Meditation and breathing -- a life-improving combination

Oct 5, 2014

Meditation may seem like something that would be hard to do, or difficult to work into your schedule. But experts say there are many health benefits to meditation that can be achieved if you can find the time.

This week on “Take Care,” Jane Pernotto Ehrman talks about how meditation can benefit you and your health. Ehrman is the lead behavioral health specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Lifestyle Medicine in the Wellness Institute.

Meditation has proven health benefits and it can increase the rate in which the brain processes information, says Ehrman. 

“It can lower heart rate, deepen the oxygenation, the amount of oxygen, in your blood, body and brain and reduce high blood pressure,” Ehrman says. “It can help soften muscles, reduce pain, quiet the mind, and help a person feel more positive.”

Meditation can improve memory and it can help an individual make positive behavioral changes.

“It helps us to modulate chronic pain and deal with acute pain, something that’s short-term,” Ehrman says. “It actually has anti-aging effects in that it lengthens the telomeres at the end of cells which lengthen our life.”

When your brain is at peace, your body reacts differently which causes cells and tissues to repair more quickly. Your body can even heal at a quicker rate and restore its energy.

“The mind is a lot like a 3-year-old and it likes to wander,” Ehrman says.

However, the best thing to do is to bring the mind back to the present when you’re meditating.

If you’ve never meditated before, Ehrman suggests doing it for three to five minutes. It can be done lying down or sitting up in a comfortable position, if you’re concerned about falling asleep.

“With practice, after three to five minutes, start moving to eight to 10 minutes,” Ehrman says. “Eventually you’d like to go to 15 to 20 but, over the course of three weeks of daily practice, you begin to rewire your brain, for this responsiveness and positivity.”

Ehrman says it’s still possible to benefit from meditation even if you sit for a small amount each day. Constant practice builds neuromuscular pathways to the brain, and by setting a dedicated time, every day, it becomes something to look forward to.

“That’s far more important than doing it every now and then,” Ehrman says. “It’s the same as building any other skill that we develop; we do better when we do it regularly.”

Focusing on the breath is important, too, because it brings you back to the present.

“It connects us to what we’re feeling and it’s a powerful way to relieve stress and refocus,” Ehrman says.