Many of you will have heard of the ‘fight of flight’ response. It is the physiological response to feelings of fear. It enables us to avoid danger by either, running away or fighting. So when you are faced by a dangerous situation, circulation to your brain increases for faster reactions, blood pressure rises, your heart beats faster and your muscles tense ready for action. Adrenalin and cortisol levels increase to sustain this state for a short time. This response is life saving when we are in danger however, many of us are living under constant stress and our bodies are remaining in this fight or flight state for prolonged lengths of time.
Over time, raised cortisol levels brought on by chronic stress can lead to impaired cognitive function, blood sugar imbalance, decreased bone density, high blood pressure, lowered immune system and increased abdominal fat. In fact one of the main causes of increased abdominal fat is raised cortisol levels. Our body stores fat expecting to need it for energy for the high stress situation that we are facing.
So by finding ways to initiate the relaxation response in our bodies we can lower cortisol levels, thereby stabilising our blood sugar and reducing food cravings. Lowered cortisol levels should also help reduce belly fat. Studies have shown that mindful meditation may significantly reduce cortisol levels leading to the reduction in the risks associated with raised levels.
So take a few moments each day to consider how your body feels. What thoughts are running through you mind? If you don’t have the time for a regular meditation practice, try taking 5 minutes on your commute to work or take a mindful walk outside on your lunch break.
If you have the time, try this short mindful meditation practice for a few minutes and if you are able too, build up the time you allow for this each day.
Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor. Notice what is going on around you and within you. What can you hear, smell or sense? What are your bodily sensations, body weight, temperature, contact points with the chair? What is happening in your mind? What emotional feelings are present? Allow whatever is there to be there without judgement. Now Narrow your attention down to your breath. Notice the rise and fall of your abdomen, the depth and length of the breath. When your attention drifts, acknowledge that it has drifted and gently bring the attention back to the breath. After a few minutes, broaden out you attention again to the thoughts, emotions, body and surrounding area. After a few more moments you can go back to your day and enjoy the benefits of reducing your stress hormones.