Archive for Balance

Meditation Made Easy

By · December 4, 2009 · Filed in Balance · No Comments »

Meditation has been practiced for years and is a valued component of several different religions.  More recently though, meditation has been used outside of traditional religions for the psychophysical benefits it offers.  Here we will take a brief look at meditation:  the definition, how it’s used and the benefits.

What is Meditation?

The word meditation is derived from two Latin words:  meditari, which means to think, dwell upon or exercise the mind; and mederi, which means to heal.  It is not, as many believe, simply a prayer or form of worship.  To meditate means to become aware.  Simple activities such as fishing or watching wildlife could be considered meditation as long as these activities are free from any outside or inner mental distraction.

The techniques involved in meditation have become widely popular.  The health benefits associated with meditation have helped spread this popularity.  Through meditation one tries to achieve awareness by ridding the mind of everyday thoughts and focusing on the “here and now.”  The various techniques involved are known to improve concentration and relieve stress, creating a happier and more confident self.

How to Meditate

There are several different forms of meditation, but all of them have the same goal in mind:  to focus on the present moment and improve self-awareness.  Many mediation experts agree that this awareness will come in hierarchal stages as the meditation progresses, but as a beginner it’s best to keep it simple.  You can get started by following these simple steps:

1. Choose a quiet place and sit comfortably.  Remember to keep your back straight.  This will help facilitate breathing and focus.  Place your hands comfortably on your knees or in your lap.

2. Clear your mind and begin taking deep regular breaths.  Breathe deeply, inhaling with your nose and exhaling with your mouth.  Feel the breath fill your stomach activity.

3. Now you are going to focus on your breath and your breath only.  If another thought comes into your mind, recognize it and then get back to your breath.  The goal here is to think about nothing.  Focusing on your breath will help to clear your mind.

4. If you wish, you can use a mantra to help keep your focus.  Different religions use different mantras for this purpose.  For example, Christians often use phrase such as “Jesus is Love,” repeated over and over to help them concentrate only on their breath.

5. Continue this for 10-20 minutes focusing only on your breath.  If you feel distracted, recognize the distraction, and continue your measured breathing.

Meditation Benefits

Meditation allows you to focus on the moment and the moment only.  Regrets about the past and worries for the future can create harmful stress and keep people from maximizing their potential.  Mediation will help quell these worries and help you to become more relaxed and alert.  Below are some of the common and most widely reported benefits of mediation:

Meditation is:

1. Accessible.  Meditation is always accessible.  It can be done at home or the office whenever you wish, and can be done alone.  You need not drive across town and waste half the day at an appointment.

2. Free.  It won’t cost you a thing.

3. Easy to learn.  Just follow the simple steps above.  Every time you engage in mediation you can improve.

4. Healthy.  Meditation is used to help treat a variety of conditions by providing the simple opportunity for focusing on the present.  Among the conditions are:

· Stress

· Anxiety

· Depression

· Insomnia

· Pain

5.  Empowering.  Many people and corporations are using meditation as a way to improve self-esteem, focus and productivity.  By eliminating stress and increasing awareness, individuals are learning to lead fuller lives.

Start today and see if it works for you!

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How Safe Are Mental Health Prescriptions?

Mental health treatment, despite recent advancements in the field, continues to carry a stigma which suggests abnormality and promotes exclusion.  Moreover, mental health continues to be segregated from the field of General Health, and the serious nature of these illnesses is regularly discounted.  Those suffering from common ailments, such as depression and anxiety, not only face a litany of troubling symptoms, but are forced to suffer these symptoms secretly, in fear of being stereotyped or profiled by a world that remains in ignorance about mental illness.  When mental health patients finally decide to seek treatment, many are “at the end of their rope,” and are willing to try just about anything in hope of returning to a “normal” life.

The first step taken by doctors is usually a strategy which involves prescribing medication, thought to ease persistent symptoms.  Doctors hope to control the symptoms of depression and anxiety by adjusting the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.   Today’s most prescribed drugs fall under a category called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.  SSRIs work to control the brain’s level of serotonin—a neurotransmitter which regulates mood and behavior.  Drugs belonging to this class include brand names like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil and are prescribed at an alarming rate.

Many patients have experienced some degree of relief from these medications, but predictably, drugs of this kind are not without their problems.  Most people report at least some detrimental side effects when taking SSRIs, and in isolated cases, these drugs have proven dangerous, if not fatal.  The most alarming side effect, a propensity for violent and self-destructive behavior, including suicidal ideation, seems to be experienced very early on in a medication regiment, and is especially profound in young adults.  The school shooting rampage in Columbine, gave rise to heated debates over antidepressants and adolescents, as it was documented that at least one of the shooters was being treated with these medications.  Other school shootings show similar evidence to support this alarming correlation.  In addition, suicide rates for young adults taking SSRI medications are five times that of their non-medicated peers.

These SSRIs have a laundry list of side effects and many experts wonder if they are not creating more problems than their solving.  Here’s a short list:

SSRI Side Effects:






Loss of appetite

Sexual difficulties


Effexor, a popular drug that lies outside of the SSRI category, is commonly prescribed to treat both Depression and Anxiety disorders.  It too comes with a suitcase full of troubling side effects and has also been known to cause increased blood pressure in patients.  Hypertension is the leading cause of heart attacks, and the use of Effexor has been linked now to heart conditions that have proved fatal.

Other serious side effects like stomach bleeding, seizures and death have also been reported in rare cases.  Rare or not, losing your life as a solution to any situation is scary, and certainly not necessary with all of the options in mental health today.

Why should the solution put you at risk of more disease, likely worse than what you started with, and even increase your chance of death? It shouldn’t.  Think about this.  Your car breaks down in the middle of the desert. Say you find a solution, but the risk if you choose it is that your car might blow up and you’ll die.  The really isn’t any question that 99% of us would walk 100 miles if needed in that hot desert heat in order to find another option right?

The logic behind this thinking is exactly why many promising new drug-free alternative therapies are quickly becoming more popular.  The time is now to seek out and only support solutions that are proven to work, with the bare-minimum side effects, zero preferred.

Within this environment, characterized by a barrage of prescriptions, some doctors are seeking a more comprehensive approach to mental health.  Cognitive therapy and behavioral modification are used in conjunction with medication to learn more about the deeply hidden causes of these ailments.

More recently, techniques such as meditation, magnetic therapy and subconscious restructuring have been employed as well.  The goal:  identify and treat the root of depression or anxiety, rather than just the symptoms.

Natural supplements—vitamins and minerals—are also being used as an alternative to prescription medication.  Find out more about 10 mental health supplements here.

It seems today there are as many treatment techniques and supplements as there are patients, and more will undoubtedly emerge, trying to capture a piece of the mental health market.  That’s not necessarily bad news, it may even be encouraging.  The trend to find alternate treatments—treatments which are more holistic and comprehensive in their approach—is promising, in that it seeks to replace the singular approach that exists now, which relies predominantly on potentially harmful drugs.