The Surprising Health Benefits of Meditation

The Surprising Physical Benefits Of Meditation

Episode Description

Did you know that in addition to calming and focusing our minds, meditation can improve our physical health? In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Host Tim Unsinn visits with Dr. Wayne Martinsen, Psychiatrist, Dakota Family Services, about the surprising health benefits of meditation. A regular meditation practice can increase longevity, reduce the risk of dementia, reduce inflammation, and play a significant role in the treatment of high blood pressure and immune disorders. Learn about the many forms of meditation and how you can start your own meditation practice today.

What to Expect

  • Learn the many ways meditation can improve your health.
  • Discover how meditation can not only improve sleep, but replace up to 1/2 hour of sleep.
  • Learn easy ways to incorporate meditation into your day.


Things to Think About

  • In what ways could you benefit from meditation?
  • Could you already be meditating without realizing it (Tai Chi, yoga, repetitive dance, prayer, etc.)?
  • What is "forest bathing" and how might it work for you?

About the Guest

Martinsen

Dr. Martinsen enjoys working with a wide range of ages and diagnoses. His practice is largely focused on complex clients with multiple health challenges. He diagnoses psychiatric and behavioral health conditions, makes recommendations for treatment, and prescribes/manages medications for clients of all ages. Much of his work focuses on maximizing health, treating illness, and promoting healthy longevity through lifestyle medicine.

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Transcript
The Surprising Health Benefits of Meditation

Featuring Dr. Wayne Martinsen, Psychiatrist, Dakota Family Services

Host Tim Unsinn:

Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and well-being, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to Mind Your Mind.

Host Tim Unsinn:

On today's episode of Mind Your Mind, I'll be talking with Dr. Wayne Martinsen. Dr. Martinsen is a medical director and psychiatrist in Fargo Minot. Dr. Martinsen diagnoses psychiatric and behavioral health conditions, makes treatment recommendations, and provides medication management for clients of all ages. Our topic today is meditation. However, before we get to meditation, and I should have forewarned Dr. Martinsen, there's always that question I ask at the beginning, and that is why do you do what you do?

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

I think it is totally fascinating. I'm one of the people who, even if it's hard for me to get out of bed in the morning, I love what I do. I love the people. I love the complexity of the problems. And when I can make a difference and help people live the life that they want to live, I find that just incredibly rewarding.

Host Tim Unsinn:

Thanks again, for being with us. Our topic is meditation and we hear a lot about meditation. So what are the different types of meditation?

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

Well, there's when we think meditation, generally, what we think about, the sort of most popular form of that, would be a mindfulness meditation, but there's, there's concentrative meditation. And that would be the repetitive prayer meditation would be a real common one. Or the use of a mantra that somebody repeats over and over and focuses their mind. And so a lot of the religious meditation is concentrative meditation. There's also expressive meditation, and this would be movement meditation like Tai Chi or yoga or dance.. Repetitive dance could be a type of meditation. The most common form of meditation that we hear about in modern society is really a mindfulness meditation or awareness meditation. These categories are not exclusive, right? So there is a concept in Scandinavia of forest bathing, which is sort of a meditative experience where you walk through nature. Soo you're moving rhythmically at the same time you're emptying your mind of day to day thoughts and really focusing on nature, on that experience of being in nature.

Host Tim Unsinn:

Yeah. Spending time in the woods is always a relaxing opportunity. What is meditation used for?

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

Meditation is used for a number of things. It's used for emotional well-being. There's even evidence that it treats trauma. So it's like typically we think of state-of-the-art care for trauma is psychotherapy, right? It's the re-experiencing that or doing a narrative. For some people that's really hard to do, or it's like, they're not ready for it. And for those people, meditation has a real role to play. It's also a stress reducer. When you look at the research on burnout, job burnout, one of the things that can really bring that down is meditation. When you look at lifestyle in terms of longevity, when you look at preventing dementia, meditation comes into play. When you look at physical health. So blood pressure and immune disorders, meditation also has a big role to play there. And one of the emerging concepts in psychiatry and in medicine is that what's good for the heart is good for the brain. What's good for the brain is good for the heart. And so when you control blood pressure, for example, you add to longevity, you add to mental well-being, but when you add to mental well-being, you typically lower blood pressure, you improve cardiac function. And so it's one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle as defined by the American Academy of Lifestyle Medicine.

Host Tim Unsinn:

So we've talked about the types of meditation, what it's used for. Now, how do I meditate?

