Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Meditation For Insomnia

Do you go to bed and find that your overactive mind will not shut down? As a result you toss and turn, are up frequently and do not get a good night’s sleep. You wake up fatigued and wish that you could back to bed.This is the story of a classic insomniac. Could this also be your story? What do you need to do to get a good night’s sleep. I suggest that you try meditation. 

This is a technique that we have been teaching for years with amazing results.Meditation is a way to evoke the relaxation response, a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

Dr. Benson directed a study of 49 middle-aged and older adults who had trouble sleeping. Half completed a mindfulness awareness program that taught them meditation and other exercises designed to help them focus on “moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions.” The other half completed a sleep education class that taught them ways to improve their sleep habits.

Both groups met six times, once a week for two hours. Compared with the people in the sleep education group, those in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression at the end of the six sessions.

The findings came as no surprise to Dr. Benson “Mindfulness meditation is just one of a smorgasbord of techniques that evoke the relaxation response,” says Dr. Benson.

The relaxation response, a term he coined in the 1970s, is a deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response. The relaxation response can help ease many stress-related ailments, including depression, pain, and high blood pressure. For many people, sleep disorders are closely tied to stress, says Dr. Benson.

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. It helps you break the train of your everyday thoughts to evoke the relaxation response, using whatever technique feels right to you.

We have been teaching mindfulness meditation for years and a description of the technique we use is in our book Live Longer Live Healthier.

Monday, August 28, 2017


Meditation is an alien concept to many people.  It may invoke the image of wearing a long white robe while sitting with crossed legs in an oshram while chanting in a foreign tongue. In reality meditation is a simple method of creating the relaxing response by sitting quietly and breathing slowly and deeply. I will discuss the technique in more detail in later blogs.Before I do that I would like to discuss some of the benefits of meditating. 
For example do you suffer from chronic pain? Chronic pain, can go on for months, years, or longer and can become so ingrained within our psyche that we feel it is simply a part of who we are. It can become our identity. A recent Gallup-Healthways survey found that 47% of people experienced some form of chronic pain within the past year. Mediation can be a powerful tool to reverse chronic pain. This is how it works.
1. Meditation “rewires” the brain’s pain circuitry. Neuronal pathways within the brain get programmed every time you expect pain to occur — in time, less and less stimulus is needed to trigger the pain reflex. Eventually, the simple thought of pain becomes the true source, not necessarily the ailment itself. Thinking of pain creates more pain, put simply.
A 2011 study at Wake Forest University (Zeidan & all) had 18 chronic pain participants undergo 4 days of meditation training — before and after training, their brain activity was measured using advanced MRI brain imaging technology. The findings of this study are powerful, the subjects’ “brain pain centers” were 57% less active after meditation. Keep in mind, participants only had 4 days of meditative experience. Can you imagine reducing your chronic pain by half in less than a week? 
2. Meditation unhooks your emotional reaction to pain. Pain clinic doctors know all too well — patients who no longer have the original condition which created their pain, yet they still hurt. Why? Put simply, these patients are stuck in a brutal feedback loop, without even realizing it. Their anticipation of pain creates stress, stress leads to physical tension within the body — especially near the painful area, which ultimately leads to more pain.
When you meditate you learn how to emotionally detach from your negative thoughts and physical sensations, You get to where you no longer expect pain, nor resist it when it occurs. By becoming a passive, impartial observer of your mind, suffering is no longer a function of pain. The simple awareness of sensation, without labeling every little thing you feel as “good” or “bad”, is intoxicating and empowering.. Meditation enables you to become mindfully aware of just how much pain there truly is, and how much you are generating via your though processes. The difference is likely much bigger than you think.
3. Meditation cleanses the pain sufferer’s hormonal environment. Encoded within our DNA, our ancient ancestors handed us down their “fight or flight” response, which for them was very necessary, with all of the predators they had to keep an eye out for on a daily basis. However, in the modern age, being at the top of the food chain, we tend to use this instinct at times when its not needed. When we unnecessarily activate our fight or flight response, it can cause a cataclysm of problems within the body, like the over-release of harmful stress hormones, which ultimately nourish the neuro-chemical environment for pain to flourish.
One chemical of particular importance to pain sufferers, cortisol, can raise your blood pressure, worsen inflammation, elevate heart rate, and contribute immensely to the never-ending pain anticipation feedback loop. An incredibly significant discovery, Dr. Vincent Giampapa, M.D. a well-known longevity researcher, discovered that meditation lowered cortisol levels by about half. By balancing the pain sufferer’s hormonal chemistry, meditation dramatically reduces pain on all fronts. 
4. Meditation releases chemicals far more powerful than the strongest painkillers. Today, the standard pharmaceutical pain treatments have a broad range of potency and effectiveness. However, most all share similar negative side effects, including an escalating dependency, high levels of addiction, numbing of the senses, and masking the symptoms rather than fixing the real problem. Nobody wants to live their life feeling like a mindless zombie.
Luckily, you don’t need to take a pill to create lasting pain relief. It can come from within. Meditation has been proven to healthily and naturally release “feel good” endorphins, which are up to 100 times more powerful than modern medicine’s best painkiller, morphine. Plus, mother nature’s pain reliever has no side effects. No need to fill a pain prescription at the pharmacy, meditation allows you to tap into endorphins’ massive healing power any time you want.