by: Victoria Frosini, MS, CPT

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She earned her Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013, where she conducted extensive research in weight loss, social support and cognitive behavioral therapy.
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Is Meditation the Key to Evolutionary Fitness?

Is tech your friend or foe?

We live in a perceivably tech-dominated world, hyper-focused on the instagram filtered definition of success. Within moments of waking we frantically check emails and text messages, scroll through three or four social media apps; we move through life seeking stimulus and immediate reward.

We’ve forgotten what it feels like to listen to our body’s internal clock, and no longer feel the inherent signals pointing to deteriorating health or more importantly, state of mind. We’ve ignored our bodies begging us to turn off, minimize stress, reduce anxiety,– asking us to live in the moment.  We’ll say it here, disconnecting tops avoiding sugar in 2019.

Why we seek reward.

To take things a bit further, there’s a chemical reason why we can’t disconnect. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, sends chemical messages from the central nervous system to cell receptors. These signals exchange information for bodily processes such as movement and speech while managing expectations and rewards. Our choices are based on leveraging expectations, which cause us to seek interaction with the anticipation of connection. The end result? When we lack connection, whether real or perceived through a social media filter, we view the loss as a missed chance to engage in the opportunity for reward.

Is the solution to be still?

The accolades and health claims surrounding meditation are compelling. Meditation has been linked to increasing emotional intelligence while improving cognitive metrics such as attention span, memory, flexible leadership and creativity. Research in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease illustrate that mindfulness promotes disease prevention and wellness through the downregulation of inflammatory genes, upregulation of immune-defense markers, improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Equally important, meditation has been strongly correlated to positive mental health through the reduction of stress and anxiety and improvement in sleep quality. Data suggests that just 20 minutes of meditation can reduce anxiety by as much as 22% in healthy subjects.

As of 2015, IBIS World reports that the meditation and alternate wellness sector has grown to over 1 billion in revenue (2015). Well known players in fitness and healthcare are pivoting from traditional programming to an expansive focus and exploration on meditation and mindfulness. There are thousands of meditation apps available, and mindfulness classes, groups, and studios are popping up left and right.

This practice has been endorsed by professional athletes, CEOs, celebrities, and medical practitioners as the secret sauce for success and power, ultimate self-awareness tool, and lifestyle preference for combatting anxiety and depression.

SO — It is worth the hype? Can we fit it into our daily lives? Can a bit of stillness go a long way?

Here are our four tips to implement a little bit of meditation into everyday life:

  1. Be fully present in life’s precious moments & adopt a flexible approach to meditation practices (active or unstructured). For example, implement a dedicated time of the day where you utilize a meditation app, gratitude journal, or carve out time for reflection. If you struggle with structure, simply find time in your day to connect to your feelings and emotions (listen to your body i.e. “I feel tired”) or connect to others without distraction. Start small; just take time to be still.
  2. Utilize group yoga, meditation, or deep breathing guides. This can be especially helpful if you have trouble quieting your mind. By joining a class or group you’re honoring a strength or weakness and acknowledging the need for self-care.
  3. Implement structured work/school breaks to connect with others, take a nature walk, eat a nourishing meal, or use structured mediation to hone in creativity, productivity and performance.
  4. Practice mindful eating. Notice the smell, taste, and texture of your meals. Chew slowly and avoid distractions at mealtime. Thoughtful eating can help with weight control and aid in making better food choices. The overall act of respecting your meals can be mentally rewarding while helping your waistline.

xx,

WeCollab

Resources:

Stauffer, W. R., Lak, A., Kobayashi, S., & Schultz, W. (2016). Components and characteristics of the dopamine reward utility signal. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 524(8), 1699–1711.

De-Sola Gutiérrez J, Rodríguez de Fonseca F and Rubio G (2016) Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review. Front. Psychiatry 7:175.

Wilmer, H. H., Sherman, L. E., & Chein, J. M. (2017). Smartphones and Cognition: A Review of Research Exploring the Links between Mobile Technology Habits and Cognitive Functioning. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 605.

Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2014). Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(6), 751–759.

Burke, A., Lam, C. N., Stussman, B., & Yang, H. (2017). Prevalence and patterns of use of mantra, mindfulness and spiritual meditation among adults in the United States. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17, 316.

Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2014). Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(6), 751–759.

Khalsa, D. S. (2015). Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 48(1), 1–12.

Voon, V., Gao, J., Brezing, C., Symmonds, M., Ekanayake, V., Fernandez, H., … Hallett, M. (2011). Dopamine agonists and risk: impulse control disorders in Parkinson’s; disease. Brain, 134(5), 1438–1446.

Schultz, W. (2015). Neuronal Reward and Decision Signals: From Theories to Data. Physiological Reviews, 95(3), 853–951.

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