Hi, friends! My husband and I are currently overseas on a two-week long adventure in Ireland, Scotland and London. Follow our adventures over on Instagram! While we’re away, I’ve invited a few of my blogger friends to share recipes and intuitive eating posts! Today’s post is by my friend Brynn.
Hi everyone, Brynn from The Domestic Dietitian here! I’m so excited to be sharing my journey into guided meditation for the lovely Emily and her readers here on Zen & Spice.
If you had asked me three months ago to describe my family’s level of “health”, I would have said that we are pretty darn healthy. We eat right, stay physically active and try to find the right balance between work & fun. However, my husband went through some medical issues recently and it made me realize that our “health” was severely lacking in personal well-being.
I’ve never really practiced the art of meditation, aside from a brief overview during a lamaze class five years ago (which, let’s face it, went right out the window as soon as contractions started coming on strong). So for the last month, I’ve been researching, testing out and compiling a meditation program for myself and my husband.
The Cause of our Meditation Journey
It wasn’t until my husband recently developed some symptoms of anxiety that I really looked into meditation as a possible health treatment.
Anxiety takes on many forms and people all have their own symptoms and experiences. My husband’s symptoms included:
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- lack of energy
- feelings of frustration
- gastrointestinal problems
- increased worry
The anxiety was a result of having some cardiac issues that the doctors could never find a cause for. All the tests and visits to the specialists came back normal, even though the symptoms remained. When the doctors wanted to put my husband on a number of different medications, we knew it was time to look into other options.
In addition to making some changes to our nutrition and fitness, I did a lot of research on meditation and set up a meditation program in the hopes that it would help relieve his anxiety. I’m happy to report that meditation had very good results for us.
We tried a few different things and some worked, some didn’t. I think the key to trying anything new is to give it time and be flexible in your program. Also, it’s important to realize, that everyone is different and responds to different programs. What worked for us might not work for you, but sharing ideas can often lead to great things.
Below is what we learned and incorporated into our meditation journey.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, meditation can be a good stress reduction technique to those suffering from anxiety.
We tried several different meditation apps and guided meditation programs. I’m sharing my two favorites below:
- Headspace – this guided meditation app has a both a free version and upgraded version that you have to purchase. The free version was more than enough for us. What I really like about this program is that there are many different meditations to try. To begin with, you do a short, 3 minute guided meditation, which increases in time the further you continue. The meditation was simple, easy to follow and left us feeling calm. I also liked that you could select other types of meditations based on different triggers: sleep, work, stress, etc. It was easy to use.
- Calm – this guided meditation app is free. It also has different programs you can choose based on your need: sleep, rest, relaxation, stress, etc. I also liked that it had “sleep stories” that you could listen to as you fall asleep. They are relaxing and designed to help you clear your mind as you drift off to sleep. One thing I really like about this program was that once you select the program and/or timed meditation that you want to participate in, a tranquil picture appears on your phone screen. Sometimes when I am working on a project or just reading a book, I’ll put on one of the meditation programs in the background because I find the sounds soothing.
My tips for meditation –
- Find a quiet place
- Sit how you feel comfortable (I sat crossed legged while my husband preferred to lay on his back)
- Dim the lights and light candles if you like
- Try it at different points of your day to determine what benefits you the most. We found right before bed a good time for us, but I also added a mid-day 5 minute stress meditation to my day as well
- If you try a program for a few days and don’t like it, try a new one. We went thru a few in the beginning and had to switch for various reasons (I didn’t like the sound of someone’s voice, one had weird sounds that played in the background that I found distracting, etc)
I incorporated a daily walk after dinner into our routine. It might not sound like meditation but it had a big impact on relaxing that I included it as part of our program.
On these walks, we don’t talk about work, complain about our day or talk about things we had on our to do lists.
Instead, we focused on breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the nature around us and just being content walking in semi-silence. No real thought focus or in-depth conversations helped us clear our minds after dinner.
Unplugging before Bed
About 30 minutes before bed, we turned our phones on silent and shut off the television. If we played music, we kept the volume low and tried not to use our e-readers.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, the blue light emitted by technology can suppress melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep. Trying to avoid using technology right before bed can help increase your quality of sleep.
I think these small additions of meditation and stress reduction activities have made an impact on my husband’s stress levels. Which in turn, has helped relieve his anxiety. It definitely isn’t a cure-all but it has greatly improved my husband’s health. His blood pressure has returned back to normal range, many of his symptoms have resolved and his attitude has become his previous positive self.
We are looking forward to continue our meditation journey!
Brynn McDowell is an RD and creator of The Domestic Dietitian, a blog aimed at helping people create a healthy and happy lifestyle in a hectic home.