Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mindful Relief

Many, many people are wanting help with cravings, with addiction, with lack of willpower. I, personally and professionally, do not believe in willpower. I believe addictions and cravings are the mind and body's connections to activities and substances that cause relief or release of conditions and feelings one wants to avoid having. We don't need willpower to change, we need to rewire, to create new, healthier connections.

The best way to begin? Meditation! The evidence is literally piling up in support of meditation. Most recently, it was found that mindful meditation (I will explain this technique in a minute) for just seven minutes a day helps decrease cravings - in this case food, but my bet is that it works with all cravings. Why? This isn't because it creates stronger willpower, but is more likely due to a combination of things.

For one, mindful meditation makes you more able to control the stress response in the body. It is very likely that your stress response is the key to that craving in the first place. The craving may be triggered by any number of things unique to you and your experiences and connections. For example, a long day of work is relieved by a certain food, a drink or other substance, or an activity. You repeatedly make this connection and now your brain without you needing to consciously think of it, creates that connection every time your day gets tiring, stressful, or frustrating. You don't need to say, "Boy, a drink sure would be nice right about now." Your brain has already made the trip.

As you learn to meditate, you also learn to realize when that stress response is triggered. You can use techniques to then control it. Also, the stress response is less likely to be triggered the more you meditate. Events don't have the same effect they once did. It's as if you have learned to maintain your system and also make adjustments in the system whenever needed. Normally, you might turn to the craved activity or substance for relief. Meditation allows you to create relief from within.

The act of breathing while meditating also creates a mind/body connection that makes us aware and more in tune with actual needs rather than mindlessly losing ourselves to a craving that we, usually in the end, regret. The breath is involuntary in that you must breathe to live and yet it is also voluntary in that you can control it to some extent. The breath can be slowed, held, quickened, deepened and much more - all with physical effect. Sometimes the breath can energize, sometimes calm, sometimes cause panic, and all can be controlled with practice and time.

Mindful breathing technique: Sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes. As you inhale just notice the coolness of the breath and as you exhale, notice it is warmer. Then, begin to notice the sound of the breath. Where does your body shift and move as you breathe? Even as you pay attention to these things, other thoughts may arise. That's normal. Just know that it is normal and that there will be time for the thoughts later. For now, you are committed to the mindful meditation. Let yourself be here and do this for 7-10 minutes. You can use a musical piece that is the right length, no melody, no words, just soft and comforting to help you with timing. Or, a soft timer that will let you know you've gotten to the time limit. Some days will be easy and others harder. Some days your thoughts will be distracting and others not so much. Try to do this daily and then increase from there.

If interested in taking it further: www.circleofstoneswellness.com

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