Seven Benefits of Meditation

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Meditation is a great way to relax.  Monks, yogis and health professionals have been passing on this piece of advice for centuries.  Relax the mind, relax the muscles, and witness your worries vanish into thin air!

But comprehensive study has also proven that regular meditation is more than just a way to relax.  Apparently, it also helps the body and mind fight against all sorts of ailments, diseases and disorders.  Here’s what the professionals over at Food Matters had to say…

1. Mediation increases immunity

Relaxation appears to boost immunity in recovering cancer patients. A study at the Ohio State University found that progressive muscular relaxation, when practised daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence. In another study at Ohio State, a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in the elderly, giving them a greater resistance to tumours and to viruses.

2. Meditation balances out the emotions

Emotional balance, means to be free of all the neurotic behavior that results from the existence of a tortured and traumatized ego. This is very hard to achieve fully, but meditation certainly is the way to cure such neurosis and unhealthy emotional states. As one’s consciousness is cleansed of emotionally soaked memories, not only does great freedom abound, but also great balance. As one’s responses then are not colored by the burdens one carries, but are instead true, direct and appropriate

3. Meditation increases fertility

A study at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed. A study at Trakya University, in Turkey, also found that stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility.

4. Meditation relieves irritable bowel syndrome

When patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome began practising a relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea and constipation improved significantly. The meditation was so effective the researchers at the State University of New York recommended it as an effective treatment.

5. Meditation lowers blood pressure

A study at Harvard Medical School found that meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones, in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication. Meanwhile a British Medical Journal report found that patients trained how to relax had significantly lower blood pressure.

6. Meditation prevents inflammation

Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, say researchers at Emory University in the US. Relaxation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response. In this way, one study at McGill University in Canada found that meditation clinically improved the symptoms of psoriasis.

7. Meditation helps maintain peace and calm

The simple difference between those who meditate and those who do not, is that for a meditative mind the thought occurs but is witnessed, while for an ordinary mind, the thought occurs and is the boss. So in both minds, an upsetting thought can occur, but for those who meditate it is just another thought, which is seen as such and is allowed to blossom and die, while in the ordinary mind the thought instigates a storm which rages on and on.

Beautiful.  All you need is half an hour a day.  All it takes to see improvement is consistency.  So go on, give it a go.  You might be surprised at just how much of a positive impact it has on your life.

Going for Gold – the battle to come clean.

I’ve been doing alot of research on nutrition lately. Its an integral part of my plan to go clean, and I think its going to help me immensley when it comes to abolishing all things doing my body absolutely no favours. They say moderation is the key, but I’ve been doing moderation for the last ten years, and from my experience, it’s just not cutting it. Moderation should mean once every month, or every blue moon, not having a cheat day once every week. The way I see it, thats keeping the cravings and addictions well and truly alive so you never really have a chance to overcome it. Moderation is half-assing it. And half-assing it is something I’m obviously no good at.

So its either go for gold or don’t go at all. And I think this time around I’m gonna go for gold.

I have read article after article on a range of health and food related topics in order to arm myself with as much knowledge as I can about what it is exactly that I am putting into my body, and if its even beneficial. Then of course there’s that other secret weapon, and the most valuable source of information you can get. It’s free, has always been there and always will be. I’m referring to listening to your body and heeding its advice on what it needs. Notice how I said what it ‘needs’ and not what it ‘wants’? Big difference between the two. Deep down inside, we all instinctively know whether something is good for us or not, yet we still put it into our bodies. It’s the norm. Call it living in denial. Call it brainwashed and confused by society. Call it the ‘lifes too short, so eat, drink and be merry’ gene. Call it whatever you want. End of the day, when you find yourself looking in the mirror, your only seeing the choices you make on a day to day basis reflecting back at you.

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Anyway, back to the topic. Sometimes, shuffling through all the information online can be daunting. At times, I wonder if the articles are even legit. But the answers to MY specific questions – they are rarely debated with or contested, and it seems to me that nutritionists, doctors, health experts and so forth have all called some kind of a truce when it comes to the simple facts about weight loss. They may edit and revise and word their articles in seemingly different ways, but the facts still stand. And before I hit on those blunt truths, let me ask you this – are you familiar with any of the following?

1 – you have attempted to give up bread, but find you can’t, you’ve convinced yourself its really not that bad for you

2 – you’ve spent a whole week eating clean, exercising regularly, then you splurge on the weekend with vodka/sprite/bourbon/cola/gin/juice (take your pick) – a treat for being ‘good’

3 – You followed your night out on the tiles with a massive day-after-hangover feed of BBQ salads, bread, sausages etc. You call this your cheat day and you have one once a week. On this day, you are free to eat anything you want to.

4 – you do the above every single week/end. Its the norm.

