Laura Budde's picture

Calling Upon the Relaxation Response

It is not uncommon for various thoughts to continuously crowd the mind or for constant activity to distract us from an awareness of the present moment. Worry for the future adds to the elusiveness of now, further dividing the mind and body until they may barely recognize one another. When body and mind do come together it tends to be a result of illness and limitations. This type of meeting may cause a mild resentment between the mind and body to develop.

An overactive stress response has the potential to upset our lives as the endocrine system is overworked, affecting both mental and physical wellbeing. Meditation is a way to call upon the body’s relaxation response through activating the parasympathetic nervous system. During meditation the body’s metabolism is allowed to slow down, resulting in a lowered heart rate and reduced oxygen intake.Relaxation of the muscles and lowered blood pressure combine with the slowing of brain waves. In this state, life can be better put into perspective. (Guided Meditation-Reducing Anxiety and Easing Tension: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng6qY6Lnf10)

The idea of slowing down through meditation may seem impossible at first, but the benefits of bringing together the body and mind in communion are real and worthwhile. Meditation can be as simple as spending 20 minutes per day. Quietly reflecting on a mantra, a single word or restful sound can help to alleviate distractions from the outside and within. Focusing on the breath is another tactic to help slow things down as the breath is always with us, always existing in the present moment, beckoning us to join. (Guided Meditation: Using the Breath to Clear your Energy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKRdGsV0ZTk&list=PLhQc2IsKn7mERlaR95y3gD135zXBOZmSI&index=5)

It is not uncommon for the mind to continue racing while trying to achieve a meditative state. Mindfulness in meditation encourages working toward viewing our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judgment. Experiencing these sensations passively does not mean devaluing thoughts and feelings but rather allowing them to exist without worrying about them. When these sensations are not a cause for worry it is possible to understand them in a different way.

(Guided Meditation-Using Guided Imagery for a Healthy and Fluid Spine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di3KTR7rfjM&list=PLhQc2IsKn7mERlaR95y3gD135zXBOZmSI&index=6)

Meditation can also be helpful in developing an awareness of the physical body through the use of a body scan. During a body scan the individual can travel slowly to each part of the body and identify any sensations, viewing them with curiosity rather than judgment. Being aware of the body helps build a greater awareness and appreciation of the activity that takes place within it during its neutral state rather than only noticing responses to illness or pleasure. This tactic can also be useful when dealing with pain in order to achieve a better understanding of the nature of the pain and ways to cope. (Guided Meditation-Using Guided Imagery for a Healthy and Fluid Spine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSZHfjEtJAU&index=1&list=PLhQc2IsKn7mERlaR95y3gD135zXBOZmSI)

The other day I was thinking about the human experience and wondering how we are given such a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the physical sensations of life. I believe that we come from a greater source of cumulative energy and are allowed the experience of being individual with the goal of discovering our connection to all that is around us. Troubling thoughts and the reality of our body’s finite nature can cause us to deviate from this goal and may lead to seeking out distractions. Meditation is a way to return to what is important and learn to view the world and being human more positively.

Although we may feel trapped in our bodies at times it is necessary to form a partnership. Awareness of the present moment can be appreciated at any time, not only when meditating. We live within ourselves even at times when we fell as if we are outside of our bodies. Life seems to travel at a phenomenal speed as we project toward the future, meeting deadlines and looking forward to various events. Returning to the present moment is an important task to preform whenever possible in order to yolk together the body and mind and appreciate the human experience.

 
References
Yosipovitch G, Tang M, Lim Fong S, et al. Study of Psychological Stress, Sebum Production and Acne Vulgaris in Adolecents. Acta Dermato-Venereologica [serial online]. March 2007;87(2):135-139. Accessed February 17, 2014.
Goleman, D, Gurin, J. Mind Body Medicine, How to Use Your Mind for Better Health. New York: Consumers Union of the United States; 1993:66-83.
Karren, K.J., Smith, N. L., & Gordon, K. J. Mind Body Health: The Effects of Attitudes,   
Emotions, and Relationships. (2014). Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

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Laura Budde's picture

The Heart of the Matter

The human heart is a complex and beautiful entity with importance that exists on a variety of levels. When we think of the words we say to someone as coming “from the heart” we make use of that term metaphorically. When considering the heart as a physical structure, an integral part of our anatomy, concepts such as eating heart healthy enter our minds. However, the heart combines the material with the immaterial and plays a very important role in how we relate with others and are able to influence our own wellbeing.

As the physical center of the circulatory system, the heart produces an electromagnetic field (EMF) extending outside the body, that can be measured up to12ft in circumference.1 This EMF is generated as myocytes, heart specific cells, depolarize with each contraction and produce a flow of electricity. Myocytes are organized so that they can interpret hormonal signals and send the information to other body systems.2,3

This information can come in the form of the fight-or-flight response when perceived threats, such as deadlines, expectations, finances, and relationship conflicts arise. This system does not differentiate between threats to our egos and threats to our lives. Our reactivity causes a variety of physiological changes that can damage the cardiovascular system. These include an increase in blood pressure, the stickiness and plumpness of blood platelets, and an increase of stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol that prompt the body to move fat stores into the bloodstream, raising cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart attack. 2,3 Over time these perceived threats shift our internal baseline to being more on edge and lead to a lower level of heart rate variability (HRV).4

Our responses to stress can be altered, cynicism can be overcome and patterns of energy can be altered to promote a trusting, healthy heart. Cardiac coherence involves reestablishing our internal baseline to bring about balance in our lives and increasing our HRV.4 Rhythms and patterns can be influenced by practicing conscious awareness of our emotional state and shifting our thoughts and emotions to more positive ones. This can be done through acquiring skills of self-regulation to increase coherence and reestablish wholeness, activating a feeling of calm. Breathing exercises, massage, meditation, and yoga are all beneficial practices to assist the body in reestablishing a more peaceful internal baseline. 5 Evidence suggests that learning to overcome hostility and developing positive social connections can reduce the risk of CVD and improve quality of life.6

It is of utmost importance to slow down and consider the effect that our energy has on our own experience on Earth as well as on the lives of everyone we interact with. Through developing a peaceful demeanor, mental processing improves and even more challenging moments can be encountered with a lowered stress response.3 The heart functions as more than a physical structure and it is our task to guide our hearts toward bridging the multitudes of our being.   

 

 
References
  1. Burleson KO, Schwartz GE. Cardiac torsion and electromagnetic fields: the cardiac bioinformation hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(6):1109-16 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15823696 DOI:10.1016/j.,ehy.2004.12.023
  2. Goleman D, Gurin  J. Mind Body Medicine, How to Use Your Mind for Better Health. New York: Consumers Union of the United States; 1993:66-83.
    1. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T, Uchino B. Can Hostility Interfere with the Health Benefits of Giving and Receiving Social Support? The Impact of Cynical Hostility on Cardiovascular Reactivity During Social Support Interactions Among Friends. Annals Of Behavioral Medicine [serial online]. May 2008;35(3):319-330. Accessed January 26, 2014.
    2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. Meditation [monograph online]. 2013. http://ezproxy.chatham.edu:2877/databases/hw/meditation.asp Accessed January 26, 2014.
    3. McCraty R, Zayas M. Cardiac coherence, self-regulation, autonomic stability, and psychosocial well-being. Frontiers in Psychology. September 2014; 5 (1090) Doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01090.
    4. Anderson J, Taylor A. Use of Complementary Therapies by Individuals With or at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: Results of the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing Iss: Vol. 27(2), March/April 2012, p 96–102.
 

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