Sleep Series 1

Learn how to relax

Is your mind racing away? Are thinking already of the tasks of the next day, or you can’t get over the events of the day that passed? Being able to slow down your mind and eventually your body will help you drift away to a good night sleep and overall well-being. Welcome to the world of meditation.

 

Constantly switched on

The pace of the current lives we lead is such that we don’t leave anytime to ourselves to relax. We are constantly switched on. Isf that is you, read on.

Our body does not distinguish working all day to running away from a wild animal. Both are states that require us to be alert and have plenty of energy. So it switches on the so called flight or fight system. 

The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful. This perception activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee. These responses are evolutionary adaptations to increase chances of survival in threatening situations. However overly frequent, intense, or inappropriate activation of the fight or flight response is implicated in a range of clinical conditions including most anxiety disorders. 

Body SystemPhysiological effectConsequence
HeartIncreased heart rate
Dilation of coronary blood vessels
Increase in blood flow
Increased availability of oxygen and energy to the heart
CirculationDilation of blood vessels serving muscles
Constriction of blood vessels serving digestion
Increased availability of oxygen to skeletal muscles
Blood shunted to skeletal muscles and brain
LungsDilation of bronchi
Increased respiration rate
Increased availability of oxygen in blood
   
SkinSkin becomes pale or flushed as blood flow is reducedIncreased blood flow to muscles and away from non-essential parts of the body such as the periphery
EyesDilation of the pupilsAllows in more light so that visual acuity is improved to scan nearby surroundings

Slowing down

To counteract stressful situations we also have the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. It basically undoes the work of sympathetic division after a stressful situation. The parasympathetic nervous system decreases respiration and heart rate and increases digestion. 

As with everything in health, long stretches of having a system contstantly ON, creates imbalances which can have serious impacts on our health. 

Our unconscious mind makes our body run. It makes our organs work, it makes our digestion process food & our heart pump automatically & we don’t have to consciously think about it. When we meditate it gives our mind time to reset, to calm & not just to reflect (like most people think)

When we have a busy life or are stressed our bodies produce too much cortisol, which becomes harmful, as your body thinks it needs to “run away from a threat” then digestion shuts down diverting energy away from your digestion & various other processes to your muscles so you can run

There many ways to relax. A warm shower, a massage, or a day at your favourite Spa will all do wonders to your stress levels and your feeling of wellness. But I believe the simplest and most powerful tool available to us is meditation.

You probably hear the word meditation a lot. Something coming from the world of Yoga or Buddism. Meditation is very often connected with slowing your mind down and stopping your thoughts from wondering around. This act can be seen as simply being less active, staying still and allowing your brain to take a rest. 

This process goes far beyond the mind. It helps balance hormones, relieves stress, boosts the immune system, lowers the heart rate and more. Meditation might run deeper than most people realise. Part of meditating is it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings, reduce stress & develop better concentration.

  • Reduces stress
  • Controls anxiety
  • Promotes emotional health
  • Enhances self-awareness
  • Lengthens attention span
  • May reduce age-related memory loss
  • Can improve positive feelings & kindness
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves digestive health
  • Helps control pain
  • Known to decrease blood pressure
  • Boosts the immune system

Summary

  • When stressed you are in a flight a fight response which is nessecary to avoid harmful situations but can be very dangerous when you in this state for a long periods of time.
  • Prioritise yourself by doing activities that help you relax and relieve your from the daily stress.
  • Meditation is the act of relax, switching off your over-active brain which has a lot of health benefits.

What is really meditation

Meditation is simpler (and harder) than most people think.

Think of your mind like a web browser. If you have too many tabs open, your computer slows down. Close some tabs & the computer runs smoothly again. Humans are similar. Too many thoughts & external stimulus means that our body can’t run as it should

We weren’t designed to be constantly stimulated by thousands of notifications, cars speeding past us, bills to pay etc.
⁣Do you get your best ideas or remember things the next day after waking-up or after shower? There is a good reason for that.

When I started meditating I realised how much space my mind had to stop & resolve issues in my life⁣. Nowdays 10 minutes a day provides hours of focus and productivity. Meditation can change you; your cells, your brain, your mood and even your life expectancy. In fact, there are so many benefits that the question should be: Why are you not meditating?

Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could entail following the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations. In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.  When you meditate through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops.

Summary

  • Whatever time of meditation you choose to practice, expect to have improved focus, become self-aware and more productive.

How to meditate

How do you learn to meditate? For starters simply pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness.

 

When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.

The idea behind mindfulness seems simple but it takes practice and patience. Very often your mind gets caught up in other tasks and your mind wonders around. I think the steps below will help you, as they have helped me.

  1. Find place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
  2. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
  3. Try to sit loosely cross-legged. Make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
  4. Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
  5. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
  6. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
  7. Return slowly to your environment and take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.

 

That’s it! That’s the practice!

Meditation for better sleep

Even if you usually fall asleep easily, meditating for 5-10 minutes will slow your heart rate down and you will naturally drift in a deeper, better sleep.

Final Thoughts

First step of any change is to become self-aware of your state. Anytime you realise you are overly stressed take 5 minutes off to close your eyes and empty your thoughts. Once you open your eyes again you will be a releaved person. Relaxed, calm and with a smile in your face. 

Make meditation part of your life.

Further Reading

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