As the leading cause of death, nearly every family has been affected by heart disease, whether through losing a loved one or their illness.
Many advances have been made in cardiovascular medicine, yet the search continues for safer, more effective, and less expensive preventions and treatments.
Psychological Interventions For Heart Health
One intriguing approach explores the influence of psychological factors on blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and disease progression.
People who report higher levels of intense negative moods, such as anxiety, depression, and hostility, have a greater risk of elevated blood pressure and coronary heart disease.
Meditation may be a possible method for reducing the harmful effects of psychological stress.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a secular, eight-week meditation course specifically targeting the reduction of stress, depression, and pain, using techniques backed by scientific evidence.
Cardiac patients are typically recommended exercise-based rehabilitation programs, but these interventions tend to have low compliance and retention rates, even if they may be beneficial. MBSR may be an alternative way to help cardiac patients improve their condition that could be much easier to start and continue.
Mindfulness meditation can also teach people to cope with stress and cravings more healthily. MBSR is an incredibly useful tool for liberating a person from substance and behavioral addictions, such as smoking and unhealthy diets. These lifestyle changes should significantly lower the risk of suffering chronic diseases.
Body Scan Meditation
In the first week of the MBSR course, participants learn a technique called “body scanning.” This method systematically and intentionally tunes you into your current physical sensations by slowly moving your attention up and down your body.
Try it now.
- Bring your awareness down to your left big toe.
- Expand that point of focus to cover your whole left foot. Isn’t it interesting that we can narrow, spread, and move our attention this way?
- Guide this spotlight of awareness up to your ankle. Slowly continue up your calf to your knee. After resting there for a moment, continue through your thigh to your hip.
- Reverse these steps down your right leg, slowly down to your right toes.
- Back to your hips, ascend your focus up and around your torso, to your chest, to your shoulders.
- Similar to your legs, move your attention down your left arm to your fingertips, then back up to your shoulder, across to the other, and gently down and up your right arm.
- Now up your neck, to your ears, to your jaw, to your lips, nose, eyes, forehead, all the way to the top of your head.
- Reverse all these steps all the way back down to your toes as slowly as you can concentrate.
- Repeat as often as possible.
Try it again in different settings, different moods, different postures. Try it while watching tv, cleaning the dishes, or stuck in traffic.
With this simple practice, you have taken a small step towards better health and wellness. Each and every moment is an opportunity to enrich your life.