There is more I want to add, but I’ll refrain myself lest this turns into a novel. I’m positive that there are a number of people out there that can relate to the above, and I’d bet on my life that that number is sky high. That was me a mere two months ago, too. Even though I’m now more about the ‘mind, body and soul’ buzz rather than just the lose weight buzz, this information needs to be known. Its free. Its simple. And its common sense. To lose weight, the reality of what really needs to be done has to SINK RIGHT IN.

Here are the blunt truths. Ready to hear it?

1 – Unless your a high powered athlete, an All Black, or the owner of a super-duper fast metabolism, you CANNOT lose weight if you eat bread daily. Two slices alone contain 700 calories, and thats without the butter. A sandwich helps you pile on the weight more than a candy bar. Carbs are your number one enemy, not sugar. Interesting huh?

2 – You CANNOT lose weight if you are ‘splurging’ on alcohol every weekend as a ‘treat.’ Alcohol, pre-mixed and even beer, is jam-packed with sugar and additives and can undo a whole weeks worth of clean eating in a single night. Best bet is to go with top shelf on the rocks. Not everyones cuppa tea though.

3 – You CANNOT lose weight if you have a day a week as a ‘cheat day’ and it consists of eating anything you want in an entire day. Again, it will undo a whole weeks worth of clean eating and see you back at square one in no time.

4 – You CANNOT lose weight, become fitter, become healthier, perform at your best, live life to the fullest etc etc until you change your approach. And the best approach to go with is the following – THAT IT IS A LIFESTYLE….not a diet. Diets are temporary fixes. And rarely work in the long run

Not exactly groundbreaking information I know. Google it online and its all up in your face in a second. You probably knew all this anyway, but make no mistake – it is really just that simple and just that complicated. I think I recall hearing and reading all this banter throughout my whole life. I saw it on the TV growing up, read it in the Woman’s Day, witnessed it in real life when a number of my aunties went this route at some stage of their lives. Basically, it all starts with nutrition. Good, clean, simple nutrition. And it all starts with making the choice of accepting the lifestyle rather than accepting the quick fix.

Thats all it comes down to, I think. Choice. So if you think lifes to short to be worried about what you eat, then hell, eat to your hearts content then. Boil-ups, takeaways Mcds, KFC, bread, sausages, lollies, fizzies – go for the lot, and when your finished, wash it down with that six pack of bourbon and coke. Drink fizzies every day if its your ‘thing.’ Pour sugar all over your cereal. Load your coffee with sugar. And while your at it, sit on your ass all day long. If it makes you happy, do it. YOLO. So live it your way.

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Personally, my choice is the latter. I’m picking the lifestyle over the quick fix, the clean over the filthy, because life is indeed too short – to take your health for granted. I’m not getting any younger. And neither are you. So remember this if you dont remember anything else that I’ve written here – you only have one body, and sooner or later its going to pay you back exactly what you’ve given it, and twice over. So make the choice today. Be good to it.

Depression and Me – a jumbled rant I’m pretty sure doesn’t make sense…but oh well…

I love rainy days, now and then.  They totally agree with me, especially during the times when all I want to do is chill right out and not have to worry about catching a bus into town to sort out the seemingly never-ending tasks that need sorting out.  There’s no pressure to deal with copious amounts of washing, and when you look out the window and see its raining for the hundredth day in a row, you don’t feel so guilty that your lawns are starting to resemble a jungle fit for monkeys.  You let your baby take charge of the DVD, the house, and let her run rampant while you crank up the heater and snuggle under the blanket with a book and a plate of oreo’s.  Its beautiful.  Marvellous.  I love rainy days.  Now and then.

NOW AND THEN being the operative word.  Because, come on.  Even you gotta admit that being stuck indoors, day in and day out, and day in and day out, and day fucking in and out, is enough to drive you craaaaazy. (Which I already am, but that is well and truly BESIDES the point.)

Yesterday was the third rainy day in a row.  I woke as usual to baby slapping my head and yelling at me to get up.  After peeking out the curtain – and then holding back the urge to shout ‘FUCK’ – I force myself to the kitchen, have a coffee, give Her Majesty weetbix for breakfast, then dump her in front of the TV.  I then proceed to perform all housewife and motherly duties with about the same enthusiasm as a zombie.  I mope.  I drag my feet as I vacuum the house.  I don’t even bother yelling at baby when I snap her pulling the AV cords out of the TV, then inserting them back in the wrong holes.  I just stare at her and sigh. I feel bored out of my brain cells.  The mundaness of everyday life and having no job – as well as being stuck within the confines of four brick walls thanks to shitty weather – AS WELL as having no human interaction with anybody else besides my baby and two men who are too tired to entertain me when they get home from work – all of it is well and truly getting to me.

And then my cousin showed up, with the niece in tow.  I pounced upon them as if it had been a year since I had last seen a human.  When I saw them walking through the front door, I was all “Hiiiiiiiiiiiii,” and sounded as high pitched and as squeaky as a mouse.  Probably desperate too. I was so happy to see them.  Beyond happy.  I couldn’t have been happier if it was Beyonce that walked in.  But then, on second thoughts…that is actually a very outrageous lie. Haha.

