Part of an ongoing series on how to use supplement and behavior-based plans to treat common maladies. To read the detailed supplement plans, order supplements, or download the patient resource sheets, go here to create a free patient account at Fullscript by entering your name and email address: Dr. Mark McDonald’s Fullscript dispensary

Stress is one of the greatest contributors to physical and mental illness. Most Americans live in cities, which have become fountains of stress due to incompetent political leadership leading to the greatest increase in crime and cost of living in our lifetimes. The Left and their Democrat-voting supporters have once-great urban citadels into third world hellholes. Just living in them is stressful. As individuals, though, we have no way to magically change the urban climate.

What we do have control over, though, is our internal state. What is the best way to cope with internal stress?

Yes, deep breathing can be helpful. It’s a good start. Slowing our rate of breathing does produce a calming effect with physiological benefits.

What about meditation? Does practicing a quieting of the mind lead to a reduction in stress? It does, but only if the correct form of meditation is practiced, and only if practiced correctly. Also, most forms of meditation can lead to frustration, as distracting thoughts interrupt the exercise and cause the practitioner to simply give up entirely.

Having researched, pursued, and experimented with the practice of a variety of forms of meditation for over 30 years, I believe there is one method that is both accessible and effective for the general population.

It strengthens awareness, improves concentration, and reduces stress. It’s called somatic meditation.

In essence, somatic meditation is the practice of sustained focus on the body. It can be done standing, sitting, or lying down, although I find that standing is the ideal position to practice it from, as it provides the most direct access to the sensations of every part of the body without the need to master unnatural postures. You are also far less likely to fall asleep standing up.

To practice somatic meditation, you begin by closing your eyes and redirecting your focus from the outside environment to the bottom of your feet, noticing pressure, temperature, pain or discomfort, areas of no feeling…any physical sensation coming from that part of the body. After a few second, you then begin to scan your body from your the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, spending several seconds hovering over each body part—top of feet, ankles, knees, thighs, fingers, hands, lower and upper arms, stomach, chest, shoulders, neck, face, scalp. This should take from five to ten minutes. Once you reach the top of your head, reverse direction and return to your feet. The entire process should take from ten to twenty minutes.

Although breathing is not the focus of somatic mediation—body sensations are—breathing should be slow and relaxed. Also, you should expect your mind to wander: Distracting thoughts, plans for the day, environmental noises will all intrude and pull you away from your scan. This is normal. The goal is not to fight the distractions but allow them to arise and then leave.

By the time you have completed your meditation, you will find that your mind is more quiet, less insistent, and more open to productive reflections.

Your body will also be more relaxed. Stress will dissipate. Daily practice will deepen the experience and the benefit.

There are many audio recordings of guided somatic meditation available online. Many are titled “body scan meditation.” It may be helpful to use audio guides at first before going solo. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you can practice it anywhere and at any time. It’s also a powerful tool to aid sleep when practiced lying down right before bedtime.

I have recommended somatic meditation to my patients for several years as a substitute for anxiolytic and sleep medications. When used in conjunction with a healthy diet and daily exercise, it can reduce stress and improve both physical and emotional health. Best of all, it’s 100% safe, free, and accessible to everyone.

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