Most of us have heard a statistic or two about the number of deaths caused by heart disease. It’s more than 600,000 each year! And, as Donald Trump says… that’s huge, especially when you consider that it doesn’t have to happen if you know how to prevent it.
Most of the recommendations we hear today revolve around diet and exercise. The CDC and Million Hearts, an organization working to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. by 2017, is encouraging Americans to get their blood pressure checked and get it under control.
I support all things that contribute to health and wellness; nutrition, exercise, preventative care and testing. But, come on, it’s 2016. How can anyone make a list for heart health without including meditation?
When it comes to heart disease, most people tend to focus on things like clogged arteries caused by poor diet. But, stress, depression and anger can take a very serious toll on the heart, if you don’t know how to manage it.
If you use the body’s “fight or flight” response to handle every stressful situation, you are producing stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, that wear down the entire body, not just the heart.
These hormones are useful when needed, like when a bear walks into the room – they’ll stimulate you to get out in a hurry. “Fight or flight” is not useful when there’s not enough sugar in your coffee, traffic is backed up, or your children didn’t pick up their toys.
How Meditation Helps You
Meditation helps you process stress and make better decisions. When you can readily access a state of calm, it begins to shift your happiness set point. What used to drive you mad, now only irritates you. What you once perceived as a crisis, now becomes an opportunity for generating new solutions.
A 2012 study published by an American Heart Association journal suggests that meditation can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, the African American population, who are generally at higher risk of heart disease, were 48 percent less likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke or death after meditating twice a day for five years compared to African Americans who only participated in a health education class.
Meditation Is A Tool, Not A Result
Some people dismiss meditation because they tried it and didn’t like it; because of a busy mind, no time, etc. Others have preconceived notions about meditation based on stereotypical processes:
- Light a candle.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe deep.
- Take a 30-minute vacation from stress, etc., etc., etc.
Life isn’t a Hallmark card. And neither is meditation.
Find A Meditation Technique That Works For You
There are many meditation techniques; you could enjoy some and not others. Some might work rapidly to help you access the healing potential of deep calm and others could just frustrate you.
Not all types of meditation require 20 or 30 minutes, uninterrupted silence, or a lit candle for atmosphere. Today, you can find numerous techniques with varying levels of effectiveness.
Just as there are many ways to exercise and get your body in shape, there are also many ways to meditate and find greater well being for your mind, body, and heart. You just have to find a meditation technique that works for you.
To get the benefits you want, it needs to:
- Fit into your lifestyle
- Be enjoyable
- Motivate you to use it often
- Produce results
If you don’t notice a difference in how you feel after a week, it’s time to try a new technique.
The Right Posture For Meditation
Meditation does not only happen in that stereotypical form of someone sitting in a yogic pose, on a hill with the sun going down. Don’t worry! You don’t have to sit on the floor or cross your legs – it’s not required.
Some meditation techniques can actually be practiced while walking, and with your eyes open. Others can be practiced just by plugging in headphones while you are at work, and taking a quick break.
The SOS Method is one that only requires 5 minutes out of your busy schedule, and only once a day. Many people report a sense of peace and deep relaxation that helps them let go of charged emotions. It’s also useful for gaining a new perspective on how to manage all forms of crisis.
So, during American Heart Month, my wish for you is to become one of those million hearts and not a statistic. Don’t get stuck on what happened in the past. Once you find the sweet spot meditation offers, you’ll be glad you tried something new.
Your healthier, happier heart will thank you every day.