Hang In There: The Surprising Benefits Of Hanging

Do you want to add something new to your training programme that can improve your posture, your concentration, your stress levels and even make you look a few years younger?!

Hanging exercises are some of the simplest, most beneficial, and most ridiculously underrated moves you can do at the gym. Hanging benefits virtually all of your body and incorporating it into your routine is easy and fun.

Types Of Hanging Exercises

When it comes to hanging you have two main types of exercises - hand hanging and inversion.

With hand hanging, you grip a bar and, well, you just hang in there. This type of movement is a great tool for decompressing your spine, improving your back strength, and reducing the risk of injury.

Inversion techniques, whether you do them on an inversion table, inversion chair, or with anti-gravity boots, aim to reverse the effects of gravity. It puts your body in a very unusual position and its a way of placing controlled stress on your system. The increased blood flow to the brain, the improved lymphatic drainage, and the radical improvement in your posture are just some of the benefits of hanging upside down.

How To Do Hand Hanging Right

 

To perform hand hanging exercises all you need is a bar. Virtually all gyms have them and you can install one in your house for very low cost as well.  You can do it as a stand-alone exercise during work or study breaks or, as I have recently started to experiment with - as a great way to start your day!

A simple hand hanging technique is to spread your arms a little more than shoulder-width apart. Grip with your thumb around the bar at first. It is a stronger grip better suited for beginners (the same goes for when you are doing pull-ups). If you are comfortable with that, try reversing the grip. Although it will be more challenging, this grip engages your wrist muscles much better. No matter what grip you choose, remember to lock your elbows for added stability.

Start with the goal of hanging for 30 seconds. An experienced athlete should aim for 90 seconds to 2 minutes of hanging.

If this seems a bit tedious and you want more of a challenge, try active hanging. The idea is to maintain the same posture, except with your shoulders pulled down. This is especially good for strengthening the muscles around your shoulder joint. If you have ever suffered from shoulder pain, dislocations or similar injuries, active hanging could drastically reduce these issues. I usually have my clients do both types of hanging but to be honest I prefer active hanging as it gives you the extra shoulder stability.

The Benefits Of Hanging From A Bar

There are four main benefits to incorporating hand hanging:

  • Decompression of your spine
  • Improved wrist and forearm strength
  • Shoulder stabilisation
  • Better back mobility

Most people, unfortunately, spend their days sitting on a desk and lounging on the sofa. As you might suspect, this is really bad for your overall posture, the function of your internal organs and virtually all aspects of your physical well being. Being sedentary significantly restricts shoulder and back mobility, as you spend hours working with your arms by your sides.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time is also very harmful to your spine. The vertebrae in your spine  are connected by softer, 'squishier' lumbar discs. As you go about your day and especially if you sit a lot, the pressure on this discs increases. Over time that could cause injury and severe pain. When you hang from the bar, the compression is reversed. In fact, chiropractors do decompression techniques on their patients all the time and they are one of the best ways to reduce back pain. Hanging is a simple decompression exercise that can prevent plenty of problems in the future.

The Crazy Benefits Of Hanging From Your Ankles

 

Did you know that being hanged upside down was one of the cruellest and most agonizing execution techniques during the Middle Ages? A couple of centuries later and we are discovering that inversion, when performed correctly and with caution, can actually have some very impressive (and surprising benefits). Defying gravity by hanging upside down can:

  • Improve blood flow to the brain
  • Improve your posture
  • Improve flexibility and overall mobility
  • Reduce stress and help with concentration, productivity, memory, critical thinking
  • Better your overall circulation (essentially, by resetting it)
  • And even improve the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes on your skin!

The list goes on and on. The benefits of hanging upside down can significantly improve your well-being, quality of life, and athletic performance. There are some downsides as well, though. For instance, the 'getting back on your feet' part could make you very dizzy and even nauseous. Inversion is dangerous to perform alone, especially by beginners. Therefore, only perform this exercise under the supervision of an experienced trainer.

Benefits Of Hanging: Some Concluding Words

 

I really hope that you've  learned something new in this article. This is something that I have been introduced to in the last few months and now that I have seen and experienced the benefits first hand I am hooked!

