Can’t Face Your Healthy New Year’s Resolutions? Meditate!
This post was written by Holly Ashby, who works for Will Williams Meditation, a meditation centre who provide classes on meditation in London.
So, it’s that time of year again where the shops stop encouraging you to eat and drink like there is no tomorrow, and are suddenly rolling out all their “January detox” ranges. We are often encouraged on cycles of feast and famine, rather than simply taking joy in both food and exercise and living life happily.
There’s no reason not to get a little healthier as the New Year kicks in. Just remember to do it at your own pace, for your own personal goals rather than other people’s expectations, and in a way that makes you as happy as you are healthy. There’s also no need to set impossible goals – just to exercise a little more, and eat a little healthier after enjoying the holiday excesses.
One way easy way to focus the mind on the New Year health kick is meditation. Meditation brings out the best in both mind and body, and it not only looks after your mental wellbeing, but it actually enhances your performance at the gym in a number of ways.
Of course, we all enjoy the endorphin boost that goes with exercise, and it is key to getting into that groove where you actually start to enjoy the regular workout. However, along with the endorphins, we get a release of stress hormones like cortisol and glucocorticoids. These hormones are part of our physiological makeup and helpful in small doses, but if you are chronically stressed or an endurance athlete your body can become inundated. Meditation, through its power to decrease stress, helps reduce these stress hormones. Bonus!
People often fear that this reduction in your stress hormones, which motivate you to push harder, will take the edge off your workout. Luckily, the opposite is true, and far from dulling your determination meditation could improve performance. Many athletes use meditation (sometimes through a form of creative visualisation in which they envisage their success) in order to bring their mind into clear focus and get the best from their bodies.
Plus, there are more positive physiological advantages to practising regular meditation alongside your physical routine, such as helping recovery and even pain tolerance. Overloads of stress hormones are associated with negative physical side effects, such as premature aging and decreased immunity, so managing them is obviously a good idea. Additionally, it can boost oxygen and nutrient flow to the muscles, and even decrease the amount of lactic acid building up, so you can recover quicker and work out longer.
A healthy mind encouraged by meditation can also make you more effective in the gym in other ways. Life often gets in the way of exercise – after a stressful day it can be hard to face a run or repetitive workout sessions, and it can be tempting to crack a can, or pour a glass, and veg out. Meditation can help here by reducing anxiety and stresses from our daily lives and work, improving our focus and determination. It frees up your mind free to concentrate on our real goals, in this case, shedding some holiday weight and getting into the New Year with a bang.
Plus, if you are being really ambitious this year – say doing Tough Mudder or a marathon – not only can you benefit from the extra focus, but meditation can also calm any debilitating nerves.
If you are having trouble getting into the swing of a healthier new year, maybe meditation can help you clarify what you want to achieve, and help you to get there.