July 2011

29 Jul 2011

Meditation - It's Not Just for the Beatles Anymore

Clint Eastwood won’t make a movie without his twice a day meditation practice.  Gwyneth Paltrow has committed to building her practice. Richard Gere swears by meditation.  What’s all the hullabaloo about meditation?

According to a study-cited article in the Telegraph, people who meditate regularly have half the rate of heart attacks as people who don’t.  Stress is a key cause of heart disease, and practitioners and experts say a regular practice greatly reduces stress. 

According to the CDC, the United States currently spends $450 billion dollars annually on heart disease.  Dr. William S. Weintraub, chair of cardiology and cardiology section chief at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, DE states, "What we spend on cardiovascular disease is not sustainable. But we can afford to prevent it. Ultimately, we can't afford not to.” 

When it comes to affordability and effectiveness, the Mayo Clinic backs up the ability of a meditation to soothe one’s life and outlook.  Even a few minutes of quiet focus each day can bring results that can have far-reaching affects on your health.  The Mayo Clinic cites the below as some of the emotional benefits of meditation;

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions

The study cited in the Telegraph included 44 people who had been meditating daily between five and 46 years. These participants had an increase in the gray matter of their brains, and they also sport a larger hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that focuses on learning and memory. 

Meditation can be as simple as “focused attention” where the participant sits for ten to twenty minutes and focuses on their breath.  When wandering thoughts occur, the participant lets go of the thought and comes back to the breath.  Some practices include incorporating a favorite word or empowering phrase that is repeated over and over. 

The Mayo Clinic describes a walking meditation, where the walker takes their time, enjoys the scenery, and notices how the body is feeling, while maintaining a steady, even breath.

If cutting your employees heart attack risk in half is a worthwhile investment, consider your returns on a wellness practice that can be done for free. Meditation and stress-reduction wellness programs are perfect for your corporate heavy-hitters and achievers. 

21 Jul 2011

Stressed? Of Course You Are - So Learn to Bounce

“It is really in ourselves, in our emotions and in our memories, that we can each find our healing space.  For the most powerful of healing places is in the brain and in the mind.” - Esther Sternberg, MD

And Vice Versa.  According to the Center for Disease Control, people with phobic fears and severe anxiety issues have a greater risk of heart disease.

Scientists have found that people with excessive fear of social situations, animals, or the outdoors are 30 or 40 times more likely to have the extreme tension that may create heart disease and cause an attack.  

According to this month’s Idea Fitness Journal; Dr. Esther Sternberg, MD, section chief of neuroendocrine immunology and behavior at the National Institute of Mental Health, is quoted as saying that “one-third of Americans are living with extraordinary stress and that 90% of us live with stress on a regular basis.”

Are we doomed?  Not so, states Sternberg.  It is unlikely that many of us can walk away from our stressors, but becoming “resilient” and learning to cope is essential.  Finding our “bounce” and strengthening our ability to put things in perspective are key.  In the article, Sternberg suggests that help from fitness professionals is vital, as is walking, meditating several times a week, and a healthy Mediterranean diet.

Qualified fitness professionals are designed to deliver heart-saving lifestyle changes to your employees.  Wellness programs educate and provide the tools to teach your company to take baby steps until wellness becomes a habit.  Presenting people with the reality that they do have power over their lives is invaluable.