The Hidden Link Between Relaxation and Weight Loss Success
There is a powerful tool in the arsenal of weight loss that doesn’t get much press. However, for many people, it is an essential part of healthy living. It’s an act that not only lowers their blood pressures, calms their minds and soothes their spirits, but lowers the numbers on their scales as well. That act is the act of relaxation, and there are many ways in which you can practice it, with meditation being one of the most common. Read on to learn more about meditation and how it can be a powerful aid in healthy living and weight loss success.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is an ancient practice that strives to achieve a certain ideal-the ideal of thoughtless awareness. Yeah, sounds pretty unrealistic, right? It is said that some advanced yogis have been able to achieve such a state, but most practitioners of meditation spend their entire lives striving to get as close to this state as possible. Reaching these higher levels of awareness is said to help us achieve harmony with the world around us, while seeking an inner transformation that enriches our lives as human beings. There have been a multitude of studies in recent years that have actually shown the powerful effect that meditation has on the brain in MRIs. It even loosens the connections of neural pathways in the brain, and yes, this is a good thing!
The Benefits of Meditation
The vast array of benefits derived from meditation have driven its popularity in recent years. There is scientific support that meditation can improve creativity and enhance compassion for other people. In fact, studies have even shown that the amygdala, which processes emotions, has more activity in meditation practitioners when they look at other people. Meditation has also been linked to better memory and the ease of chronic pain. However, the most publicized benefits of meditations deal with its effect on stress.
How Meditation Reduces Stress
Meditation has been clearly shown to reduce anxiety in individuals who suffer from an abnormal amount of anxiety, clinically defined as generalized anxiety disorder. By incorporating a daily meditation practice into your healthy living regimen, you will hone the tools necessary to combat stress and the depression that often results.
According to several studies, individuals who meditated on a regular basis were shown to have larger amounts of gray matter in their hippocampus and in the frontal areas of their brains. This gray matter is linked to more positive feelings, greater emotional stability and the heightened ability to focus.
Individuals who practice mindfulness meditation, in particular, learn to focus and experience their environments much more intensely. They have a greater ability to focus their thoughts and perceptions, which is a powerful tool against anxiety.
How can meditation help me achieve weight loss success?
One of the primary reasons many people are find it difficult to achieve weight loss success and keep the weight off for good is due to two factors: binge eating and emotional eating. The former often happens when a person adheres to a strict diet – a diet that can’t be realistically maintained – and ends up bingeing on whatever food is closest at the end of the day. I suspect that most people can relate to this type of experience. Unfortunately, this often signals the end of a weight loss diet, because the dieter feels that he or she simply lacks the discipline to stay on a diet.
Aside from the obvious solution, a healthy but less restrictive diet – a regular practice of meditation can help dieters learn to control their food cravings. The simple fact of being mindful of what you’re eating, first by determining if you’re actually hungry, and not bored or sad, can prevent you from overeating in the first place. Then, when you actually start to eat, you can apply your mindfulness strategies by paying close attention to the sensations you feel as you’re eating. What does the food look like? How does it feel in your hands? How does it taste? Far too many consume their food before their brain can even get the signal that they’re full, and by then, it’s too late.
Meditation can also help those who struggle with emotional eating, as the very act of mediation helps individuals regulate their emotions. Emotional eating lies behind many people’s struggles with excess weight, so it’s important to teach them how to separate their feelings from the food they eat, and to seek other sources of comfort in their lives. Meditation, relaxation techniques, and the help of a qualified therapist can help dieters break free from the bondage of emotional eating.
Tried-and-true Relaxation Techniques
There are a great many relaxation techniques at your disposal, some of which qualify as true meditation, and others that merely assist you in breathing more effectively and relaxing your muscles. The most basic, most essential component of any relaxation technique is grounded in breathing. Not just any breathing, but deep, solid breathing that comes from your diaphragm and not from higher up in your chest. This type of shallow breathing often exacerbates anxiety rather than calms it.
To begin, simply place your hand on your stomach and take a deep breath in. Hold it for five seconds, and then release. Did you feel your stomach rise? If you didn’t, try breathing again, this time making sure the breath is deep enough to feel your stomach move. This is how you can always tell if you’re breathing correctly. Now, try doing that for 10-15 times in a row. Just take a deep breath in, hold it for five, maybe 10 seconds, and slowly let it out. Keep doing this until you begin to feel waves of relaxation all throughout your body. Don’t fret if you feel your hands and feet begin to feel numb; that just shows that you’re achieving your goal!
As time progresses, you can move on to more sophisticated forms of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation. With mindfulness meditation, you will practice the art of being fully aware of the present in your surroundings, but it’s not a technique that can be easily learned overnight. Right now, focus on the relaxation techniques that achieve quick and easy results.
By practicing the fine art of relaxation you will be able to experience the positive effects of daily exercise and meditation. By devoting just a few minutes day to this practice, you’ll soon have a secret weapon to aid you in or quest to achieve weight loss success and live a healthy lifestyle.