Get yourself a pull up bar from home or try out an anti gravity yoga class and let me know how you get on...

If you have any tips for hanging exercises or favourite techniques you would like to share, please do so in the comments below. I would also love to answer any questions you might have for me!

Cheers,

David

 


Clicking Joints: What Is The Real Reason Your Bones Moan And Groan?

 

I’m sure you've experienced clicking joints at some point in your life... Whether it's a daily occurrence as you get out of bed and take a walk to the bathroom, or from your knuckles - that you enjoy cracking maybe a little too much!

Why do clicking joints happen? And more importantly, is it an indication of something more serious? It's another question that I get asked a lot and I thought I'd take the time to give you the low down on clicking joints, what actually causes this, and when it could be dangerous. Read on...

What Makes A Joint

Fit woman stretching
Stretching is great for your joints!

 

The bones are arranged in a way that means under normal circumstances they don't touch. The ends of each bone are covered in cartilage which is a resilient and smooth elastic tissue with rubber-like padding that covers and protects the end of bones at the joints. A joint is basically two bones coming together, bound by some tendons, ligaments, and muscles. More importantly, though, each joint has a capsule and contained inside this capsule is a tiny amount of synovial fluid that reduces friction between the joints.

How Synovial Fluid Causes Your Knuckles To Crack

 

When you pull the joint capsule ends either with normal movement or forceful actions like knuckle cracking, you essentially make the joint capsule bigger.

The amount of fluid within the joint does not change but some of the gases dissolved inside are released. "Air" bubbles form very quickly to fill the empty space. The process of these bubbles forming is called cavitation and because the release of gas happens so fast, a sound is produced and that sound is the infamous crack.

Why Cracking Your Knuckles (Or Any Other Joint) Could Be Bad For You

Clicking joints are not usually a cause for concern. They click because of the gas and this is a completely natural process. If you crack your joints often, though, the change of pressure will inevitably affect the ligaments. In fact, micro-injuries can happen with every single click. That is why I encourage my clients to slowly stretch before and after exercise. My rule of thumb here is to focus on active (yet still gentle) stretching and mobility exercises before the workout session and on slower passive stretches afterwards.

When Clicking Joints Are A Cause For Concern

Although clicking joints are usually nothing to worry about, there are some cases where an underlying condition is causing them. These usually fall in one of two categories: inflammation or injury. The difference is in the timing. It would be days, weeks, or even months before an inflamed tissue around the joint cause’s pain. If there was injury, though, you would know right away, especially if you tore a thick tendon.

Injuries That Could Cause Clicking Joints

At the extreme level one of the loudest sounds your body can make is if your Achilles tendon snaps. This is the thick cord that connects your ankle to the back of your lower leg and if it ruptures the sound is similar to a gun being fired!

A tear is more subtle and if it didn't happen at the moment of high tension on the tendon, the tearing of your heel cord could resemble a joint cracking. If you hear your ankles clicking and you suspect there could be some injury, observe yourself in the next few hours. Is there any pain or swelling? If so, chances are you could have damaged the tendon and it would be a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor.

Another common injury is twisting your knee. This type of injury usually happens to football players but with a bit of bad luck, you could even injure your knee running on the treadmill. The clicking sound, in this case, often means you may have damaged the cartilage as well. Once again, talk to a doctor and try to put as little pressure on the joint as possible.

Clicking and pain in your feet or toes could be the unexpected consequence of wearing uncomfortable shoes. I have seen it happen to a few of my female clients that were particularly fond of high heels. As hard as it might be, try to switch to flats and the problem usually subsides.

Clicking Joints And Inflammation

Arthritis is the generic term used to describe inflammation of the joints. As scary as it may sound, joint inflammation happens to a lot more (and more diverse) group of people than you might expect. It’s not just reserved for the elderly, I have met girls as young as 17-18 suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Although there are over a hundred types of arthritis the two most common are:

  • Osteoarthritis that comes with age and it affects virtually all joints in your arms and legs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disorder, essentially your own immune system turning against your joints.

Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

Although arthritis patients require complex therapy (that this article won’t do justice), there are a couple of tell-tale signs that your clicking joints could be arthritis:

  • Trouble moving the joint
  • Pain and stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Muscle aches around the joint
  • Secondary effects on your entire system - weight loss, poor sleep, fatigue, loss of muscle flexibility or even function. Make sure you watch out for these and seek medical advice if you notice any of them.
Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

 

More Reasons For Clicking Joints And How To Improve Them

Sometimes the problem just can't be explained. An old injury that didn't heal properly, an incorrect alignment of your joint, over-exercising, all of these could cause clicking joints. Here are a few tips to minimise the cracking:

  • Stretch properly before exercise. It improves joint mobility and it also increases the flexibility of the tendons. This way, you are less likely to suffer an injury.
  • Have at least one rest day per week. Less can sometimes be more! Especially if you are a beginner. Overdoing it could cause injury.
  • Make sure you have enough nutritious food in your diet and you’re properly hydrated. A few of my favourite, joint-friendly foods are nuts and berries(loaded with healthy antioxidants that fight inflammation), oily fish like salmon (for the joint, and brain, healthy omega-3's), and the occasional steak (that contains all important amino acids for your joint fluid).

To help you get started on your way to healthier joints, here is my favourite pre-workout active stretching routine:

  • Push-ups with a twist - a regular push-up except you extend an arm when you come up. I usually do at least ten. If you can't do a standard push-up yet, going on your knees is perfectly fine as well.
  • Stretch walking lunges - I have my clients do a few laps around the gym, alternating legs on each step. Just make sure your knees never pass your toes.
  • High knees with a knee to chest - Essentially, you do three to five high knee jumps and then you hold your knee to your chest for five seconds. Spend at least five minutes on this and your knees will thank you.
  • Inward and outward foot rolls - The most basic of exercises but it makes the world of a difference, especially in clients with feet issues or pain.

So in closing are your clicking joints anything to worry about? Well, if you don’t experience any pain, then NO. But if the joints are painful, swollen or restricted in anyway it could be the signs of something more sinister and you need to visit your GP to find out exactly what is going on.

 

 

What helps your clicking joints? Do you have any tips or questions for me? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

David


Kinesio Tape: Helpful or Just Hype?

 Using Kinesio tape for treating injuries or inflammation is not anything new. It has been in treatment protocols for decades. Most experienced Physio's and massage therapists are familiar with the method. As someone who has struggled with numerous injuries in the past, I'm often seen with bright pink tape all over me!

But when a client comes to me and asks for advice on how to use it? A client without much background in professional sport? Who has not heard it from a doctor or a therapist but from her co-worker? Then it's easy to see that Kinesio tape has become a trend.

Since it is something I swear by, I thought I would share my thoughts with you, rather than just my client. What is Kinesio tape? Who is it for? How does it work (and is it a placebo)? Read on to find out!

What Exactly Is Kinesio Tape?

Basically, it's a tape for your skin. It is made out of a thin and stretchy cotton fabric with adhesive on one side and it's almost identical to human skin in the way that it behaves. Kinesio tape has the same thickness and elasticity and it moves just like your skin does. Athletes love that because it provides support without constricting movement.

Kinesio tape was first developed in Japan for treating musculoskeletal issues. Then their Olympic team started using it and from there it spread all over the world. Professional athletes use it to recover from injury but also to improve form and performance. Taping is one of the most versatile methods in kinesiotherapy, no wonder now it is reaching the general public as well.

What Do You Use It For?

Here is a list of conditions that taping could improve:

  • Acute soft tissue injuries - These are muscle strains, tendon and ligament injury, as well as bruising.
  • Bone injuries and pain - Support for after the fracture has healed, shin splints and even growing pains in teenagers.
  • Joint issues - Poor posture, instability, swelling, misalignment.
  • Tendon and fascia inflammation
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like lupus, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Low muscle tone and muscle weakness

Obviously, if you have a serious medical condition like arthritis, fibromyalgia or general inflammation  then kinesio tape may well provide some welcome pain relief. However, it should not be seen as a cure-all, but as part of a treatment plan it can certainly play its part.

