The Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu, visualized herself playing tennis, using  meditation to  create a positive mindset. After defeating Serena Williams in the US open she said, “I think your Biggest weapon is to be as prepared as you can. I really think that working your mind is important because at this level, everyone knows how to play tennis”.

Regardless of whether you are an athlete preparing for your sport, a job interview, reducing stress, or helping with pain management, having a positive mindset produces positive effects on our brains.

My journey with meditation

I was guided to meditation after the passing of my lovely mother. I was very close to her and was not coping very well with the emotional grief and it was affecting different aspects of my life. I tried the traditional methods: grief counselling or seeing a psychologist although I always left the session feeling worse (raw) after therapy that I did not want to go back. A client suggested Reiki therapy. I was curious as I had heard of it’s many benefits, so I made an appointment with Dr. Adonis Makris, a functional  medicine chiropractor. My session was unlike anything I had ever had before.  I’m not sure exactly how to explain the experience however it helped and I felt better, lighter, I was hooked! It helped me to feel calmer and clearer in my thoughts, enough that I was able to start to incorporate mediation into my daily practice.

Once I became consistent with my meditation and practiced for longer periods of time, I started to become mindful of my daily thoughts, emotions and how I was responding to the interactions in my life. I became less stressed, calmer and was no longer only reacting with my emotions.  I started to recommend it to my client’s and found that it helped them with their recovery from pain and their daily life stresses.

Why Meditate?

Meditation is a skill that can be learned and practiced.  It is one of many tools used to induce calmness, slow brainwave patterns and increase grey matter.  Numerous research papers show that slowing the frequency of brainwaves causes reduction of cortisol. (10)

Benefits of meditation:

There are so many benefits that occur with daily practice of meditation.  Here are just a few:

  • reduces age-related brain degeneration and improving cognitive functions (1).
  • improves focus, spatial tasks, new learning (2)
  • improves sleep (3),(11)
  • helps with anxiety/depression (4, 6)
  • promotes awareness of self and surroundings (6)
  • improves cardiovascular health (3,5)
  • promotes emotional health (3,4)

How Much Do I Need To Meditate?

From personal experience, it takes time and practice.  As with most new skills, the more you practice meditating or being mindful of your thoughts, the easier and better it becomes.  Your goal should be to work up to a 1/2 hour per day.  When I began to meditate, I started with five minutes and increased the time as I developed the skill. I noticed more changes began to occur when I was meditating for longer periods of time. I was focused on consistency at the beginning to develop a positive daily pattern.

Why Does Meditation Works?

Studies show positive effects of meditation on our physical and emotional health. At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviors is the communicating system of our neurons within our brain. Brainwaves are produced by synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other.

Neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenza, stated, “we on average have over sixty thousand thoughts per day. If our thoughts are stressful then our body releases stress hormones that change our biological system and the gene expression therefore leading to disease and illness”. (8)

New research shows that meditation literally rebuilds grey matter with a half hour of daily meditation, practiced for two months. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes in grey matter over time.

The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts conducted an eight week Mindfulness-based stress reduction program in which participants practiced mindfulness for an average of 27 minutes a day.  This study also showed increased grey matter density.  It affected the hippocampus, the area of the brain known for learning, memory, structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. It also showed that stress decreases the density in grey matter in the amygdala, the area known to play a significant role in anxiety and stress. (10)

What Brainwaves Mean to You

Meditation influences brainwaves. Our brain wave profile and our daily experiences of the world are inseparable. Studies show that when our brainwaves are out of balance, there will be corresponding problems in our emotional or physical health. (3,4).

Our brainwave balance is key because the brain mediates our perception of the world – every emotion, thought, every sensation you have corresponds to activity in your brain. The brain drives our:

  • ability to pay attention
  • emotional balance
  • central nervous system tone
  • autoimmune functions
  • and so much more!

The brainwaves are classified from fast to slow (gamma, beta, alpha, theta and delta). Each type of brainwave corresponds with a certain frequency which stimulates different parts of the brain. These brainwaves reflect different functions when they occur in numerous locations in the brain.  The most beneficial health changes are when the brainwaves are consistently in a theta frequency. (9)

Theta waves occur most often in sleep and are also very active in deep meditation. Theta is our gateway to improving learning, memory, and intuition. During the presence of increased Theta wave activity, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within.

Having a positive mindset creates greater brain efficacy. (7) If your  brain works better then you will feel better. At the same time, traditional meditation approaches emphasize that there needs to be a clear intention and an elevated emotion to be able to change your energy and to change your life. In short, how you think and how you feel creates your reality.

Finding your own way to Meditate

Mediation is a great tool, that can be done anywhere. There are many different forms of meditation (Buddhist meditation, transcending meditation, mindfulness meditation, tapping, singing bowls, etc.).  I recommend you explore different types until you find the one you connect with.

I found guided meditation helpful for me, being able to focus on the voice with guided instructions. It was very hard for me to sit still with silence or even with music.

What works is individual. For some people, a walk in the forest or nature (forest bathing) is a great way to relax and enjoy the fresh air while calming the mind and exercising the body. Below are some suggested apps and podcast that might help you get started.

Meditation App:        

Insidetimer, Headspace, Calm, Sadhguru, Mooji

Podcast:

A New Earth, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Eckhart Tolle, Sadhguru, Mooji, Allan Watts

Resources at the OTC:

While I am still learning and perfecting my skill with meditation, Reiki is a great therapy to balance the energy, calm the mind and help you get started. Our chiropractor, Adonis Makris is very gifted and I would highly recommend him as a resource. Yoga is very calming and for those of you who like to move, Aniela Amio is a great instructor, as well as being trained in Reiki.  Call us at 416-925-4687 to make an appointment or email physio@orthophysio.com if you have any questions on how we can help you get started.

References:

  1. Meditation and music improve memory and cognitive function ( text)
  2. Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings ( text)
  3. Strengthening sleep-autonomic interactions via acoustic enhancement of slow oscillations. (text)
  4.  Alpha power, alpha asymmetry and anterior cingulate cortex (text)
  5. Guided meditation as an adjunct to enhance postoperative recovery after cardiac surgery: study protocol for a prospective randomized controlled feasibility trial (text)
  6. Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on body awareness in patients with chronic pain and comorbid depression. (text)
  7. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density (text)
  8. Stress Hormone Causes epigenetic changes/national (text)
  9. Positive emotional experience: Induced by vibroacoustic stimulation using a body monochord in patients with psychosomatic disorders associated with an increase in EGG-theta and a decrease in EEG-alpha power (text)
  10. Distinct Trajections of cortisol response to prolonged acute stress are linked to affective responses and hippocampal gray matter volume in healthy females. (text)
  11.  EEG sleep slow-wave activity as a mirror of cortical maturation (text)