Mindful Meditation; Benefits to the Immune System and Mental Self-care
Aside from engaging in daily movement, taking regular pauses throughout each day with a daily meditation routine can help us refocus and realign our thoughts. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic it’s not uncommon to have heightened feelings of anxiety or feel more stressed than usual. We may feel a sense of internal pressure now that our daily routines have changed and there is a great deal of uncertainty arising. While it’s essential that we each do our part to practice social distancing, it’s important that we take care of our own personal mental health and incorporate daily self-care practices which can often be forgotten amidst stressful periods.
Mindfulness meditation represents a mental training framework for cultivating the state of mindful awareness in daily life and has shown to have a number of benefits for relieving feelings of stress and anxiety. Numerous studies have demonstrated just how meditation can help us deal with uneasy feelings, stay calm under pressure, and feel more relaxed and productive as a result. Our team at F45 recommends incorporating some meditation into your daily work-from-home and training routine to help alleviate any feelings of distress and uncertainty. Additionally, if you’ve never tried or practiced meditation before, having more time at home means you’ll have an opportunity to practice! We’ve outlined some of the benefits as to why meditation can have such a positive impact on our mental self-care and provided some recommendations as to how you can get started.
Meditation may boost the immune system
Our body’s immune system works extra hard each day to protect us from potential harmful infections. Stress overtime can lead to whole-body inflammation and put added stress on our immune system. Studies have highlighted the positive effects of meditation on increasing the communication between the brain and immune system to allow it to optimize its functioning. Specifically, a regular meditation practice has shown to increase the activity centers of the brain associated with our immune system’s command center (prefrontal cortex, right anterior insula, right hippocampus). New research has shown that meditation doesn’t just induce psychological benefits to boost mood overtime, but may also induce changes in how our bodies function. A recent randomized controlled study published in the Journal of Translational Psychiatry studied the effect of experienced meditators as well as those with no experience at all who participated in either a vacation or meditation retreat over 6-days. The study found that the experienced meditators had profound shifts in genes related to fighting viral infections while novice meditators experienced a clinically meaningful improvement in depressive symptoms (even up to 10 months after the retreat!). Additionally, a recent review of various mindfulness meditation studies supports these immune boosting findings as the studies demonstrated reduced markers of inflammation within the body. Engaging in regular restorative practices could provide some relief to the everyday stresses that our body encounters to help boost our defence against disease.
Mediation may help ease anxiety
Mindfulness is all about living in the present moment while meditation allows us to connect with ourselves and accept the reality of the present moment. Mindfulness meditation has demonstrated a strong ability to manage and alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Recognizing that during this time we are likely to have heightened feelings of stress and anxiety is perfectly valid. Mindful meditation allows us to accept these feelings versus letting them ‘take over.’ The key is acceptance and meditation helps bring awareness to what we cannot control by accepting any feelings of uncertainty. When we become more aware of our emotions, we become much more capable of managing stress and dealing with anxiety. Therefore, meditation allows us to experience the discomfort of these feelings without getting into a ‘panic’ mode. We become much more aware of anxious feelings or thoughts without allowing them to overcome our emotions or entire thought process.
Meditation may promote productivity
Setting up a routine and bringing awareness to our everyday tasks automatically creates an internal sense of organization. When we take time to focus on our thoughts we create structure for what it is that we need to accomplish while also avoiding the desire to multitask as a result. Taking just 5 minutes out of our day to focus on the present moment through a meditation practice without letting the mind wander can be extremely beneficial to productivity. Additionally, there are studies that have shown meditation to be highly effective at enhancing cognitive function and improve memory by allowing us to pay attention for longer periods of time.
Meditation helps us stick to a healthy eating routine
Meditation has shown to minimize the desire to ‘binge’ on unhealthy foods and become more aware of our food choices. There are various studies that have highlighted meditation as an effective technique to practice healthier eating, boost metabolism, and increase energy levels as a result. When we become more aware of our hunger cues and stick to a healthy eating routine we avoid mindless eating and snacking. Additionally we also become more present when we’re eating which automatically allows us to be more conscious of how much we are eating!
Without a structured routine at home it can be difficult to stay productive and focused. During these next few weeks of the F45 Challenge, we recommend incorporating some regular meditation into your daily routine. Our team has provided a few tips on how to make meditation a part of your daily routine:
- For beginners; use a meditation app (Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer can be a great place to start) or a video on YouTube
- Use the same time of day; it’s all about creating a daily ritual to make meditation a daily habit. Whether it’s the morning, midday or the evening pick the same time of day that works for you.
- Be patient as it takes practice
It’s important to note that more long term research is needed to identify how meditation may impact our immune system and feelings of anxiety. This article is not a substitute for medical advice and/or the advice of a licensed physician.