Does It Even Work?

You can still exercise with Kinesio tape!

So does it actually work?!

I'm sure there are many people out there that will point to a lack of scientific evidence to support the benefits of kinesio tape and maybe they are right to do so. I have experienced first hand the support and pain relief it provides and as a result maybe a placebo effect does come into play each time I now use it.

As with any treatment I offer or fitness programme I design, I am always looking to provide something that is appropriate for each individual. So no matter what I think, if a client really believes that this approach is beneficial to their performance, then that's good enough for me!

How does it work?

Unlike normal strapping tape, Kinesio tape provides elastic support. The traditional strapping technique restricts movement by wrapping non-elastic tape around the area of injury. That is great for the first few hours but it has to be Removed soon after because it restricts circulation and movement. Strapping with a rigid tape can actually slow down the healing process as blood does not reach the spot efficiently. Not enough oxygen and glucose get to the site and both of those are key to recovery.

Kinesio tape provides dynamic support. It protects your tissues, muscles, and joints while still giving you a great range of motion plus preserving circulation. Since it is non-restrictive in all senses of the word, you can wear it for days. Depending on how often you shower, it could last anywhere from 4 to 7 days. Even with rigorous exercise, applications have never lasted me less than 4 days.

The Benefits Of Kinesio Tape

The main benefit of kinesiology taping is it gives you 24-hour support without any negative consequences (like poor circulation or restricted movement). After an injury, your muscles get weaker. Maintaining proper form - be it during exercise or simply in your day to day activities - is more difficult. As a result, you can strain other areas that don't normally get that much tension.

It is a vicious cycle of the post-injury weakness causing more injury. The point of taping is to put the joint/muscle/tendon back to its' correct position. It helps posture problems for that very same reason. As for swelling and inflammation, the benefit comes from the passive lift to your skin. The tape gently tugs on your skin which makes the vein and lymph drainage faster. The quicker the drainage, the easier to reduce the swelling.

Since by-products like lactic acid are also removed through the veins, taping can also help reduce soreness the days following exercise.

 

How To Use Kinesio Tape

I always tell my clients to start with the basics. It's true for exercise, diet, and all other health habits you adopt. Of course, if you have any underlying issues that cause the pain and swelling, you would have to tell a doctor about them. Taping a sore ankle is not the same as taping to reduce arthritis-related pain. In the first case, you could probably get away with just the Kinesio tape. In the second, your healthcare provider should probably adjust the other treatment for arthritis. As always, when in doubt, consult a doctor.

There are some basic rules to follow when you apply the tape. First, clean skin is a must. Having any lotion, sweat, or even just water makes the glue weaker. It's best to take a shower before taping and then to clean the area with a cotton pad dipped in 70% alcohol. Make sure the ethanol dries before you apply the tape, though. Also, never use it if you have open wounds or if you have had reactions to acrylic glue before.

As for the actual tape, always cut it round in the edges. This way it will not peel and will last you longer. Don't just stick it on either. You want to have two anchor points where the tape is not stretched. For the rest of the tape, some stretch and tension are more than welcome. It is what gives you the effect.

I have filmed a short video tutorial for an ankle injury taping. Since it's one of the most common issues my clients get, I am hoping it helps you out. If you have any questions on Kinesio tape technique, I would be happy to answer in the comments down bellow!


MCT Oil: What Nobody Is Telling You About The Ultimate Body Hack!

MCT oil has been around for a few years now and has recently gained huge popularity via Dave Asprey and his bullet proof coffee. 

However it wasn't that long ago, that all fats were being deemed unhealthy. So what has changed people's minds so much over the last few years and why should you take MCT oil every day?

Let's dive right in:

What Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil has plenty of benefits to your physical and mental health. Yes, that also includes better cognition.

Your body functions on three fuel sources; carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Lipids include fats (also known as triglycerides).

Protein has always been viewed as the building blocks for muscle growth, carbohydrates as our fuel to move and fats as something to avoid at all costs!

I'm sure by now, you now know that fat doesn't make you fat, in fact it is vital for numerous bodily functions.