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

There's a lot of options, right? So some people will come to meditation and not even realize they're doing it, because they're saying a rosary every day as a part of their religious experience. There are other people who culturally, or in their family, Tai Chi is a part of what they do. There are people who will have friends that invite them to work out at a yoga studio. And so those are all legitimate ways to get to meditation. Probably the most common, uh, approach to meditation now is the use of apps on our phones. So Calm or Headspace, those are probably the biggest ones, but there are any number of them that step you through meditation. It's hardest the first few months of meditation, because you don't know exactly what you're supposed to do with your brain at each step. And, and the brain is undisciplined. Even after years of meditation. It's like the brain wants to go back to thinking. The brain wants to process what I'm doing today. The brain wants to think about what I did yesterday. And you have to create a clear space. And so the, the step-by-step guidance from an app like Headspace is incredibly helpful because it periodically will redirect you to think about where your thoughts are and to help you focus on breath or on your heart rate or on a particular mantra for the meditation.

Host Tim Unsinn:

Sounds like the key to meditation, maybe one of those keys is turning our minds off. So we're not, it's not going a hundred miles an hour and focus on what we're doing at the time.

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

There's various definitions, but it's sort of defined as a relaxed period of awareness. Um, and so the, but the awareness is not on it's on the body, or it's on the experience of calm or serenity. It's not an awareness of I have to meet with this many clients today, or I have to pick my kid up after school. And I have to remember that.

Host Tim Unsinn:

Our guest on Mind Your Mind is Dr. Wayne Martinsen. Today, we are talking about meditation. And now how do I know if I'm doing meditation right? It just seems like there's just a lot of things to keep in mind when we're meditating. And then to know that we're doing it right.

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

Things that after you've done it for a while, even a week or so, one of the things you notice is a sense of alertness and calm after the experience. So first part of it is sort of knowing what to do during the 10, 20, 30 minutes that I'm meditating, and that's where the apps help or having a coach helps. That's where your yoga master will help. But beyond that, there's an experience after you meditate. And so one of the things that I think about when I talk about meditation is that people think about it as a discipline. When I say I've meditated for years, they'll say, oh my God, that's, that's such discipline. And it's really not. It's no more discipline than, um, most of us will brush our teeth in the morning before we go to work. And if we don't brush our teeth, there's just this feeling of, of being gross. It's like the day isn't quite right. And similarly, it's like, it's like brushing the teeth for the brain. You find your brain much more subtle, much more aware, much more responsive, much more calm if you've meditated.

Host Tim Unsinn:

So it sounds like if, if we notice that change, we're doing it right. If we still have the same frustrations after we're meditating, maybe not so much. How does meditation affect the body?

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

You know, it's remarkable. There is an amazing amount of research. So at a superficial level, we know that meditation reduces blood pressure. We know that meditation affects the immune system, and so it decreases inflammation in the body. And when you decrease inflammation, you have a number of positive health experiences. It improves sleep. And not only does it improve sleep, the amount of time spent in meditation up to about a half an hour, a day, replaces some of the sleep at night. So it doesn't take away from the day, the 16 hours that most of us are awake. It replaces some of the time for sleep. It actually enhances or enlarges a little bit the hippocampus, which is the memory part of the brain. The hippocampus is where memory is. That's the problem area when we develop dementia as we get older. That's a disease that runs in my own family. And it's one of the reasons that I've looked at meditation and a number of lifestyle changes as a part of that, to avoid that process. So you look at improved cardiac function. There's also, and this gets into the weeds a bit, Tim, but when you look at cellular division, there's something called telomeres that line up all of our DNA in order to replicate a cell. As we get older, the telomeres, which are the proteins on the ends of this lining up process get smaller and smaller and smaller. And one of the ways that cell lines actually die is, there's several ways, but one of the ways is that these telomeres get too small to function and repeatedly in the last 15 years, what we see is that those telomeres actually lengthen with regular meditation. And so it has, even at a cellular level, an impact on physical health.

Host Tim Unsinn:

Meditation our topic on Mind Your Mind. Our guest has been Dr. Wayne Martinsen. Dr. Martinsen, we always appreciate your time. You're just a treasure trove of insights and knowledge and wisdom. And thank you for sharing that with us. Before we wrap up. There's always that final question in the wrap-up and that, what is, what do you do personally to mind your mind?

Dr. Wayne Martinsen:

You know, I really do a lot. Not only do I work with people psychiatrically and teach at the medical school, I'm a practitioner of meditation, of healthy, whole food plant-based diet, of close relationships with the people I love, and getting adequate sleep. And so all of those things are really not just what I tell my patients to do, but they're a part of my own life.

Host Tim Unsinn:

Awesome. Thank you so much again for your time. We appreciate you. And that was Dr. Wayne Martinsen. Again, our episode, Mind Your Mind, talking about meditation.

Host Tim Unsinn:

Thank you for joining us for "Mind Your Mind," a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more, go to dakotafamilyservices.org.

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