Enhance Meditation With CBD
It seems that no matter where we turn, stress is never far away. Whether that be from work, family, or just the delicate balancing act of financial and emotional commitments, the good news is that we needn’t be stressed about all the stress! Instead, several methods can help relieve stress, clearing the mind and restoring balance.
Understanding stress in the modern age
In the days of prehistoric humans, our stress response was an essential tool in our fight for survival. While the threat of being eaten by numerous predators may have passed, the way our brain has learned to deal with stress remains the same. Moreover, even though the logical part of our mind tells us a deadline at work is far less frightening than being eaten by a sabre-tooth tiger—the area of our brain controlling stress doesn't see it that way.
It is pointless to think of stress as something that should be eradicated. In the short-term, our stress response helps provide focus, gives us energy, and makes us more alert—sabre-tooth tiger or not, those are all useful skills to have. However, it is evident from studies that chronic stress causes a significant impact on our mental and physical health. This is where the management of our stress response becomes crucial. To stay in control, and mitigate the effects of long-term, persistent stress, we need to find a way to convince our stress response that not all work, family, or social issues require the same level of reaction.
Using meditation as a means of conditioning our stress response
Since Buddhism came to light in the 5th century BCE, cultures the world over have been using meditation as a way to reorganise their thoughts. Some people assume that mediation is about becoming a different person, but in reality, it is a method of training your mind that's not unlike honing your body for sport. Instead of training our muscles to have more endurance or greater strength, we are preparing the mind to be more aware of our thoughts, and to create healthier, less stressful perspectives.
The concept of meditation can be summed up in one word—mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations”.
Just by reading that definition, it is easy to see how mindfulness is precisely the opposite of how our brain naturally reacts to stress. This makes mindfulness an incredibly powerful tool in managing our stress response and improving how we deal with stressful situations. The fantastic thing about meditation, and achieving a state of mindfulness, is that it can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time. That’s not to say you will feel comfortable meditating straight away—it takes practice.
Several forms of meditation exist, but their primary focus remains the same. By focusing on a single element (typically breathing, a mantra, or candle flame), we can learn to control the attention we give our thoughts, while also acknowledging feelings that might make us scared or uncomfortable. By accepting that these thoughts exist (and they do exist, no matter who you are), we can train our brain to be less reactive to them.
It isn’t just Buddhists and spiritualists that believe in the power of meditation either. In a study performed by Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behaviour lab, the team analysed 18 different trials on the impact different meditative practices had on the human body. Although mediation methods were mixed across the trials, and the scope of patients was also incredibly diverse, the researchers discovered a pattern.
Genes linked to inflammation were downregulated in people who practised some form of mind-body intervention. The gene in question, NF-κB, is involved in regulating our immune system's response to infection and stimulating the production of proinflammatory cytokines. You can read more about the damaging role proinflammatory cytokines play here.
CBD and meditation: the two have a synergistic relationship
There is never a one-solution-fits-all approach when it comes to managing stress. Instead, it is usually a combination of practices. Even meditation, which we know to be supported scientifically and anecdotally, takes practise and time to be effective. Not to mention the fact that some stress may be so overpowering that the thought of sitting down to clear your mind seems impossible in the moment. It is in these scenarios that the inclusion of CBD can prove highly useful.
CBD’s effect on stress comes well publicised, with the cannabinoid’s versatility having a beneficial impact on our reaction to traumatic memories in animal and human trials. Through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system and other molecular pathways, CBD may be able to take the edge off our stress response to the point where we can practise meditation comfortably. Separately, CBD and meditation display effectiveness in their own right, but together, they could prove a powerful solution to managing stress and living a healthy, more fulfilling lifestyle.