An example of the "good fat" your body thrives on is triglycerides which are made up of glycerol and three fatty acids attached to it. The glycerol is the backbone and you have the fatty acids sticking out from it. It is found naturally in coconuts, coconut oil and in butter and other high-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats.

So what is so good about MCT Oil?

To digest triglycerides, you need enzymes and bile salts. These transform the fat so it can enter your bloodstream. With medium-chain triglycerides, however, you don't have to do that. They already have the correct structure, to begin with so they are much easier to digest and absorb.

Not only that, but MCT oil can also improve protein metabolism and induce ketogenesis. - another buzz word at the moment.

Ketogenesis is simply another way for your body to distribute energy but has gained popularity recently as the process has been marketed as "turning your body into a fat burning machine!" Part of this statement holds some truth, however there are some side effects to ketosis.

This is a whole other subject that I will go into in a later article but basically, as your body burns fat, the liver produces ketones out of fats. Ketones cross the blood-brain barrier very efficiently, which is why MCT oil is sometimes called brain food.

Here's the key thing, a fat deficiency can seriously tamper with your hormones. Your body needs fats in order to produce oestrogen, testosterone, and a bunch of other incredibly important hormones. When you avoid fats in your diet, you risk an imbalance.

This is why I see first hand how so many female clients now have screwed up their bodies as a result of following poor dietary advice over the years. They have been badly advised to avoid ALL forms of fat in their diet and as a result they now have a hormone imbalance and symptoms such as weight gain, mood swings, lowered immunity, poor physical and mental performance, the list goes on and on.

Consuming MCT oil changes all of this. It gives your body and brain the energy boost it needs, it supports your digestive system and even has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.

 

The Reason I Put MCT Oil In My Coffee Every Morning

When people ask me how do I like my coffee, they rarely expect to hear 'With oil in it'. Bulletproof coffee is the real deal when it comes to boosting energy, improving my performance, and giving me a variety of other health benefits.

Obviously, it gives me all the antioxidants black coffee has anyway which are quite impressive. It lowers your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, prevents Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, not to mention coffee lowers appetite and it can help with weight loss.

Another great reason to have MCT Oil in your coffee is that caffeine is also soluble in fats. When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, the caffeine in the water will get absorbed fairly quickly. The MCT takes a little longer to be absorbed. That is why adding it to your morning cuppa gives you lasting energy (and by lasting energy I mean 4-5 hours at least).

Finally, To Sum Up The MCT Oil Benefits...

You have the energy boost and the coffee benefits, but Bulletproof coffee also gives you all the goodness of medium-chain fatty acid supplementation. That means:

  • An easy to digest source of energy. And it is the kind of energy that your brain loves, which improves your cognition visibly (even after your first cup of Bulletproof coffee).
  • Hormone support and imbalance prevention.
  • Burning more calories and an aid in weight loss. MCT oil is popular in the fitness community because it's a fat that helps you burn more fat.
  • Immune and gut health. There is evidence that MCT oil is beneficial to your gut microbiome. It helps balance out the bacteria by fighting the pathogens and supporting the good microbiome species. Since your gut health is related to virtually all other aspects of your well-being (including mental wellness), MCT oil has some major health benefits for your system as a whole.

So there you have it - the reason why I take my coffee with a teaspoon spoonful of MCT oil.

Do you agree with all this?  Do you have any Bulletproof coffee tips and hacks? Or do you just have a question to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cheers,

David

 


Compression Socks: Get Your Facts Right

Your grandma wears them on long flights and now apparently nurses, waiters, and even those with a 9-5 office job are testing them out.

What is this trend about anyway?

Are compression socks any good?

And are there any performance enhancing benefits for runners or are they yet another over-hyped product?

Let's separate fact from fiction once and for all!

What Are Compression Socks?

Compression socks (or compression stockings) are designed to make your veins drain faster and more efficiently. By doing that, they can prevent blood clots from forming in your limbs, travelling all the way to your heart or lungs and causing an embolism.

Do Your Veins Need The Extra Help?

