Is it possible to optimize your immune system through meditation? Recent studies have looked at this from a scientific standpoint. Scientists are just beginning to understand how the mind and immune system intersect. Early results show there are immune benefits associated with regular meditation practice.
Let’s First Answer the Question, “What Exactly is Meditation?”
The modern definition of meditation is a mental practice for quieting the mind. Meditation helps the mind to focus attention and awareness. Meditation has been practiced for many centuries for religious or spiritual purposes.
Meditation as a complementary or alternative health prescription has been around for years. In recent times, meditation is recommended for anxiety, insomnia, and stress management. You might have heard anecdotes of the use of meditation to help other health conditions. Studies are being devised to look at replicable improvements in health through meditation.
Evidence from this review showing mindful meditation helps your immune system includes:
- Reduction in the markers of inflammation. Inflammatory markers go up when immune function goes down. They’re also associated with autoimmune disease states.
- Increased number of immune helper cells. These monitors signal to other cells when there is an infection.
- Increased telomerase activity. Telomerase activity prevents premature aging of cells and aids in the prevention of cancer on a cellular level. Monitoring for tumor cells is another function of the immune system.
What’s the ‘Right’ Way to Meditate?
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Some people feel intimidated to even start meditating for fear they will not do it correctly. Let’s put those fears to rest right now.
Anyone can learn to meditate. You’re never too old to start, and children as young as 6 or 7 can learn how to meditate. Younger children can learn to become silent for a minute at a time and focus their minds.
There are many different methods taught for meditation. These include mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, guided or self-guided meditations and more. There’s no one size fits all.
Tips for Starting Your Meditation Practice:
- Look for an app that can help remind you to meditate on a regular basis. One of the fundamentals for an effective meditation practice is to meditate regularly. Meditating once in a while will not get you the results you’re looking for.
- Find a time and space where people, pets, or phones will not interrupt you. Turn off all electronic devices. If necessary, put up a do-not-disturb sign. Occupy your pets with a toy or treat so you can spend time without distractions.
- Find a comfortable chair or sit on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing and slow down your breaths. If you’re listening to a guided meditation, follow the guide throughout the recording. If your mind begins to wander, don’t fight it. Acknowledge the thought and let it go. Then return your focus to the guide, your breathing and the meditation.
There is a tendency to think you must not allow other thoughts to enter while you meditate. Or that you’re doing something wrong if your mind wanders. The job of the mind is to think, so it will continue to do that. With time, you will learn to tame your thoughts and refocus them when they do intrude.
Beginner’s Guide to Meditation for Chronic Illness Sufferers
It is important to remember that alternative methods of managing your chronic illness like meditation are not meant to take away the pain or treat it. Instead, meditation is a great way to manage your symptoms and improve your mental health.
Here are some things to know about meditation for chronic illness and how you can start this practice.
What Meditation Can and Can’t Do For Chronic Pain
The first thing to know about meditation is that it can help both your physical and mental health, but it will not cure your condition or replace any conventional medical treatments or medications you are taking. This is an unfortunate misconception people have, which can either cause them to give up on meditation because it didn’t cure their illness, or cause people to never try it in the first place.Meditation is a tool to help you manage your symptoms, even if it’s just helping you to deal on a mental and emotional level. Click To Tweet
Meditation is a tool to help you manage your symptoms, even if it’s just helping you to deal on a mental and emotional level.
The Best Meditation Technique for Chronic Pain
While there are many forms of meditation and ways to practice it, for chronic pain, one of the first methods you should try is called a body scan meditation. With the body scan, you mentally visualize and feel each part of your body, one at a time. You can either start with your head or your feet, though the feet are often an easier choice. You start by noticing your feet and how they feel in your meditation position. Notice any pain or discomfort, whether they are relaxed or not, and any sensations you experience.
Once you acknowledge how one body part feels, move on to the next one, and stop focusing so much on just one part of your body. It won’t remove the pain in these parts of your body, but it helps you to train your mind to move past it.
You Learn to Shift Your Focus Away From the Pain
An amazing benefit to practicing meditation when you have chronic pain is that it helps distract your mind a little and learn how to shift your focus from your pain. Not just during the meditation itself, but as you go through your day. You may notice that the next time your back hurts, you pause for a minute to acknowledge the pain and you take medication to manage it, but then you are able to mentally cope with it a little better. It doesn’t completely consume all of your thoughts.
Meditation and Mindfulness
You can either do meditation on its own or combine it with mindfulness. Both are really helpful when it comes to living with a chronic illness. Mindfulness is less about clearing your mind like during meditation, and more about just accepting each moment without judgment. You don’t think about what you will do next or regrets from the past, but simply live in the present moment.
Do you have a regular meditation practice? What tips would you advise for someone just beginning to meditate? I would love to see your comments below.
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