5 Reasons you should consider meditation
By Elias Markou
By Elias Markou
When I decided to write about meditation, I wasn’t sure how this topic would go over with firefighters. As I waded through the mounds of research, I quickly realized every firefighter should hear this story.
Meditation is a body and mind skillset and practice that has long been used in history to increase physical relaxation, calmness and improve overall well-being and health.
A 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that the use of meditation by American adults tripled from 2012 to 2017. The idea of carving out some time to sit and meditate may sound crazy and counterintuitive in our fast-paced world, but study after study confirms that a few minutes twice daily can make it easier to manage life’s challenges.
There are many styles of meditation and, just like anything, you will have to explore what works best for you and implement that into your life. I am sure you can find all this information on the internet and, more specifically, on YouTube, but I highly recommend you start by finding a meditation teacher or a course close to home.
Every meditation has four common elements. The first element is a quiet place with no distractions. Second, choose a posture such as sitting on the floor, sitting on a chair, moving or standing. Thirdly, focus your attention on a chosen word, phrase or simply your breath. And finally, have an open mind with no judgement. Let your thoughts in and let your thoughts leave your mind effortlessly.
Take a minute, just one minute, and consider these five reasons you, as a firefighter, should consider adding meditation into your life:
1. Reduce stress: A literature review in 2014 of 47 scientifically-conducted meditation trials involving 3,600 participants suggested that a daily meditation practice showed significant evidence of improving anxiety and depression.
2. Improve concentration and focus: The most comprehensive study that looked at improving concentration and increasing mental focus was done by the psychology department of the University of Miami and published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement in March 2018. Author of the study, Anthony Zanesco, said, “Intensive continued meditation practice is associated with improvements in attention, concentration and decreased cognitive decline.”
3. Improve circulation and cardiovascular system: The fire service has long known that there is a high incidence of cardiovascular disease among firefighters. A 2017 paper published in the journal of the The American Heart Association had experts agreeing that meditation may help lower blood pressure, reduce mortality risk from heart disease and improve arteries and blood flowing to the heart. The study went on to say high risk behaviours like smoking and drinking alcohol, often linked to heart disease, can be aided and reduced using meditation.
4. Reduce and manage pain: Dr. Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of California San Diego and lead author of a study in investigating meditation and pain, found that participants who meditated during pain medication administration had significantly lower pain intensity and unpleasantness than that of the control group. Pain ratings of participants were reduced by 25 per cent from the baseline group. This is just one study showing that meditation relives chronic pain in combination with pain medication. There are a number of studies that show meditation alone can also help reduce pain in patients.
5. Cultivate inner peace and increases appreciation for life: Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor emeritus of medicine, author and famous Zen meditation practitioner, was made famous by showing people in the West that meditation can be used to cultivate inner peace and love of life. He was able to demonstrate that meditation expands our awareness and opens our minds to new things around us.
Scientists have discovered that this ancient tool, once considered done, is new again. The resurgence of meditation can only be considered one of the best 21st century life savers. Give it a try.
Dr. Elias Markou is one very busy naturopathic doctor. He is in private practice in Mississauga, Ont., and is the chief medical officer for the Halton Hills Fire Department. Dr. Markou was a firefighter for six years; he is a firefighter health expert and blogger who is regularly featured on television and radio and in print. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org