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Preventive Health, Stress

How to De-Stress, Improve Brain Function, Decrease Pain, Boost Mood, and More (In Just 10 Minutes a Day)

It’s true. There’s this little thing you can do to bring all of the above benefits into your life. What is this magic pill, you ask?

Meditation.

Now before you groan/roll your eyes/click back to facebook…just hear me out. I know meditation may seem a bit flaky to you, or maybe too spiritual, or maybe too “soft” a practice to actually bring about real change. But research is piling up about the health benefits of meditating regularly. So much so that it’s really worth paying a little attention here.

I recently went wading through the literature. Studies have shown meditation to:

  • counter the impact of stress
  • significantly reduce depression relapse
  • slow immune system decline in HIV patients
  • reduce pain sensitivity
  • help reduce drug addiction, smoking, binge eating, and anger
  • improve insomnia
  • reduce anxiety and panic attacks
  • increase empathy
  • improve the ability to work under pressure
  • improve mental sharpness and information processing

And these are just the highlights! Needless to say, I frequently recommend meditation to my patients.

So you might well ask: do I meditate? And my answer? Um…(blush) no. But I hasten to add: not yet. My main resistance? The main reason I’ve hesitated making a regular practice of meditating? No time, people.

Of course it would be lovely to be able to devote a big chunk of my day to sitting peacefully, at one with myself, meditating in silence and peace (a la Eat, Pray, Love).

But who has the time for that?

In my life it’s hilarious to think that I can just “start my day on the right foot” with a nice peaceful, hour-long meditation session. My day starts when my 12-month old says it does. And usually involved diapers and sundry other messes and putting out fires from the get-go.

The question is: does one really need to do the whole enchilada (incense and Zen music, and just the right space, and a meditating cushion, etcetera…) to benefit? If you can’t do all that, if you can’t do it “properly”, should you bother at all? Is there a way to squeeze meditation into a busy life….and will it help you if you do it like that?

Here’s what I’m looking into: I recently read this NYT article on a meditation guru in Britain named Andy Puddicombe (young cool guy, plus former Buddhist monk). He’s on a mission to bring quick & easy, religion-free meditation to the masses. In particular, the busy professional masses. Sounds good, right?

He says yes, in fact we can benefit with just 10 minutes a day. And he says you don’t have to buy into the whole incense-thing to get into meditation. Here’s a quote (from his website getsomeheadpace.com) that I think is cute:

We know that lots of people are put off meditating because they think it’s something ‘spiritual people’ do, but that’s like not liking music because of yodelling – that’s just one thing some people like to do with it.

So I signed up for his (free) starter program. And we’ll see how it goes! I’ll keep you posted. 

In the meantime, here’s my question: do YOU meditate?

About Kim Foster

Dr. Kim Foster is a writer, family doctor, and mom.

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Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

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