused as to what exactly those benefits are. In a nutshell, meditation focuses attention in a deliberate manner, taking you from a state of noisy mental chatter to calm and quiet inner peace. And isn’t that something most of us could use?
While meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in the east and – more recently – west as a way to grow spiritually, modern medicine is now finally extolling the numerous health benefits that meditation offers.
Meditation has the ability to reduce stress hormones by calming the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. These systems are what activate our main panic responses (“fight,” “flight,” “freeze,” or “friend”) to stressful situations. Because of this, meditation can be a wonderful coping strategy for those suffering with trauma.
Is Meditation Better than Medication?
Historically, people battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been given medication to help alleviate unwanted and unpleasant symptoms. But a new study has found that regular practice of meditation enables some active duty service members battling PTSD to reduce, or even eliminate their need of psychotropic medications and to better control their often-debilitating symptoms.
This is great news for service men and women, and anyone who is battling PTSD. Not only can meditation help to calm your nerves and rewire your brain, it can also reduce the risk of developing negative side effects to many psychotropic medications used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. Beyond memory loss and erectile dysfunction, one of the biggest side effects of these medications is depression. That’s the last thing a person suffering from PTSD needs.
How to Begin a Meditation Practice
If you are suffering from the effects of trauma and would like to try meditation, here are some steps you can take to get started:
- Download an app like Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer to help you better understand meditation and also helps you with basic guided meditations.
- Go to Netflix and watch the series “Headspace Guide to Meditation”, here is a link to the trailer of the series.
- Search for meditation groups in your area. These are very popular and usually very affordable, if not free
- Or you can simply start by finding a quiet place to sit upright, close your eyes and simply count our breaths. When a thought enters your mind (which is going to happen) don’t judge it, simply notice the thought see yourself letting it go and return your focus to your breath and start the counting back at “1”. Set a timer and begin with 3 minutes every morning. Do this for 7 days and increase the time by 2-3 minutes each week. Before you know it your mind will become more still, and you will be up to a 20-minute meditation.
Be Open Minded
Meditation has long been associated with new age movements. But you would be amazed at the different kinds of people that now practice meditation. If you tend to be a skeptical person, try to have an open mind as you begin your practice.
It’s called a practice for a reason. You won’t “get” meditation overnight. You’ll have to keep at it before it becomes natural for you and you really reap the benefits. Try to have patience and just keep at it.
If you or a loved one are suffering from trauma symptoms and would like to speak with someone who can help, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss the treatment options that would work best for you.