I was reading an article this morning about new moms experiencing a desire to get back in shape after the birth of a new baby and that exercise and meditation can reduce the chances of depression. It triggered an old feeling in me and I automatically went back to the way I felt over 40 years ago when I gave birth to my two girls, one in 1971 and the other in 1973. At the time there were no groups to reach out to that were a support system for new moms. I actually am feeling quite emotional writing this blog and remembering how I felt...isolated, depressed and at times so lonely that I wanted to scream. I was a very young mother, 23 when I gave birth to my first daughter and 25 when I gave birth to my second daughter.
A 2008 study by Dr. Cassandra Vieten from the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute looked at the effects of mindfulness meditation on prenatal stress and mood and demonstrated a 20-25 per cent reduction in stress levels and anxiety in pregnant women.
Meditation was literally a life saver for me; it allowed me to calm down when I was feeling sad, frustrated and lonely. By going into that calm place and reconnecting with myself I started to feel at peace, loving and very connected to my babies. There were ups and downs and being a young mom was not an easy task, however, having this wonderful tool to keep me focused really saved my sanity. I meditated every day for sometimes 10 minutes and sometimes 20 minutes depending on the demands of the day -- this was "my time." Babies napped and I meditated.
"For women at risk (of postpartum depression), it's definitely of value (meditation)...It's a non-pharmacological means of prevention and should be offered in addition to other parenting classes and skills."
Dr. Zindel Segal, one of the founders of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy and Cameron Wilson Chair in Depression Studies at the University of Toronto.
To this day I still meditate for 20 minutes per day and it allows me to re-connect with myself on a daily basis and have the energy I need to succeed in a healthy marriage, run a business, spend time with family and friends, be able to connect with my beautiful grandchildren and exercise daily with more energy than I could ever imagined having at the age of 65.
According to Canada.com, a study by from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado is "showing the 'favourable' results of a first-ever study done on at-risk pregnant women who continued a meditation and yoga practice into the postpartum period."
Treat yourself, learn how to meditate and schedule it into your day even if it is only for a few minutes, I guarantee you will see a difference.
Quite literally, sustained meditation leads to something called neuroplasticity, which is defined as the brain's ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input. For much of the last century, scientists believed that the brain essentially stopped changing after adulthood. But research by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has shown that experienced meditators exhibit high levels of gamma wave activity and display an ability -- continuing after the meditation session has attended -- to not get stuck on a particular stimulus. That is, they're automatically able to control their thoughts and reactiveness.
A 2005 study on American men and women who meditated a mere 40 minutes a day showed that they had thicker cortical walls than non-meditators. What this meant is that their brains were aging at a slower rate. Cortical thickness is also associated with decision making, attention and memory.
In a 2006 study, college students were asked to either sleep, meditate or watch TV. They were then tested on their alertness by being asked to hit a button every time a light flashed on a screen. The meditators did better than the nappers and TV watchers -- by a whole 10 percent.
In 2008, Dr. Randy Zusman, a doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital, asked patients suffering from high blood pressure to try a meditation-based relaxation program for three months. These were patients whose blood pressure had not been controlled with medication. After meditating regularly for three months, 40 of the 60 patients showed significant drops in blood pressure levels and were able to reduce some of their medication. The reason? Relaxation results in the formation of nitric oxide which opens up your blood vessels.
Telomeres -- the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes -- are the new frontier of anti-aging science. Longer telomeres mean that you're also likely to live longer. Research done by the University of California, Davis' Shamatha Project has shown that meditators have significantly higher telomerase activity that non-meditators. Telomerase is the enzyme that helps build telomeres, and greater telomerase activity can possibly translate into stronger and longer telomeres .
A 2008 study on HIV positive patients found that, after an eight-week meditation course, patients who'd meditated showed no decline in lymphocyte content compared with non-meditators who showed significant reduction in lymphocytes. Lymphocytes or white blood cells are the "brain" of the body's immune system, and are particularly important for HIV positive people. The study also found that lymphocyte levels actually went up with each meditation session. However, due to the small sample size -- only 48 volunteers -- it's harder to draw definitive conclusions.
Earlier this year, a study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist University found that meditation could reduce pain intensity by 40 percent and pain unpleasantness by 57 percent. Morphine and other pain-relieving drugs typically show a pain reduction of 25 percent. Meditation works by reducing activity in the somatosensory cortex and increasing activity in other areas of the brain. This study also had a small sample size, making it harder to draw definite conclusions.
The Positive Benefits of Meditation
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