How meditation can reduce stress
We’ve all heard of the mind, body, spirit connection and when all of these are treated in a patient holistically, they have a healthier outcome. Each side of this triangle affects the others. When our physical health is compromised, we can experience depression and hopelessness. When we are experiencing grief and deep sadness, our physical health declines and we disconnect from our spiritual selves. So how can our spirituality influence our mental health?
Part of becoming more spiritual is stepping into our authentic self. We need to untangle who we truly are from who we were taught to be. Our families, neighbors, and society have all taught us the roles and rules to be followed based on our gender, birth order, ethnicity, religion, and so on. (“You can’t do that by yourself. You’re a girl. You might get hurt.”)
If we don’t follow these rules and go outside of the proverbial box, we may be shamed, ridiculed, and cast out. The need to fit in is embedded in our DNA, because way back when, our tribe/village was our protection, and being cast out meant certain death.
It’s not that our families and tribes are not important now. We have more choices with which tribes we connect and our survival is not as dependent on them as it once was. It is still difficult to go outside of social and family norms, but there are more opportunities to test the waters, so to speak. We need to let go of others’ expectations of who they think we are, and how we should act and think. We also need to examine the stories we tell ourselves, our expectations, and how we show up in the world.
When we step into who we really are, there is a renewed sense of calm and peace and empowerment and confidence. There is no more acting a role unless you choose to play a double agent. You consciously choose to wear certain clothes or act a certain way to fit in, but all the while you are observing and gaining what you need, like working a conservative 9-5 job to earn a paycheck to put a roof over your head and food in your belly, and buy crystals or attend spiritual workshops and classes.
Once we have untangled others’ expectations and their stories from our own, we are able to examine ours. What is true and what can we let go of? How can others be healed and released? We start witnessing our emotions and feelings and “respond” to triggers rather than just “react” to them.
As we go through this process of healing, releasing, and letting go, we deactivate our “buttons”, and those things that used to trigger us don’t anymore. So we go through the world less triggered, and when we are less triggered, we are more happy and content. When we are content and know who we are, we don’t take other people’s actions and comments personally. And when we are feeling happy, our physical health improves.
Now you may be saying, “Angie, that’s a bunch of spiritual malarkey.” I get it and really hope you used the word “malarkey” – not enough people use that word anymore. But in all seriousness, this goes against what we’ve been taught. Stick with me for just a few more moments. Think about what stress does to our bodies. According to Neuroscience News, when we feel stressed, our bodies release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol lowers our ability to fight infection and illness. Stress also affects many of the other systems in our bodies, including the respiratory, musculoskeletal, and endocrine. One of the many jobs of the endocrine system is to help regulate mood. According to Psychology Today, anger is often triggered by stress and has very similar effects on the body, no matter the cause. Cleveland Clinic recommends doing yoga, meditation, and keeping a positive attitude to reduce stress.
I could go on and on with research and quoting supporting evidence. I’d like to add that it is about doing the mud work to get to an authentic positive attitude. If you are just squashing down the negative feelings and putting on a happy face, you are doing more harm than good. So start looking at what triggers you and at the stories you tell yourself. Work on healing, releasing and letting them go and you will see a happier and more content, and healthier you.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anger, depression, please seek the help of a professional mental health provider.
Cleveland Clinic. (2015) Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Management, & Prevention. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress
Psychology Today. (2020) What causes anger and how it affects the body. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mind-body-connection/202007/what-causes-ange r-and-how-it-affects-the-body
Neuroscience News.(2017) What happens to your body when you are stressed. https://neurosciencenews.com/body-stress-7263/