Have you ever reacted to something in anger? We all have. Typically, these are the reactions we regret most. But we can’t always help ourselves. There’s something visceral about it, and it feels good in the moment.
Damage from visceral reactions
Every time you react with a negative emotion, it harms your system. Your adrenaline increases, blood pressure rises, and your breath quickens. Your endocrine system produces cortisol, which can be very damaging in excess. Excess cortisol often contributes to heart problems and diabetes.
If you find yourself reacting emotionally more often than not, there may be a deeper issue. Outbursts of anger are one of the signals of depression. Fortunately, the answer doesn’t always have to rely on medication. Meditation can help.
How meditation can prevent visceral reactions
When you meditate, you learn to control your wandering and damaging thoughts. Oftentimes, these thoughts are the soundtrack to our anger and negativity. We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough or other people are out to get us. Your own soundtrack may be different, but it’s likely no less damaging.
Meditation teaches us not to follow these wandering thoughts.
Meditation can also help decrease cortisol levels and increase vagal tone by stimulating the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. This nerve connects your brain to other organs within the body like the gut, heart and lungs. People who have a higher vagal tone are able to relax faster after being stressed.
How to improve your life with meditation
Anyone who meditates regularly benefits from increased relaxation and reduced stress. If you think your life would benefit from these things, it’s time to try meditation. Here are some tips to get started:
1. Start small – If you’ve never meditated before, consider starting with five or ten minutes every day.
2. Commit to daily practice – You’ll see the best results over time with daily practice. Try to work your way up to 30 minutes daily.
3. Meditate in the morning – It’s best to meditate in the morning before the stresses of each day. If you really can’t manage a morning meditation, it’s okay. It’s better to meditate later than to skip your practice that day.
4. Don’t apply pressure – One of the biggest mistakes people make when learning to meditate is to try to force thoughts from their minds. The act of “forcing” anything goes against meditation. Instead, recognize your thoughts but do not follow them. Let them go as easily as they came.
It doesn’t take long for you to see the improvements meditation can provide. Commit to about two weeks of daily practice and keep a journal to track your progress. You may be surprised to find that mindfulness improves all areas of your life.