sleep

Meditation's Healing Powers

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For the past 6 months, I have meditated over 32 HOURS! My meditation journey was a slow one. I loved the brief 5 minutes of meditation I got from every yoga class during the savasana (last resting pose) and I wanted to explore more, but I always came up with excuses such as “I don’t have time”, “I can’t sit still for that long” and a variety of others, but my body was aching for peace and for stillness, among the chaos that I was part of. Yet, I ignored it and went on with my life, until life got so chaotic and so crazy, I was starting to get panic attacks and gasping for air. By then, my body was SCREAMING for attention, it was yelling for me to listen, to tune into what was happening INSIDE. So, I made time, I downloaded an app and committed to the 30 day meditation challenge.

It was very difficult for me to sit still, my back ached, so I decided to do my meditation in the savasana which is how I enjoyed it to begin with. I started to look forward to it every day, my body started to CRAVE it! I love the convenience of the meditation app, because I can meditate ANYWHERE; at home, in the car, on my hammock, in the park while lying on the grass and basking in the sun with my headphones on.

Looking back now, I can’t even believe that such little effort each day of 10-15 minutes I dedicated, has had such an impact on pretty much every aspect of my life: my relationships, my health and my spiritual journey began with this practice.

Here are some amazing benefits I started reaping from my daily meditation practice:

  • I sleep like a baby (or like a koala). It may not necessarily be longer, but it is better quality sleep. I fall asleep quicker and stay asleep through the night without tossing and turning like before. Most people toss and turn because they start to analyze their day, plan for the next day ahead, reflecting on thoughts and emotions. That all makes it very difficult to fall asleep. Meditation offers you that time to be able to sort through your mind so you are not battling with it while trying to sleep.
  • I have more patience. With two rumbustious toddlers in the house, there is always whining, fighting and writing on the wall. It is sometimes difficult to keep my calm, but I have noticed my patience increased as I dug deeper through my meditation. I’m by no means 100% Zen at ALL times, but I’m definitely more aware of my surroundings and when I’m about to lose it, I know just the actions I need to take to bring me back to Zen.
  • I appreciate every moment. We have started a gratitude jar where we (and by we, I mean me, myself & I. My husband has written in it ONCE!) write all the things we are grateful for in our lives; as little as I love my fence and as big as I love my husband for being so open and understanding in difficult situations. Meditation helps to expand the window of perception, allowing you to see the value in every experience and every relationship.
  • You don’t need external validation because you love yourself for who you are, just the way that you are. I used to need my parents approval of my choices, then my husband’s, then my in-laws. I felt like it was a never-ending game of “Please Love Me” and “Please Accept Me”. Meditation has allowed me to tap into the source of fulfillment, a satisfaction I have never experienced in my life before.
  • I have less "FOMO" (fear of missing out). I used to be guilty of this ALL THE TIME. I wanted to be everywhere at once. I was always rushing from one thing to another, trying to experience as much as possible. And as much as I love the “hungry” part of me, I was getting run-down. Meditation helped me to SLOW waaaaay down and really enjoy the journey to the destination.
  • I have less fear. I used to be afraid of taking chances; big changes scared me due to an unforeseen outcome. Even though I was lucky enough to have friends who have pushed me to take leaps, internally I was a chicken. After meditating, I have finally started to listen to what makes me happy. I have gotten my Reiki certification, so I can bring more healing into this world and I have finally signed up for my yoga teacher training. I still have fears about the unknown: I don’t know if these endeavors will bring success, I don’t know if I will be a great teacher but what I know is I followed by heart on these choices and that sure will bring an abundance into my life.
  • My desire to drink alcohol has diminished significantly. In fact it is pretty much gone. My friends would often hear me say “I need a drink” after a long day. Many people consume alcohol as a way of alleviating stress, but meditation helps you release your stress and boost immunity, so the need for alcohol begins to decline.
  • My communication with others has improved. By mastering my emotions, I’m now able to clearly explain my point of view and be emphatic towards others. I’m able to actually LISTEN to others and respond in a calm manner.
  • I practice guilt-free-self-care more frequently. Let’s be honest, as mothers, in the midst of kids and chores and errands, if you are not taking time for yourself, you will get burnt out. Meditation has allowed me to tap into my needs and being able to act upon them without feeling guilty about it. If my body is aching for an Epsom salt bath tonight while husband puts the kids to bed, then I make it happen.
  • It has helped me be less judgmental. This may apply to any culture, but I feel like the Russian culture is very judgmental and critical, especially the older (babushkas) generation. This form of “communication” and “bonding” has been engraved into me since childhood and I can feel how meditation is starting to break down those patterns. I find myself more understanding towards people’s differences and their circumstances. I complain less about why people do the things that they do. I accept them for who they are.
  • I watch less TV. The mindless shows I used to look forward to watching are now replaced with activities such as reading, exercising, gardening, writing, working on my hand stands etc. I use that time that used to be wasted on TV to engage in activities that feed my soul.
  • I savor my food. This may be obvious to some, but I used to chow down food so fast to hurry to something more “productive”. I’ve often engaged in thoughts such as “what if we didn’t NEED to eat, how much time we would have for ... more busy-ness”. Only after practicing the art of being mindful did I start to really ENJOY my food, to really taste it! Not to mention all the digestive benefits of chewing your food slowly and thoroughly, I was starting to see food in a different light resulting in more mindful, healthier and more fun grocery shopping trips. Now my thoughts gravitate towards statements such as “I can’t wait to cook and taste this!”

