Tag Archive: meditation


Meditation for Children

In this day and age, with all the research and practical experience, there is no denying the benefit of meditation.  It has been proven to help relieve stress, manage chronic pain, help with depression and anxiety, as well as enhance feelings of compassion, calm, and peacefulness.

Meditation is a practice.  The results get better with time and consistency.  That being the case, it is greatly beneficial to introduce this habit to your children at a young age.  Not only will it help them in their present lives just as it does adults, it will also set them up to reap the benefits of a lifelong practice of meditation.  Many adults who try to adopt a meditation practice encounter some difficulty incorporating it into their daily lives and remaining consistent, especially because at first it is very difficult to settle your mind.  Children who grow up meditating will be at a much better advantage.

Having a regular mindful meditation practice will help your child remain calm and in control of his/her emotions, curb your child’s impulsivity, and help them to be more balanced and compassionate.  In older children, it can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Below are some tips for introducing meditation to your child:

  1. Set a Good Example. As with anything you ask your child to do, it’s best if you lead by example.
  2. Help Them to Understand Why. All children want to know why.  Understanding the benefits of meditation will empower them to really try rather than just go through the motions.
  3. Use Guided Meditations. Guided meditation is a great way to start.  It gives your child something to focus on, which is sometimes easier in the beginning than trying to “not think”.
  4. Be Realistic. It’s best to start off slow.  Especially for young children, just 3-5 minutes in the beginning is enough.  If meditation becomes overwhelming, it will cause stress for your child rather than reduce it.
  5. Keep Them Sitting Up. Lying down can be too relaxing and lead to falling asleep.  While naps are great, they do not carry the same benefits as a mindful meditation practice.

Panic Attack Disorder

Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, are sudden surges of overwhelming fear and terror that strike with no apparent warning; that is, the fear seems unrelated and disproportionate to the circumstances at hand.  This overwhelming fear is often accompanied by symptoms such as a racing, pounding heart, feeling dizzy or faint, tingling or numbness in the hands or fingers, feeling sweaty or having chills, chest pains, shortness of breath, and feeling out of control.  Panic attacks usually last around 10 minutes, but can seem longer if you experience a succession of attacks.  It is estimated that one out of every 75 people worldwide will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, but it is only if you have recurring panic attacks that disrupt your ability to go about your daily life that you would be diagnosed with panic attack disorder.  In many people the symptoms of panic attack disorder develop in association with major life changes, such as getting married, having a child, or starting a first job, as well as major life stressors.  The highest incidence of the onset of panic attack disorder occurs in the 17 – 25 years of age range, but people of all ages can experience anxiety attacks.

The thing about panic attacks that makes them so debilitating is that often after you’ve had a few in succession, you begin to have panic attacks about having panic attacks, especially at times when, or places where, you don’t feel safe such as a crowded public place like a train crammed with people.   Panic attacks are very frightening because you feel completely out of control and often like you might just pass out.  People with panic attack disorders will find themselves avoiding situations they think might lead to a panic attack, or places they are too scared to have a panic attack at.  It is this avoidance that causes the most interference in a person’s ability to live normally.

Panic attack disorders, like anything else, can be treated in a variety of different ways and should be tailored to suit each individual patient.  But, across the board, most clinical therapists will teach patients with this condition some coping mechanisms to help prevent the attacks, as well to help them deal with the attacks when they come.  Some of these coping techniques are outlined below, but it is recommended and advised that if you experience panic attacks with any regularity that you consult with a licensed therapist and not attempt to treat yourself.

It is important to note that many of these techniques and coping/preventative strategies are good practice for all people, whether they experience panic attacks or not.  I don’t know a single person who does not experience anxiety in their life about one thing or another.  Panic attacks / anxiety attacks are just forms of anxiety.  I encourage all of you reading this post to incorporate some of these techniques and strategies into your life as a way to lessen and prevent any anxiety you may experience.

1.  Deep Breathing & Meditation

Practice daily mediation to reduce stress and anxiety.  Also, if you find yourself feeling anxious or having a panic attack, focus on consciously taking deep breaths.  Shallow breathing (also called chest breathing), which usually accompanies a panic attack, disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and, in turn, your heart rate increases, you get dizzy, and your muscles tense, thus worsening the symptoms of your anxiety attack.  Clear your mind of everything but your breath.  (Counting will help.  Slowly count to 5 in your head as you breathe in, and again as you breathe out.)  This type of breathing will slow down your heart rate and release tension.

2.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique (PMR)

PMR is a technique developed to reduce anxiety.  The thinking behind the technique is that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can lessen the anxiety by consciously releasing tension in the muscles.  The technique works in a sequential pattern, asking you to alternately tense and then release various muscle groups.  It does take practice and will become more effective with time.  There are CDs and MP3 downloads you can purchase that will guide you through PMR.

3.  Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.  Before beginning an exercise program, always get clearance from your doctor.  It is also recommended to seek the advice and knowledge of a certified personal trainer who can design an exercise program specifically tailored to your needs.

4.  Avoid Stimulants

Avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.  Remember, coffee is not the only source of caffeine.  It is also in teas, chocolate, and soda.

