In today’s fast-paced world with our ultra-busy lives, it is easy to get caught up in the chaos of being pulled in many different directions. In addition, trying to concentrate on successfully managing diabetes can be stressful and overwhelming at times. Countless day-to-day responsibilities and life issues can overshadow healthy living. Stress not only directly impacts blood sugar control, but it can make it hard to focus and maintain lifestyle goals. Luckily, there are many ways to work through stress and all the difficulties it causes. One great tool to use is meditation!
The Scientific Evidence Behind It
Countless studies have shown that meditation is very beneficial to health, namely reducing stress. Research has shown that meditation can have positive effects on the body- including our metabolic, endocrine, and psychological systems. It helps lessen chronic pain, improves sleep, and decreases high blood pressure. As far as diabetes is concerned, meditation can have powerful effects such as reducing insulin resistance, and lowering blood sugars and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). One particular study from 2018, revealed that six months of meditation resulted in significant improvement in fasting and after meal blood sugars as well as a reduction in HbA1c.
Different Types of Meditation to Try
There are many forms of meditation to choose from – common types include mantra meditation, progressive relaxation and visualization.
- Mantra Meditation: this type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to help improve focus and de-clutter the mind. Mantras can be a word like “peace,” a phrase/sentence such as “I am calm,” or even a sound like the universally recognized “OM”. The mantra can be spoken out loud or just repeated in your mind as you breathe in and breath out with your eyes closed and try to concentrate.
- Progressive relaxation: this form of meditation, also often referred to as “body scanning,” centers on reducing body tension. It involves lying down on your back and progressively tensing various muscles in the body for 10 seconds, while breathing in, and then relaxing the muscles when breathing out. There are various charts that help provide guidance on how to do this, with sequence suggestions to make sure you relax all of the parts or your body completely.
- Visualization: this is a fun and creative technique that includes the imagination to help relax, reduce anxious and stressful thoughts, and bring back focus. It is done by closing your eyes and picturing a scene (like lying on a tropical beach) and trying to use all your senses to think of the scene in as much detail as possible to put yourself in that place. You can also use guided recordings set to music that will outline the scene for you and allow you to simply follow along. Other forms of visualization can be seeing yourself following through with a goal or conquering a challenge with the positive end result you are aiming for.
Tips For Getting Started With Meditation
Still wondering how to begin meditation to help clear your mind and relax your body? Here are some basic tips to get started:
- To get more guidance and instruction enroll in a meditation class
- Use a meditation DVD or app in the comfort of your own home
- Try programs that combine meditation with yoga so you can get the added benefit of stretching and strengthening, which can also add physical activity to your day
- Be sure to keep practicing and don’t give up. Meditation takes time to learn and requires intense focus on breathing and mental concentration, but the effort will be worth it in the end.
A Quick and Easy Technique To Begin With: Deep Breathing
If you find that you are feeling stressed, in a fog, anxious, or upset, one of the best things you can do is to take time out for just a few minutes and breathe. The basic act of just taking a few deep breaths can help calm your body and clear your mind, not to mention that it can also combat rising blood sugars. Focus on simple breathing to help relax and use it as an easy, healthy coping mechanism.
One straightforward technique to try is:
- Sit in a chair, close your eyes, and take a deep, slow breath.
- Hold the breath in for a few seconds and then breath out fully and very slowly for a few seconds.
- Repeat this up to five to ten times to help calm yourself and reset.
- Try using this few minutes of breathing as a healthy coping mechanism instead of resorting to less beneficial habits such as indulging in junk food, alcohol, or tuning out and withdrawing. Take time out to acknowledge the way you are feeling and give yourself a moment to breathe, your body will thank you for it!