As it is getting colder, I’ve been hearing one phrase repeatedly, “The Winter is coming”. Every time someone says it, I picture the forbidding ice wall. The howl of the wind. The gloominess of men which’ve named themselves ‘The Night’s Watch’.
I am sure most of you have guessed already that I am referring to the infamous “Game Of Thrones”, and its portrayal of desolate winter lands.
But I imagine that many of us think of winter in exactly this way: dark, cold, hostile. And no wonder we often find it hard to remain motivated and consistent during the winter months. Especially on days when the grey sky seems to be almost touching the ground, crushing us down by its weight.
What can one do in those circumstances when the nature itself seems to be against us? How do we keep strong and take care of ourselves? And where do we start?
Arguably, the first step to resilience, calmness and optimism is a strong mind. According to Buddhism, Buddha once said, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”
And there are ways to gently direct the thoughts to a peaceful state of mind. Lately, mindful mediation has been gaining recognition for its health benefits. They can come in very handy, especially during a cold season.
The Harvard Gazette states that a mindful mediation’s aim, “is to increase one’s sense of being in the present” in order to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. “Staying in the present” means focusing your attention on your breath and bodily sensations, and just trying to ‘be’. Nothing more and nothing less.
Respected Universities like John Hopkins, UCLA and Harvard have all studied the effects of mindful mediation on people. Harvard university has discovered that meditation literally changes the brain. Through consistent mediation, the cortical region of the brain gains mass. That means that our ability to learn, receive and remember information increases. It also means that a brain of a person who mediates consistently stays young and receptive longer.
On the other hand, Harvard’s studies have shown that through meditation amygdala loses its “brain cells”. And that is a good thing! Amygdala is a part of the brain that is in charge of our “fight or flight” response. It triggers fear, stress and anxiety. And stress is not always bad. In critical moments it can help us gather ourselves and react promptly, during a job interview or an exam, for example. However, if amygdala is constantly activated without a reasonable cause then it starts causing problems: irritable bowl movement, sleepless nights, social anxiety, depression. The list is long. Yet, with the help of mediation, anxiety can be reduced and the state of calmness and concentration can be achieved. American Psychological Association goes as far as saying that, according to a randomized trial, meditation has been found helpful for, “depression, pain, smoking and addiction.” Of course, mediation is not a cure for everything; however, it can definitely improve our mood, our energy and our life.
But where do we start with mediation?
The beauty of the practice is that it doesn’t require any equipment or a membership. It is absolutely free and accessible for most people. There are many videos on various social platforms that guide newcomers and experienced practitioners through meditation. All you need for mediation is yourself, your breath and 5 minutes of your daily time. And as long as your are consistent, the benefits of mediation will become transparent.
The winter time will seem more doable, and it will become easier to get out of bed in the mornings. Not to mention that you will find steadiness and calmness in yourself.
Guest Blogger Karina Nechaeva
Karina is new to the Sentinel Office Family but is no stranger to writing.
As her time in the office grows longer, we hope to hear much more from the wealth of information and experience that Karina has to offer!