5.  Start a Panic Diary

It is important to understand your particular anxiety / panic attack triggers.  A diary will help you discover any patterns your anxiety may have.  While an anxiety attack may seem to come from nowhere, in all likelihood there is some thought pattern or situation triggering it that you are unaware of.  Some thoughts we have, called ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), are so “automatic” that we don’t really consciously register we are having them.  When you find yourself feeling anxious or having an attack, first control the symptoms using deep breathing or PMR.  Once it is under control, immediately go to your diary to write down any thoughts  you are having while they are still fresh.  Also, describe exactly what your were doing and where you were when the anxiety attack occurred.

6.  Have Patience

There is no point in increasing your anxiety levels by being anxious about how your treatment is going.  Do your best, whatever that may be (which will always change depending on the circumstances), and then let it go.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/understanding-panic-attack-treatment

http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-attacks.shtml

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/panic-attack-symptoms

http://www.anxietypanic.com/signs.html

http://panicdisorder.about.com/od/livingwithpd/a/pdselfhelp.htm

Chronic stress is very damaging to both our physical and mental well-being.  (For more about the effects of chronic stress, read our blog titled “The Earth’s Heartbeat”.)  Yet, most of us encounter stress in some form almost every day.  So, what to do?  One very effective way to alleviate stress and to combat its damaging effects is to meditate.

Meditation can reverse your stress response and help shield you from the effects of chronic stress.   When you meditate, your heart rate and breathing slow down, your blood pressure normalizes, you use less oxygen, your adrenal glands produce less cortisol, your mind ages at a slower rate, and your immune function improves.   Besides reversing your stress response, mediation quiets the mind.  As a result, you become more focused, more creative, have a clearer mind, and can even gain a better perspective on stressful situations.

Mediation can be self-taught or you can take classes taught by a certified meditation instructor.  (If you have the time, an experienced teacher can be very helpful when you are just beginning your meditation practice.)  Simply put, the practice of meditation is sitting comfortably in a quiet space, clearing your mind, and breathing in and out.  While it is simple in design, meditation does take practice and discipline.  If you are just beginning, it is recommended you only attempt 5 minutes of meditation at a time (the bare minimum needed to produce desired results) and then build into longer meditations (20 minutes or so.)  You may find it hard at first to clear your mind of its endless chatter, but that is normal.  Whatever you do, don’t let it stress you out!  Simply notice the intruding thoughts, let them go, and re-focus.

For some, it is helpful to focus on one thing during meditation.  This can alleviate distracting thoughts.  You can focus on your breath, even counting how many breaths you take.  Alternately, you can focus on an object such as a painting, a flower, or a candle.  Some like to focus on a particular sound, the classic one being the Sanskrit word “Om”, which means perfection. With this method, you would chant “om” (or any other word you like) with each exhale.  Still another method to help quiet your mind is to focus on a single thought or idea.  Some good ones are love, gratitude, peace, and forgiveness.

Some people who practice meditation find it helpful to use imagery as a tool.  With this method, you imagine you are in a pleasant and relaxing place as you meditate.  It is helpful to be detailed in your imagery, as this will make the place come alive to you, as well as focus your mind more efficiently.  Listening to calming music is another way to clear your mind as you meditate.  There are some great CDs out there specifically geared towards meditation.  Alternatively, you can purchase guided meditation CDs (or through itunes).  These types of CDs involve someone talking you through the meditation.

In the beginning, I would suggest trying all the methods to best figure out which ones work for you.  Remember, don’t get discouraged.  Be patient with yourself and trust the process.  With practice, everything gets easier and the benefits are too great to pass up.  If you stick with it, before long you will find yourself looking forward to your few minutes of peace and quiet and relaxation.  It is amazing how great it feels to just be still.  To just be.

In conclusion, I will leave you with a quote I came across not that long ago:

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted.

Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

Hans Margolius

I recently read an article in Swimmer magazine by Jim Thornton called “Staying Happy?”.  In it, he describes the benefits of swimming for those who suffer from depression and anxiety.  Research has shown that vigorous, aerobic exercise of any kind will significantly decrease anxiety and depression.  It releases endorphins, the human’s natural high, thus changing your brain chemistry in a positive manner.  Regular aerobic exercise also increases a person’s overall feeling of wellness, which is a contributing factor to how a person feels about their days and their life. Finally, it gives a sense of accomplishment and increases self-esteem.  It takes your mind off your worries, promotes social interaction, and is a healthy coping mechanism to develop.

Swimming, in particular, helps decrease anxiety and depression because of some of its unique properties.  Due to the motion of swimming, the alternating stretch and relaxation of your muscles, as well as the regular, rhythmic deep breathing that goes along with it, swimming is also a relaxing, meditative type of exercise.  So, not only are you getting the benefits from the aerobic aspect of it, but you are also getting the type of meditating, relaxing and stretching you might get from practicing yoga, for instance.  It’s sort of like a 2-for-1.  For those of us stretched for time, it’s a great way to get exercise and relaxation/meditation all rolled into one.

If swimming is not your thing, yoga can also be a kind of 2-for-1.  Some yoga classes are geared more towards the relaxation side, so be sure to find one that challenges you physically as well.  Also, for your cardiovascular health, it is important that you incorporate some aerobic exercise into your weekly routine, whether it’s running or biking or stair climbing.

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