Meditation and mindfulness are often thought of as the most effective, natural solutions to the stress of modern day living. But what if CBD could complement the meditative experience? And did you know that both meditation and CBD share some of the same effects on our mind and body? In this article, we’re about to find out.
Who isn’t stressed in western society? Our rhythm of life, where we work and play hard, battle with financial hardship and just can’t find enough hours in the day, have left record numbers of people struggling with anxiety and depression, which for many are the first signs of buckling under the pressure of stress.
But stress doesn’t only cause mental health problems, it can also lead to dangerous increases in blood pressure, arterial damage and may even be a contributory cause behind some types of cancer.
So now more than ever, there is an increasing emphasis on learning stress management techniques and one that has found favour across the globe is meditation.
What is Meditation?
There is a lot of confusion as to what exactly mediation is, with many people thinking it means sitting in a lotus position and clearing your mind. While there are different meditation techniques, the most accessible and widely known is ‘Mindfulness’, which refers to being in the present moment without changing or judging what’s happening.
We can be mindful at any time, as long as we’re giving our whole attention to the here and now, rather than being distracted by thoughts about what happened yesterday and what we’re going to do in the future. But in order to cultivate this capacity, most people start with seated meditation, which can indeed be done crossed leg on a meditation cushion or even just sitting on an upright chair.
A common technique is to concentrate on the flow of our breath. By being with our breath, we are truly present to what is happening in our bodies rather than getting caught up by the endless chatter of our minds.
What tends to happen when someone starts to meditate is that little by little, their thoughts start to slow down and before long; they are in a state of relaxation and calm. But this is not always the case, and this is where the accepting and non-judging comes in. Mindfulness develops the ability to accept even unpleasant emotional states as they are and as a rule when we stop fighting our own thoughts and feelings, they tend to calm down of their own accord.
Another positive side effect of meditation and mindfulness is that practitioners learn to expand their awareness beyond the constant barrage of thoughts that defines their existence by experiencing the richness of life that is going on around us all the time; the cool, soft breeze on a summer’s day, birds singing in the trees, the smile of a child, even noticing new flavours and textures in our food (yes, you can eat mindfully).
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CBD and Meditation
“But what does this have to do with CBD,” you might ask?
Many people who use CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in hemp and cannabis, find that it helps to concentrate their thoughts when they are feeling chaotic and scattered; a common symptom of stress and anxiety. While CBD’s ability to aid concentration is so far mostly anecdotal, it does mean that within the context of meditation, it can be a useful tool to centre the mind, particularly for someone who is new to meditation.
It’s not unusual for first time meditators to give up quickly, as they struggle to concentrate on the breath or find it difficult to remain in a seated position for prolonged periods of time. Again, this is where CBD’s mind-focusing aspect could come to the fore, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties, which some people say ease joint pain and improves mobility.
This anti-inflammatory property is actually something shared with mindfulness practice which studies show dampens the activity of genes associated with inflammation. A further area of commonality between CBD and meditation are their ability to promote neurogenesis (new brain cell growth) in the hippocampus - the area of the brain associated with learning and memory, emotion regulation, and perspective taking.
This promotion of new brain cell growth is thought by scientists to be one of the reasons why CBD may reduce feelings of anxiety. In fact, CBD for anxiety is one of the most commonly expressed uses of CBD by our customers.
Scientists know that CBD can indirectly increase the levels of the body’s own cannabis-like chemical, the mood boosting endocannabinoid Anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word for bliss, Ananda. Studies also show that CBD activates the 5-HT1a serotonin receptor, which they believe contributes towards its reported calming, anti-anxiety effect.
How to Combine CBD and Meditation
If you are thinking of trying CBD with meditation, it is a good idea to consider how long it takes for your CBD method of choice to take effect. If you normally use CBD drops or capsules, try taking them an hour before you start meditating, while if you vape, you can meditate immediately.
Anyone new to CBD should also begin with a very low dose. While the compound is considered non-psychoactive compared to THC, it can cause sleepiness at higher doses. If you’re trying to meditate, the last thing you want to do is take something that will make you snooze on the job.
It is also very important to receive some formal instruction in meditation, rather than just watching a video on YouTube. Check out any meditation groups or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Courses in your area. Without a solid foundation, meditation will always feel like an uphill struggle, with or without CBD as an extra support.