While arteries have a thick muscle layer that contracts or expands in response to changes in the blood pressure, veins don't have anywhere near enough muscle to do that. Instead, they have valves that keep the blood flowing one way only. The valves are pretty efficient in a healthy adult. However, as you age or if you are inactive, they begin to suffer damage.

When the valves are damaged, blood can flow in both directions and it often flows backwards. It can pool and that pooling is what causes varicose veins.

What Could Go Wrong With Your Veins?

Long flights can hurt your veins

Your body is a smart machine but not everything goes to plan all the time. There is plenty that could go wrong with your vein function. Starting with the obvious, inflammation.

Virtually all tissues in your body can become inflamed and the veins are no exception. Phlebitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the veins. It could happen after an IV line is removed, as a result of trauma, or in people with conditions like lupus, and certain types of cancer. It can damage the lining of your veins and cause blood clots to form. Having varicose veins puts you at a higher risk for phlebitis.

Speaking of varicose veins, they happen when a valve is damaged or destroyed. Spider veins is the equivalent of varicose veins for your smallest blood vessels. Both are a result of a sedentary lifestyle, as well as a certain predisposition some people have.

Blood clots might form even if your veins are intact. Deep-vein thrombosis is a life-threatening condition in which clots form in the deep veins of your leg (or more rarely, your arm). That blood clot might travel to your lung or heart where it causes an embolism. Plenty of factors put you at risk for developping deep-vein thrombosis:

  • A decreased blood flow in veins - spending long hours without moving (i.e. during a flight, while you are working, or if you are on bed rest) often causes that.
  • Changes to the blood vessel wall - inflammation and high cholesterol are two things that damage the lining of your vein.
  • Increased clotting tendency - this could be congenital or related to a disease (lupus, cancer, hormone imbalances, including the ones related to pregnancy)

So How Do I Look After My Veins?

Relax. I know virtually everything you do on a normal day is a risk factor for deep-vein thrombosis. While you can't entirely prevent it from happening, there are easy steps to take for prevention. Here is where the compression socks come in.

Doctors usually tell all patients with venous disease to use compression socks. They are cheap, have virtually zero side effects, and they help a lot. But before I tell you why here is a little reminder. I get clients and people who follow me online constantly asking me about the next great 'health hack'. These can range from supplements to compression socks, to new massage techniques or fancy treatments.

I hate to break your bubble, but you can't 'out-health' an unhealthy diet and exercise programme. If you want healthy veins, healthy circulation, a healthy heart, a healthy you, it starts with cleaner eating and a little more movement.

This reduces inflammation in your body, keeps your muscles happy and doing their job as best as they can, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. So before you jump onto the compression socks bandwagon, try to simply stand up a little more while you are working. Take a bathroom break, go talk to a co-worker, or take a stroll to the water cooler.

It is that simple.

How Compression Socks Can Help Your Veins

Unlike your normal socks and stockings, compression socks use a very strong elastic material to put pressure on your leg. By compressing the muscles together you get an effect similar to that of the skeletal-muscle pump. The socks are tightest around your ankles and they get less constrictive around your knee and thighs. This is the direction in which blood should normally flow.

By constricting the veins of your lower leg more than the ones in the upper part, compression socks increase the pressure and encourage blood to flow to your heart. It is as though your muscles were doing it. Since they imitate the skeletal-muscle pump, compression socks are good for people who sit a lot, as well as for those who stand too much. Either way, they increase blood flow and improve vein drainage. That is how they prevent deep-vein thrombosis and how they could potentially save your life.

Compression Socks: The Verdict

Although they will not make your veins instantly healthier, compression socks live up to their reputation by assisting with any circulation issues. I'd recommend you grab a pair and wear them on your next long flight. Or your next 8-hour sitting day.

Looking at it from a performance perspective, will they make you run faster?

Put simply, No.

They've become a big fashion accessory, particularly in the running and crossfit communities and many athletes swear by them, but in my opinion you won't see any performance enhancing benefits by wearing them.

Of course there may be some kind of placebo effect and if you really believe in them or just really like running in stockings then Who am I to stop you!

