It’s that time of year in the northern hemisphere; the time when spirits can hit an all time low. The weather might keep us in doors, the sun often plays hard to get, and we can feel more isolated at this time of year. More people are working from home, and while the commute to the ‘home office’ can be a great time saver and stress reducer, we miss out on the human connection of meeting friends and co-workers face-to face, chit-chatting around the water cooler or in the lunch room.
It’s important to find ways to engage in self-care. Whenever possible get outside – go for a lunch time walk and let whatever sun is available beam down on your upturned face. Connect with friends and family, whether face-to face, on the phone, or using good old FaceTime or Zoom.
Another great way to give yourself some love is by meditating. In my last blog, I promised to tell you about the benefits of meditation. Research continues to emerge that tells us meditation has positive benefits above and beyond what we can imagine. Meditation optimizes your brain in so many ways. It truly is self-care for the mind.
When you engage in a meditation practice here is how it can help. Meditation can reduce physical pain, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and many types of inflammation. It can also help to reduce anxiety, depression, insomnia, and symptoms of menopause.
Meditation builds executive function by increasing gray matter in the frontal cortex area of your brain, so that you can pay better attention; plan, organize, and prioritize optimally; start tasks and stay focused on them until you complete them; develop increased ability to take others’ perspectives, hold empathy and compassion for others; regulate your emotions and lower stress levels.
Meditation also helps to deactivate a set of brain regions that are associated with rumination. These brain regions are activated when an individual is focused on his/her internal mental-state processes, which can lead to less engagement with ‘life in the moment’ and more engagement with thoughts about things that occurred in past or might occur in the future – both of which we have less control over than the ‘present’ moment.
So many benefits and a regular practice could start with as little as 3 – 5 minutes a day, building from there. Another way to meditate is by combining meditation with yin or restorative yoga: Holding yoga asana (poses) while you are supported by the instructor with guided meditations, pranayama (breathing) practices, or simply quiet mindfulness. If either of these practices are of interest, I’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with me at Mshyoga.ca on the Contact page. On my website you can browse the virtual classes I offer on the Virtual Class Schedule page. I look forward to hearing from you.
Belsky, Gail. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/what-is-executive-function, What is Executive Function, accessed February 20, 2023
Hamed Ekhtiari, John Monterosso, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/default-mode-network ,Progress in Brain Research, 2016, accessed February 20, 2023
Subtle Yoga., The Brain Optimizing Benefits of Meditation Practice, Evidence_Base_of_Yoga_and_Meditation.pdf