WEEK 1: The Scientific Power of Meditation
Research indicates that meditation brings about dramatic effects in as little as a 10 minute session. Several studies have demonstrated that subjects who meditated for a short period of time showed increased alpha waves (relaxed brain waves) and decreased anxiety and depression. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that it activates the sections of the brain in charge of the autonomic nervous system, which governs the functions in our bodies that we can’t control, such as digestion and blood pressure.
These are also the functions that are often compromised by stress. Specifically, meditation enhances your ability to ignore sensations of anxiety as you begin to break the connection between the Medial Prefrontal Cortex, the part of the brain that references back to you, and the Amygdala, the alarm system of the brain that is responsible for our initial emotional responses. It facilitates the strengthening of the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex- the part of the brain that allows you to look at things from a more rational, logical, and balanced perspective. Over time, meditation rewires these neuropathways so that you experience sensations in a less reactive way allowing for a greater capacity for empathy.
WEEK 2: Techniques
When it comes to beginning meditation practice, for many people, the word meditation seems to be the first obstacle to starting their practice. Many think they are too busy, cannot sit still, or cannot quiet the mind long enough to meditate. The key is just to start! Begin with accessible techniques that will fit easily into your schedule and work best for you. Begin with just 10 minutes a day of any of the below techniques.
*Guided Meditation: There are many resources online that supply guided meditations and music to help sooth you during your practice.
*Candles: If you find that you have trouble focusing, try lighting a candle and staring at it. Your attention will be held by the light and if your mind starts wandering, just observe what the candle is doing to allow your thoughts to release.
*Mantra: Repeating words over and over again can help you find calm and focus. You can choose from various Sanskrit mantras which have meaning in the words and sounds, or you can make up your own. The important part is not the word itself but that you feel good about your choice.
*Visualization: Another easy meditation technique is to picture an idyllic setting in your mind. Focus on the picture and let yourself embellish it as much as you like.
*Tapping: tapping on meridian points on the body, derived from acupuncture, releases the body’s energy blockages that cause negative emotions such as anxiety or stress.
*Mindfulness Meditation: Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take a few moments here, and then allow your focus to broaden to your body, noticing those sensations. Lastly, expand your awareness to everything you can hear and sense. Reverse this process to come back one step at a time until you are focusing on your breath again.
*Yoga: a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you are encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.
WEEK 3: Health Benefits
Meditation helps ease chronic pain, anxiety, improves heart health, and boosts mood and immunity. The relaxation response from meditation can help increase metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves brain waves; tension and tightness seep from muscles as the body receives a quiet message to relax. In addition to lowering blood pressure, this practice also helps ward off illness and infections by an increased levels of antibody production.
In fact, researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered is that in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods had more active “disease-fighting genes” compared to those who practiced no form of relaxation. These changes were induced by what they call “the relaxation effect.” Moreover, the benefits of relaxation effects were found to increase with regular practice: the more people practiced relaxation methods such as meditation or deep breathing, the greater their chances or remaining free of arthritis and joint pain with stronger immunity, healthier hormone levels, and lower blood pressure.
WEEK 4: A Personal Story
Embrace Meditation: by Matt Loux
“One of the best ways I have found to reduce stress and keep a positive attitude is through meditation. Meditation involves sitting quietly or with calming music for a few minutes a day. As you meditate, let go of the negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. I started off with 5 to 10 minutes a day of sitting quietly and reflecting on my life and what I want out of it. I have increased my meditation time to about 30 minutes each morning, which gets me off to a great start. It is amazing how much my attitude has changed and how many positive ideas I have just from meditating very day. One of the best ways to get started is to find an app on your phone that either plays calming music or features a voice walking you through the process. Whatever method you choose, the key is to get started. I encourage every police officer to try these techniques. Positivity leads to a better work environment, a closer family, and longevity.”
-Matt has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud, criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school, and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years.