Wonderful things start to happen when you tap into that amazing mind of yours and really observe your thoughts, reflect on emotions and connect to the deeper parts of soul that are screaming to be heard.

Sexy Time

Sex is everywhere in the media but in some cases it’s still looked at with a bit of embarrassment. Not many of us realize how our sexuality adds to our life and enhances our life and our health. According to experts, sex promotes both our physical and psychological health.

Good sex in a healthy, stable, monogamous relationship can only better our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being. Here are just a few reasons (out of 237 reasons collected by University of Texas researchers and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior) to hit the sheets tonight. Each one of these benefits is backed by scientific scrutiny.

  • Stress relief – Sex increases levels of oxytocin and stimulates the feelings of warmth and relaxation. What better way to unwind from a tough day than sharing its most climactic moment with your special someone? According to Stuart Brody, professor of psychology at the University of the West of Scotland. Brody's team monitored 24 women and 22 men who were exposed to stressful situations, such as speaking in public and doing verbal arithmetic, and kept records of their sexual activity. Those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors or abstained. Yet other research found a link between partner hugs and lower blood pressure in women.
  • Weight loss – Forget torturing yourself with the latest fad diet or hours on the elliptical machine when you can burn about 85 calories in 30 minutes of sex! Lovemaking lends itself to improved strength, flexibility, muscle tone, and cardiovascular conditioning. Plus, there’s something super sexy about getting to sleep with your very own “personal trainer.” “Sex is a great mode of exercise.” says Patti Britton, PhD, a Los Angeles sexologist and president of the American Association of Sexuality Educators and Therapists.
  • Pain management – Forgo popping a pain killer and opt for something a bit more “au naturel.” Sex has been shown to offer migraine and menstrual cramp relief, as well as alleviate chronic back pain thanks to the endorphins and corticosteroids released during sexual arousal and orgasm.
  • Immune booster – Having sex several times a week has been linked with raising levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA), which helps ward off colds, according to researchers at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 
  • Better heart health. A little bit of heart and soul in the sack should be part of every doctor’s orders when it comes to cardiovascular care. English researchers found fear of a stroke during sex is groundless. They followed 900 men for 20 years and found no connection. On the other hand, they found that the men who had sex at least twice a week reduced their risk of a heart attack by half compared to men who had it less than once a month. Sex may help lower cholesterol and the risk of a heart attack!
  • Increased self-esteem and intimacy. When sex is consistent and involves mutual pleasure, it can increase bonding since the surge in oxytocin at orgasm stimulates feelings of affection, intimacy, and closeness. When spiritual in nature, sex can lead to an even better quality of life and stronger relationship. Is it any wonder that good sexual energy in a positive relationship can make you feel better about yourself, your partner, and life in general? "Oxytocin allows us to feel the urge to nurture and to bond," Britton says.
  • Better sleep – Oxytocin is at the forefront again — it helps both men and women sleep, which in turn promotes healthy weight and blood pressure. There’s no need to count sheep when sex, including masturbation, helps insomnia. Plus, making love sure beats tossing and turning your way to zzzz’s.
  • A better, younger looking you – Sex keeps you looking and feeling younger and, according to some research, may lead to shiny hair, a glowing complexion and bright eyes. This is because it increases the youth-promoting hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrostone). And feeling more attractive charges your sex life even more. The snowball effect definitely applies here: the more you get, the more you want
  • Mood lifter – Sex releases pleasure-inducing endorphins during arousal and climax that can relieve depression and anxiety, and increase vibrancy.
  • Longevity – There is a significant relationship between frequency of orgasm and risk of death, especially with men. Men who orgasm two times a week have a 50 percent lower chance of mortality than those who climax one time per month.
  • Decreased risk of breast cancer – One study of women who had never given birth found that an increased frequency of sexual intercourse was correlated with a decrease in the incidence of breast cancer.
  • Reproductive health benefits – According to at least one study, sex appears to decrease a man’s risk of prostate cancer, and the prevention of endometriosis in women. It also promotes fertility in women by regulating menstrual patterns.

In a nutshell, the health benefits of sex in a good, solid relationship are practically endless. Yet, in planning our New Year’s resolutions, how many of us are declaring, “I think I’ll have more sex with my lover” in fulfilling any 2010 health and self-improvement goals?

While exercise on a regular basis is important to your health, sex can do so much more for you and your relationship. So before signing any dotted line for a new gym membership, consider how time allotted to an athletic club could be far more effective in your boudoir.