I confess that it took me a while to see the value of meditation. When it was first touted as a stress reducer, there weren’t a whole lot of studies to back it up. But now, the more I read about it, the bigger fan I’m becoming—especially since so many anxious clients ask me, “Can we really change our thinking? Is it truly possible to change our brains?” Science tells us that the answers to these questions are yes and yes.
According to “Meditate on this: a mindfulness practice promotes better health” (Healthy Years, vol. HY16H p. 5), a practice of meditation has health benefits beyond simply reducing anxiety and stress, not that that’s any small feat, particularly for emotional and stress eaters. The article states that “Science is still not clear how meditation influences the brain,” but that it helps in “decision-making, planning, abstract thinking, and regulating emotions.”
“A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that participants who meditated for eight weeks…improved symptoms of anxiety, depression and physical pain.” Another study found that “a 15-minute meditation can encourage people to make more rational decisions by considering information available in the present.” It also made them “more likely to discontinue what researchers called ‘sunk-cost bias,’ in which they had trouble letting go of poor decisions, like finishing a restaurant meal after they were full because otherwise they felt they had wasted food and money.”
Do you need to go on a meditation retreat and do it for hours a day to learn the basics or for the practice to work? Most cities have classes you can take, many of which are at yoga studios. If you prefer to do a get-away, those are available too. Or you can learn online. “The UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center offers sample podcast guided meditations and online classes at marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22. The article maintains that “You can reap benefits by meditating for 15-30 minutes. However, consistency is the key.” You can’t simply do it occasionally and expect it to work. That’s why they call it a practice.
Take a minute and consider how meditation might help your mental and physical health. Notice your feelings about even thinking about learning meditation. What are your first thoughts about it? What feelings come up when you lean toward believing it might be helpful in managing your eating and your life? Is your self-talk telling you to go for it or to forget about it? What first step could you take right now to learn more about meditation? Is there anyone you could ask to try it with you? What do you have to lose?