When we think about health, we generally start with the physical aspects. Exercise and diet are usually the first two things that come to mind. But the more I shift my focus towards wellness, the more obvious it becomes that physical health is only part of the picture. Our mental health plays a huge role in how we go about our lives every day. Have you ever noticed that the days when you are feeling crappy tend to be the same days that you reach for a box of cookies or lack the motivation to work out? This is no coincidence. Our physical and mental health are inherently linked. When you begin to gain control over your mind, you gain the tools that allow you to understand and listen to your body.
Mindfulness and meditation practices teach us to become observers of our own minds. Many meditations begin by focusing on the breath. As you inhale and exhale, focus on the sensations of the life force moving through your body. If you become distracted by thoughts that is okay. The human mind does not like to be still. Acknowledge the thought, without analyzing or judging it, and let the thought pass. The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind completely. This is a nearly impossible task. Rather, the goal of meditation is to disconnect from your thoughts and emotions, to train your mind to view thoughts and feelings as if from an outside person’s perspective. Training your mind through meditation enables you to pause and reflect on situations as they are happening rather than to react immediately, blinded by emotions.
Meditation is not easy and can feel uncomfortable at first. We live lives filled with distractions and don’t often find ourselves in stillness. But beginning a daily meditation practice doesn’t have to be daunting. There are plenty of meditation apps and resources out there that are a great place to start. My meditation practice happens in the first ten minutes of my day. Before I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a busy day I sit down, breathe, and center my mind for the day ahead. Ten minutes is not enough to significantly slow down your morning routine, but it is enough time for meditation to change your state of being.
As for meditation as medicine, you may notice that a more perceptive mind brings you in tune with your body. Pay attention to your body when you are eating, sitting, moving, scrolling. What feels good in your body? What maybe doesn’t feel so good? The more we are able to focus our minds, the more we can give our bodies what they truly need.