So I spent a good hour yarning to my cuz over coffee and hundreds of smokes, and I am aware I am talking way too much and way too fast.  It strikes me that we are yarning about some very sensitive topics – but it also strikes me that I don’t care.  I was just glad to be talking to somebody.  I was glad that she had come over.  Glad to feel not so isolated from the world. My cousin, she is easy to talk to.  A beautiful person, inside and out.  She’s one of those girls you’d want as your best friends and if I wasn’t so into myself and up my own arse, she would probably be one of my best friends by now.

Anyway, when they left, I felt pretty good.  For about a good hour or so.  I was washing dishes and staring out at nothing but grey when I felt the blues coming on.  And I’m not talking about the rainy day blues either, but the other blues, the kind that use to chew me up and swallow me whole. Maybe it was my cousins visit that emphasised just how lonely I really was.  Maybe it was the fact that my baby was hanging off the edge of the couch, chocolate smeared all over her face and clothes.  Maybe it was the silence that engulfed me as I washed the dishes.  Either way, I didn’t see it coming.  I never do.  It creeps up on me silently, like a stealth cat, then pounces and grips my throat, squeezing tighter and tighter, until I can’t breathe.

This is…a thing that I go through now and then, especially on days I don’t feel so good. I don’t think its depression anymore.  More like low-level anxiety and a kind of ominous sadness.  Back in the day, I believe it was fully blown depression, and I was pretty good for letting it get the best of me.  Swimming around in a pool of self-pity and walking around with all these fucked up thoughts in my head, convinced that there was no-one on this earth that loved me, that was the norm for me.  I could spend days on end locked up in the room, crying, writing, hyperventilating, yearning for mum, hating the world, feeling sorry for myself and just basically wondering if I’d be better off dead.

But that was THEN.  Things are very different now. Sometimes, I still get accused of looking back too much.  One of my sisters, who shall remain nameless unless she decides to out herself, is constantly telling me to get over the past.  What she doesn’t know is that I was over it a long time ago.  ‘The past’ and ‘depression’ are two very different things.  And if you have never been through depression, then you can never understand what it is like.  It pisses me off when people say things like “you think too much” or “you dwell on the past too much” or “just get over it, Freda, its all in your head.”  I don’t dwell on the past, but I don’t deny it either.  To deny it will be to deny a big part of who I am, and that’s crazy.  Whats even more crazy is YOU telling people like ME that I need to get over myself, and that’s just not fair.  People with depression don’t need to hear that shit, man.  They already know what they need to do, and when some asshole is always on your case, trying to ‘snap you out of it’ that just makes things worse

I’m not perfect, and neither are you.  I don’t berate you for your shortcomings, so there’s no need for you to berate me for mine.

Arrrgh.  Time to STOP I think.  So anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, things are very different now.  Very different.  I’m a bit more settled, and a hundred times more happier, and I have a family that needs me. But I’m aware that I have to be very careful of myself these days because my brain, its kind of set in its ways now.  So when I felt those ‘blues’ coming on this morning, I dealt with it on the spot.  To drive away the silence that can sometimes be as deafening as a trumpet in my ear, I went around turning all the TV’S on, plugged in my laptop and played my music on full blast.  So if you have ever come over to my house, and wondered why all the electronics are blaring – well now you know why.  Silence is golden, or say they say.  But to me, silence is an opportunity for those ‘blues’ to grow into a big fat avalanche.  Silence is a trap.  And one that I have no intention of falling into ever again.

Ever.

My writing, that helps too.  Aside from writing all sorts of ramblings on this blog, I am also writing a book, so that keeps my mind occupied.  But more than anything, its my baby that keeps me on the straight and narrow. Me and her, we did some Pilates together not long after my cousin left, and I had to chuckle to myself as I watched her struggle to perform the moves, seeking out my approval now and then with her big brown eyes.  After that, I chucked on her High Five, and sang and danced with her to the song Robot Number one, and we frolicked on the floor and I let her jump all over me, all twenty plus kg’s of her, and in no time at all I was laughing and happy again and the sadness that had engulfed me a couple of hours before just slipped away. And, you know, even though it was still ugly and grey outside, suddenly it wasn’t such a big deal anymore.  Because once you can find that light inside yourself – it doesn’t matter how dark it is on the outside.

And YOU can find it too.  YES YOU, reading this post.  If you have read up to HERE, then I’m either a fucking great writer, or you are possibly going through the same thing.  Either way, I’m going to end this post by leaving you with this – that you can overcome it, just like I continue to overcome it everyday.  That you can find answers too.  Not in the world.  Not in some six hundred page book written by some lady with a PhD.  Not even your shrink can give you what you’re looking for.  It’s all within yourself.  Thats where it all begins.  Have a look there.  You might be surprised what you find.