Meditation offers powerful benefits, yet many people are confused as to what exactly those benefits are. Basically, meditation allows you to be more aware and mindful to the present moment. The purpose is to take you from a state of distracting, busy mind to a sense of inner calm. I’d imagine most of us could probably use more of that.
Meditation has the ability to reduce stress hormones by calming the nervous systems. These systems activate our main panic/survival responses (“fight,” “flight,” “freeze”) to stressful situations. Because of this, meditation can be a wonderful coping tool for those trying to manage trauma symptoms.
Is Meditation Better than Medication?
Historically, people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been given medication to help reduce symptoms. But a new study has found that regular practice of meditation enables some active duty service members battling PTSD to decrease, or even eliminate their need of medications prescribed for mental health and to better control their often-debilitating symptoms.
This is wonderful news for not only service men and women, but also anyone who is battling PTSD. Meditation doesn’t just help to calm your nerves and rewire your brain, it can also reduce the risk of developing negative side effects to many medications used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. One common side effect of these medications is depression. The last thing a person suffering from PTSD needs.
How to Begin a Meditation Practice
If you are suffering from the effects of trauma and would like to try meditation, here are some steps you can take to get started:
Find a Group Practice
If you’re completely new to meditation, you may want to join a group meditation course that meets every week. You can usually find groups in your local area through online communities such as Meetup.com.
Try an App
There are several applications for smartphones that support starting a meditation practice. Some offer guided meditations (it might be easier to start here), background music or simply a timer. Others also include reminders you can set to check in with yourself or take a mindful moment or time for meditation. Even just for a minute. One of my favorites is Insight Timer. Other options: Calm and Headspace.
Be Open Minded
Meditation has long been associated with new age movements. But you would be amazed at the different kinds of people that now practice meditation. If you tend to be a skeptical person, try to have an open mind as you begin your practice.
It’s called a practice for a reason. You won’t “get” meditation overnight. You’ll have to keep at it before it becomes natural for you and you really reap the benefits. Try to have patience and just keep at it. There is often a misconception that meditation means you need to have a “clear mind,” thus not thinking anything at all. But that’s not the way the brain works. It takes a while to quiet one’s mind. You will likely still have thoughts (probably many of them), and that’s expected. The important part is that you just notice them, then let them go, without staying focused on them.
If you or a loved one are suffering from trauma symptoms and would like to speak with someone who can help, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss the treatment options that would work best for you.