Meditation and Men’s Health

The practice of meditation is one of the most beneficial approaches to reducing stress and reversing its effects. Regular meditation can boost immune system function, reduce blood pressure, positively impact brain, heart and other major organ health, and promote feelings of serenity.

For men not familiar with the practice, meditation is a simple physiological process that accesses the slower frequency levels produced by the brain as part of its natural program. The frequency most associated with meditation is called alpha. When engaged in alpha, we relax and yet are quite aware of everything that is going on around us.

The best approach to accessing this state is a technique called diaphragmatic breathing (also called belly breathing). This form of deep breathing involves the downward expansion of the diaphragm, which is a muscle that bisects the trunk of the body just below the rib cage, when we inhale.

To begin this technique, place your hands just below the rib cage. As you inhale, expand your abdomen against your hands. Wait a couple of beats, and when you exhale relax your body from head to toe just like a rag doll. Repeat.

What we are after with diaphragmatic breathing is a change in the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the brain. Breathing that is shallow and too rapid causes carbon dioxide to be exhaled too quickly. If you are running a sprint, blowing off CO2 makes sense because your brain and muscles need all the O2 they can get to function maximally. However, if you are doing it chronically, you are maintaining the high performance state that is fine for a short period but begins to have ill effects over time.

Chronic rapid and shallow breathing is the hallmark of a state called overarousal. This is a condition of heightened brain and central nervous system readiness commonly known as fight or flight that evolved as a defensive system for coping with danger by preparing the body to either do battle or beat a hasty retreat.

Because the brain does not differentiate between physical and psychological threat, it is as likely to respond with a call to action from someone close to us being in a bad mood as to a tiger on the loose. Tigers are not a threat to us anymore, but such things as relationship issues and other environmental factors that impact our emotional security can be enough to leave us in a state of continuous fight-or-flight mode. The goal of meditation is to season the brain’s reactivity with its own lower frequencies.

Meditation is best learned by taking time each day to be quiet and still so that you can practice the breathing technique in a deliberate way. Easy music can be part of the mix. Ten or fifteen minutes is all that is needed to begin. No need for any other major changes at all.

With practice, the quieter mental states set the tone for the rest of the day, promoting beneficial physical and psychological effects without our being aware of it.

Armin Brott

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Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.
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