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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Meditation for a Healthy Mind

Sep 03, 2012 05:43PM ● By Ann Lovick, NMD

Back in the 1960s, Roger Sperry performed a series of experiments known as “split brain” experiments. His goal was to eliminate the cause of epilepsy in patients. He discovered that by severing the corpus callosum, or the band of nerve fibers that connects each hemisphere of the brain, he could stop epileptic attacks in a majority of patients. Through his experiments, he was able to determine what functions each hemisphere of the brain carried out. This is how the idea of left-brain vs. right-brain was developed. Sperry earned the Nobel Prize for his work in 1981.

The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for analytical and verbal tasks, whereas the right hemisphere handles spatial perception and music. Each hemisphere also controls the movements of the opposite side of the body. When the left and right sides of our brain are used equally, our minds are balanced. People that are artistic and creative are often more balanced than their left-sided counterparts. Right-side dominant people use the left side of their brain for basic tasks such as paying bills, navigating directions and using their right hand. A surprising number of left-handed people are fairly ambidextrous, a trait not often found in right-handed people.

Meditation is a powerful way to strengthen the brain. It is a truly challenging exercise for a left-brained person. It is the logical, analytical side of the brain that interrupts the “witness,” or the right side of the brain, during meditation. The left hemisphere provides the intruding and distracting thoughts. Through meditation, people are able to quiet the demands of the analytical side and find the creative energy and appreciation of beauty that the right side has to offer. Here are some easy steps to start out meditating.

Find a quiet area and sit comfortably. Do not sit cross-legged if it is uncomfortable. If this exercise becomes uncomfortable, odds are you will not continue with it.

Focus on your breath. Slow down each inhalation and exhalation. The longer each breath is drawn out, the deeper the relaxation you will feel.

If intrusive thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge the strength of the left side of your brain and return your focus to your breath. If you reach a point where you cannot quiet the intrusive thoughts, go ahead and end that session. Perhaps there is something that you need to deal with before returning for the next meditation session.

Start meditating for just five minutes, twice a day. Every week, add an additional five minutes to your total until you can sit comfortably and quietly for 60 minutes.

The health benefits of meditation have been well documented. It is a fantastic stress-reliever, normalizes blood pressure, enhances energy and improves sleep. It can also improve concentration and strengthen cognition. Overall, meditation balances the physical, mental and emotional aspects of our bodies. Balance is a basic principle of naturopathic medicine. A balanced body is a healthy body.

Ann Lovick is a naturopathic physician specializing in women’s health care at Integrative Health, in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-657-0003 or visit MyIntegrativeHealth.com.

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