Outside of being used in eastern medicine and being publicized by various zen masters, meditation is a great tool that we can and should use in our busy lives. Whether its fitting in meditation later during the day to help with calming down for sleep, starting your day off with some mental clarity, meditation is habit that we must consider utilizing if we truly want to be at our best.
What Is Meditation
Meditation is simply, “Sitting there peacefully, breathing fully, and living in the present.”
If you’ve read anything here on Tranquilized Mind, you know that bringing more presence into your life is half of the game (if not more) to living a healthy, low-stress lifestyle.
Learning about certain vessels that you can use to bring more presence into your life are your streams to bringing in this much needed presence.
Before I go any further, let me give you the facts. This study (study 1) found that simple relaxation and mindfulness exercises reduced cortisol (primary stress hormone) and improved testosterone ten-fold. Another well-trusted study (study 2) showed that athletes engaging in active relaxation such as meditation saw a drastic decrease in their cortisol levels. And lastly, this study (study 3) showed that a group of healthy adults engaged in Active Progression Relaxation Therapy (APRT) saw an immense drop in their salivary cortisol levels – where those levels halved in just 15 minutes after starting meditative practice.
“So this meditation thing seems pretty legit, how can I start doing it?”
As stated before, there’s nothing complex about it. Check out this article to learn more about meditation.
For now, simply abide by the short statement as a guideline.”Sitting there peacefully, breathing fully, and living in the present.”
Focus on your breath for a few counts and then remain completely aware of your senses.
What do you smell…?
What do you feel…Do you feel your abdomen contracting as you exhale?
What do you hear…Do you hear the bird chirping outside your window?
No need to get mad if your attention drifts off – meditation is about fully embracing the present moment and part of that means not getting upset if you lose focus through your senses. Truly become aware of what’s around you right now.
When To Meditate
Meditation can be used at any time.
As simple as that sounds, it can be used when you wakeup, during your lunch break at work, when you go to bed, or even after a workout to boost recovery.
At any time, it can be used.
With that, there are a few times that I find most effective.
As you know, cortisol (the primary stress hormone) is what can keep us awake, alert, and energetic. If its not toned down later into the day however, it can make it darn hard to get to sleep at night.
As seen from the studies, meditation is a sure-fire way to lower your cortisol levels. In fact, its usually apart of my bedtime routine. About 30 minutes before bed after some foam rolling and before some good reading, I’ll engage in a short meditation session. It needn’t be long, just enough to really become aware of my breath and hold that for a few minutes. I’ll go into it with a racing mind, I’ll leave in a tranquil state, with a tranquilized mind ;).
This helps immeasurably with sleep. The reason why you wake up during the night is because your body is having an acute stress response, meaning your circulating cortisol levels were higher than they should have been during the night. Doing something to calm that down before bed can work gangbusters for staying asleep.
After A Workout
I am a big proponent of hitting the gym hard and heavy. On the same note, I am not a big fan of hitting the gym hard and heavy everyday though, as it can push stress levels over the top.
With that said, exercise does induce a rise in cortisol (something you have to understand) so it is important to do something to take it down a notch after especially if you workout later into the day.
Now if you’re an avid gym rat and love exercising, you may think “meditation don’t do squat for recovery… that’s what protein shakes are for!”
Well, let’s get a few things right. From a hormonal standpoint, every action you have will either have an anabolic affect or a catabolic affect. During exercise, your body powers through sets and reps with cortisol – this is what allows you to smash heavy sets in the gym. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone. This puts you in a stressed-out state.
Do you really want to be in a stressed out state when you’re trying to build muscle and recover from your workouts? I think not.
Meditation after a workout is a handy tool to use to your advantage. It will calm your body down and allow it to enter more of an anabolic state (pro-hormones testosterone production).
If you work out later into the day, something like meditation after an intense gym session will allow you to mentally and physically calm down. It will, no question about it.
Meditation after work can be very beneficial.
Worked on an demanding group project during the day? Meditate. Had an intense talk with your boss? Meditate.
Learning to not bring work home with you is a habit you ought to pick up. Your family doesn’t want to here about it. Of course, they’ll ask how your day was- and you should answer- but do you really want to let what happened at work interfere with some much needed relaxation at home with your family?
Being able to turn that switch off will make a night-and-day difference for how you feel. Meditation is an exceptional de-stressor after a long day at work.
As you can see just 10 minutes out of your day can make a noticeable difference in your stress levels; and in turn, your life. If your anxious before bed, take a few moments (as short as 5 minutes – really, nothing to complex) to sit down in a calm environment and become aware of your breath. Learning to do this is powerful and will allow you to build up your level of presence.
Use this as a tool to your advantage in bringing more presence into your life. Over time, utilizing these small pockets of presence will build up your level of consciousness (something that Eckart Tolle talks about which you can learn more about here). Eventually you’ll be practicing presence daily by listening to some of Tolle’s works and bringing more presence in. With that, meditation is another pocket to bring more presence into your life.
One Last Thing
Thank you all for reading this, I truly hope you found it of good information. If you found this article useful and enjoyed it – please share it!
Until next time,