I guess they'll keep your legs warm on those cold winter mornings, but they are not going to turn you into a world beater over-night, my advice would be to give them to your granny for her next holiday flight!

Do you have any questions or any other health trends you would like me to share your opinion on? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Cheers,

David


3 Great Reasons Everybody Should Meditate (And Why You Are Doing It Wrong)

Meditation has definitely got a bit of a cool reputation these days. What used to be a practice reserved for the deeply religious or carefree hippy types is now a daily essential for sports performers and CEO's. But what actually is it and why should you make it a daily habit? In this article, I want to give you the top reasons to meditate every day - simple, straightforward, and scientifically backed!

But First... What Is Mediation?

In its' core, meditation is just a mental exercise. It has been around for thousands of years. Virtually all major religions have their own version of a meditative practice. The English word meditation comes from the Latin verb meditari, 'to contemplate' but meditation doesn't necessarily have to do with actively thinking about anything. In fact, the goal is the opposite... Clearing your mind and grounding yourself is at the core of a meditation practice.

It all sounds very deep and spiritually-charged but meditation is not limited to Buddhist monks and aspiring life coaches. The sort of meditation most people practice focuses on mental benefits like stress relief, relaxation, and improved self-awareness.

One of my favourite ways to explain what meditation is comes from the Headspace app (which is a really good place to get started with meditation).

They suggest that you imagine your mind as a motorway during rush hour. The cars are your thoughts and clearly there are tons of them.

At times this can be really overwhelming. Meditation is about stepping back to the roadside and simply observing as the thoughts pass by. Over time, you learn not to fight all of these thoughts flying around and instead, sit back and watch as your mind clears.

Meditation And Your Brain

Meditation is a workout for your brain and in my experience, it's not an overstatement to say that meditation improves virtually all aspects of your life.

In terms of mental health, meditation reduces depression, anxiety, and stress. It is incredibly effective in treating existing depression and can help you overcome ruminative thinking (where you go over a thought over and over) and it also improves your self-esteem.

I've recommended a daily meditation programme to a number of clients and there have been some impressive improvements to their performance at the gym. In less than a few weeks clients come in calmer and more patient with themselves. If they do hit a plateau, they rarely get frustrated but rather adopt an 'I will do what I have got to do' attitude and in turn, they achieve much more impressive results.

Your Brain At Work

Meditation does not only improve how well your mind deals with emotions, it also ups your cognitive performance. Here are a few (science-backed!) benefits:

  • Improved memory (including rapid memory recall)
  • Fosters creativity
  • Makes you more efficient at dealing with stress
  • Improves focus (also in people with ADHD)

I have been lucky enough to work with some very successful people throughout the years. What I have noticed is that those who meditate were not only higher up the hierarchy but they also handled their responsibilities in a calmer, healthier way. New clients that I convinced to take up meditation always say that it has improved their careers and work-life balance visibly.

My advice: If you want to be successful, meditate.

Meditation Made Simple

Building your meditation practice can feel like the exact opposite of relaxation. There are hundreds of different approaches and most beginners become so overwhelmed that they never actually get consistent. It is a mistake I always see in novice meditators. Here is my challenge to you: start with your morning coffee. 

The point is to make meditation a habit.The reality is, most people don't spend ANY time alone with their own thoughts! We are constantly stimulated by noise, music, television and of course our best friend - our mobile phone! For the next seven days, I challenge you to commit to spending five quality minutes alone with your coffee. Focus all of your attention on that morning cuppa. No phones, no radio, no driving, no chatting with your kids or spouse. Just you and your coffee.

Once you manage to keep that up for seven consecutive days, try taking 10 minutes in the evening for some more traditional meditation. The Headspace app is a great place to start and so are the guided meditations you can find on YouTube. Don't beat yourself up if you can't achieve complete clarity of mind from the very first time. What matters is showing up and making it a habit. Get comfortable with being alone with your own thoughts, pressing the pause button on your hectic life and just being in that moment. Over time, you will notice yourself getting better and you'll probably want to commit more time to it. And that is how you build a meditation practice, the stress-free way.

If you have any additional questions or if you have any tips to share, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cheers,

David