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Calming the April Showers - Give Meditation a Try!

Updated: Apr 2

By Kathy Sherba, Missoula OsteoStrong Session Coach

By now, I’m sure we have all heard that meditation is good for our health. Although it seems rather simple and easy, for some reason sitting with ourselves and our thoughts can bring some serious resistance. For something that sounds so boring, it can feel pretty uncomfortable. Whether it's the societal message that we should always be productive, that resting is lazy, or the feeling that being still is a waste of time, there are no shortage of excuses as to why we resist. But what exactly are the benefits? Recently, I have been trying to infuse my life with more meditation, and thought our OsteoStrong Community could benefit from this too. 

Additionally, research suggests that pairing meditation with the PEMF waves helps quiet the mind and improve focus. By stimulating the body’s cells and encouraging the brain to shift into a more relaxed alpha wave state, PEMF waves can help reduce stress and anxiety, allowing the mind to more fully focus on the present moment. 

Checking in and attuning to our bodies is part of every ancient healing tradition, from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and beyond. Western science has begun to study and understand its importance and effect on both physical and mental health.  Whether we call it meditation, mindfulness, or interoceptive awareness, it is all about slowing down our thoughts, letting them pass without judgment, and tuning into our bodies. These practices are currently being found to help with sleep, anxiety, depression, addiction, chronic pain, and so much more. 

Improving health through habit change: Scientists have found that interoceptive awareness causes a particular area of the brain, called the Insula, to light up.  This small part of the brain helps translate bodily sensations into emotions. These emotions drive many of our behaviors, desires, cravings, and habits. Tapping into this awareness gives us a slight delay between the urge to do something and the action itself. This moment is where the magic happens. Throughout our busy days, we build up stressors and swirling thoughts in the mind. Oftentimes we are living in our heads in a constant state of reactivity, mindlessly reaching for distractions of every kind.  Whether it's tv, cookies, wine, or over-working, we all reach for something. While it’s completely normal to occasionally comfort ourselves with these things, it's when we continually mask our discomfort with these habits that they can become a problem, leading to inflammation, fatigue, illness, and feelings of frustration and guilt.

We often think that the only way to change a habit is through strong willpower. But we have all had situations where our emotions take over and that willpower goes out the window. The great news is that we can break this cycle with meditation. Presence helps steer us towards the conscious choices we actually want to be making for our health and our lives.  This union of the body and the mind breaks the spell of comfort seeking, and allows our stable thoughts and intellect to come through. When we spend a few minutes a day checking in with our body, these unhelpful habits will slowly begin to lose their power. 

Breaking the Chronic Stress Pattern:  Some days our sympathetic nervous system, or fight or flight response, may be active for the majority of the day, as we rush around from one activity or deadline to the next or stew over emotionally difficult matters. This stress response isn’t a bad thing, but if we are in this state continuously, it can inhibit digestion, cause elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, inflammation, tension in the jaw, neck, back, and suppressed immune system.  By focusing on the breath and listening to the body, we can press pause on the body’s stress response, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, or state of  “rest and digest.”  In this state, adrenaline and cortisol levels subside, heart rate slows, and digestion can take place.  Studies also show that this relaxing state can help us fall asleep easier, and achieve deeper sleep.  

The more I learn about meditation and the benefits, it's clear to me that the practice itself is the gateway to all of the other healthy habits I’m trying to implement. 

How do we do it?  The goal of meditation is not to have a completely clear mind. It is to check in with yourself, connect with your body in the present moment, and as thoughts come through your head, just notice them, let them go, and come back to the present moment…OVER AND OVER AGAIN! Every time we do that we are being mindful! If anyone wants to go on this adventure with me, here are a few small ways we can implement meditation into our daily lives.

Sitting/lying meditations: 

Check your pulse: A great beginner meditation practice is simply sitting or lying down and checking your pulse. Place your fingers on our opposite wrist, or hands on your heart and find your pulse/heartbeat.  You aren’t trying to time the beats, you are just noticing them. Feel your heartbeat and the breath in your body rising and falling. Check in with yourself and your breath for a few minutes. This practice helps you get in touch with your body and out of the swirling thoughts in your brain. As thoughts come through, simply notice them, and let them pass. The goal is not to empty your brain, simply to find moments of presence in between the thoughts. 

Controlled breathing:  Counting our breaths can help us come back to our body and the present moment, while giving us something to concentrate on. Start by sitting comfortably or lying down. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds. Once you get the hang of that, you might like to try more breath control. The 4-7-8 breath is a popular tool for relaxation.  Try breathing in slowly through the nose for 4 seconds, holding for 7, and exhaling through the mouth or nose for 8 seconds. Making a soft sighing noise on the exhale can also help.  Start with 4 cycles, and gradually increase as you get more comfortable. 

Mantra/Affirmation/Prayer: Choose a word or phrase to silently repeat to yourself during meditation. Mantra or affirmations are positive words or phrases used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. To practice, find a comfortable seat or lay down, and repeat the phrase in your mind, while taking conscious slow breaths. Some suggested mantras are ‘om’, ‘love’, ‘peace’, or an affirmation such as “I have the power to create change”, “my presence is my power”, or “I create a safe and secure space for myself wherever I am”.

Yoga Nidra or Non-sleep Deep Rest: These are practices that help guide your brain and body into a state of deep relaxation without falling asleep completely. Yoga Nidra is a more specific practice, typically involving a body scan or guided meditation while lying down. There are a number of free recordings online to access these practices. They are great for a late afternoon energy slump, or to help you fall asleep at night. 

BONUS if you do any of these while lying on the PEMF mat at OsteoStrong! Remember how we stated at the beginning of this article, that research suggests that pairing meditation with the PEMF mat can help quiet the mind and improve focus. For more info on the benefits of PEMF see more information on PEMF benefits here.

If being still is too hard for you at first, try infusing mindfulness into your current activities. 

Moving meditation: 

While on a walk, take some time to pay attention to your breath, notice your surroundings, get in touch with your 5 senses. What do you see, hear, smell, etc? Maybe set a timer and do this for 10 minutes each time you walk.

Mindfulness connects us to the signals our bodies are giving us about what they need.  Even 5 minutes a day can feel restful and rejuvenating, and improve our health and overall wellbeing.  As with any new habit, it takes a little momentum to get going. I suggest setting an alarm on your phone to remind you, or get a friend to start the habit too and hold each other accountable. If you decide to try this, tell us about it! Let’s support one another, try new things, and grow together! 


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