Meditation vs. Medication for anxiety relief
Meditation vs. Medication
Meditation vs. medication? Millions of Americans face that question every day. 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug – most are antidepressants, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association JAMA Internal Medicine.
I am not a doctor or medical professional, so I offer no advice on medications, but I do want to share just a few of the benefits of meditation:
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Slows the aging process
- Supports cardiovascular system
- Supports immune system
- Reduces blood pressure
- Increased focus and attention
I personally have found meditation to be a profound spiritual practice, helping me to slow down the hectic pace of modern daily life.
More and more medical doctors are coming out in favor of meditation vs. medication. In her book “A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression”, Kelly Brogan MD says “Antidepressants not only over promise and under deliver, but their use may permanently disable the body’s self-healing potential. We need a new paradigm: the best way to heal the mind is to heal the whole body.”
Christiane Northrup, MD also recommends meditation in her book, “Making Life Easy: A Simple Guide to a Divinely Inspired Life”, as does Lissa Rankin, MD in her book “Mind Over Medicine”: “…when we’re stressed out, we crave relaxation. But too often, we go about it the wrong way, seeking out unhealthy forms of stress relief like alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, which only exacerbates the problem. There are however, healthy ways to elicit the relaxation response – such as meditation – that are the best medicine we can take for treatment of life’s stresses”.
These three enlightened doctors have come out with this information on meditation vs. medication recently, but this is not new information! Herbert Benson, MD (Harvard Medical School) published his book “The Relaxation Response” in 1972! Since then, there have been thousands of scientific studies on meditation-It has been around for centuries.
When I was first introduced to meditation, I was told to meditate for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. That was NOT going to happen! Years later, I came back to restart my practice when I realized there is not only ONE WAY to meditate!
A very common misconception about meditation is you have to empty your mind. I don’t know about you, but you tell me “empty your mind” and my monkey mind is going to start chattering up a storm! However you choose to meditate, your mind is naturally going to wander. When it does, without judging it as bad, simply notice it and bring your awareness back.
When beginning a mediation practice, start small! Just like if you were going to run a marathon, you would start slowly and then build up, you can always start your meditation practice at just 5 minutes or even 2 minutes! The important part is to start where you are and then build up to a longer practice.
There are some great apps that can help you get started. Some of my favorite are Insight Timer (free), Calm and Headspace, or you can simply try one of these simple ways to meditate:
4 easy ways to practice meditation:
- Mantra meditation – simply close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath, without judging it or feeling like you have to change it in any way. Pick a mantra, it really can be anything! On the inhale, think “I’m breathing in”, on the exhale, think “I’m breathing out.” One my clients love is “Breathe in Love, exhale anxiety. Breathe in Peace, exhale stress.” You can do this for as long or as short as you want.
- Walking meditation – this one is another incredibly simple practice! Just walk, but walk mindfully – really noticing each footfall, perhaps slowing down the pace of your walk. You can add a mantra to the walking meditation, timing a mantra to each step. On my morning walks with my sweet Maggie, I will often times do a walking meditation “Thank, you, Thank, you, Thank, you…” Not only am I getting the benefits of a mindful practice, but I’m also raising my feel good vibes with gratitude!
- Loving Kindness meditation. I learned this one from meditation master Sharon Salzberg. It is such a beautiful practice! You begin sending loving kindness to yourself, then move on to a loved one, then to someone neutral, someone who you have a hard time with and finally out to the world and all beings.
“May I be happy,
May I be healthy
May I be safe
May I live with ease”
- 1 – 8 breath meditation. Don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity of this meditation! You can have your eyes open or closed or to a soft gaze – whatever feels more comfortable to you. You are going to count your inhales and exhales from 1 up to 8, back down to 1, back up to 8 and so on. I guaranteed you that at some point, you are going to find yourself at number 12 or 23 or …. When that happens, don’t judge yourself, simply start again!
Just like any muscle needs to be built up over time, with practice you will get more and more out of your meditation practice. I’d love to hear how these help you. Please comment below!
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