You Can Get the Health Benefits of Meditation in Just 1 Minute a Day, Experts Say
It's all about harnessing the power of awe, a new book explains.
Most of us have probably heard about the numerous benefits of meditation. Sitting still and quieting your mind for a certain amount of time has been shown to reduce stress, sharpen memory, decrease blood pressure, boost your immune system, and more. Feeling anxious? In a recent study, people with anxiety disorders who meditated for 40 minutes a day and took a two-and-a-half-hour mindfulness meditation class once a week saw a 20 percent reduction in their symptoms over eight weeks—the same amount of relief experienced by study participants who took an anti-anxiety medication.
The question is, who can meditate for 40 minutes a day when there are friends to catch up with, errands to run, book club books to read, Instagram feeds to scroll, and oh yeah—jobs to do and families to feed? Sure, that's just my personal list of priorities (and distractions), but I'm sure you have your own reasons for not pulling out that meditation cushion and closing your eyes every day (who even owns a meditation cushion, anyway?).
If you're in the same boat as me, then you'll be interested in the thesis of a just-published book, which says you can reap the benefits of meditation in just one minute a day. The Power of Awe: Overcome Burnout & Anxiety, Ease Chronic Pain, Find Clarity & Purpose―In Less Than 1 Minute Per Day, by psychotherapist Jake Eagle, LPC, and physician Michael Amster, MD, explains how "microdosing mindfulness" can bring about powerful change in our minds and bodies. Read on to find out how it works (because all of us can find one extra minute in our day to improve our mental and physical health—even me).
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What does awe do to our bodies?
According to Eagle and Amster, being in a state of awe—which they say may happen when you are "in the vastness of the Grand Canyon… entranced by your favorite performer, or enchanted by the wonder and miracle of life while holding an infant"—causes a shift in your nervous system. "Your fight-or-flight response [becomes] less active, while your 'rest and digest' functions [are] more active," they write in their book. That feeling of awe, they continue, can "reduce chronic inflammation and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, depression, and much more."
Of course, most of us can't visit the Grand Canyon or cuddle a newborn every day, they point out, explaining that meditation offers many of those same benefits. "However, we have observed that meditation requires an amount of time, dedication, and effort that effectively discourages far too many people from ever becoming proficient enough to fully experience its benefits," they write. "For those who struggle with silencing their anxious minds… meditation can become a stressful, rather than a calming, experience."
That's where what they call the A.W.E. Method comes in.
Here's how the A.W.E. method works.
A.W.E. stands for Attention, Wait, Exhale and Expand—and it takes just seconds to practice, Eagle and Amster say. Here's how to do it:
Attention—First, focus on "something you value, appreciate, or find amazing," they write. "Look at it closely. Really look. If it's a small object, pick it up and begin to notice everything about it. If it's a plant, touch the leaves… If it's a painting, imagine the painter painting it and notice the depth, light, and colors."
Wait—Simply slow down and take a deep breath.
Exhale and Expand—As you slowly exhale, they write, "allow what you are feeling to fill you and grow." While you do this, being sure to exhale for longer than you normally would, ask yourself what you notice. "Did you smile? Did you relax? Did you feel a warmth in your belly? …Congratulations. You have just experienced awe."
The whole process takes just seconds, which is why Eagle and Amster call it "microdosing mindfulness." Doing this several times a day, for a total of one minute, is enough to experience positive results, they say. (Although of course, the more you do it, the better.)
Awe can ease pain, the authors say.
This feeling of awe, the authors explain—and practicing The A.W.E. Method for at least one minute a day—is associated with a reduction in inflammation and chronic pain. Amster, a doctor who specializes in pain management, introduced the method to patients at his clinic and writes that many "experienced life-changing results that have improved their ability to regulate their chronic pain without medication."
How does it work? Although Eagle and Amster admit that "there is not yet specific research on the mechanisms of how awe improves chronic pain," Amster "believes that patients who regularly practice the A.W.E. Method ruminate less about their pain and shift their perspective and reactivity to pain by being less fearful, which helps them relax."
Besides reducing pain and inflammation, the authors say that taking time to experience awe on a daily basis also helps people feel less lonely, less burned out, less stressed, and less depressed.
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Commit to the practice for 21 days to see if it works for you.
Skeptical about whether doing something for just one minute a day can really improve your physical and mental health? In their book, Eagle and Amster urge people to try the technique for three weeks and see what happens.
"Commit to practicing A.W.E three to five times a day for 21 days," they write. "Before long, you will be doing it spontaneously—and often." Journaling, buddying up with a friend you can share your experiences with, and trying some of the prompts outlined in their book can help you make the most of the experiment.
This time-efficient method, the authors explain, "is a conduit for the vital gift of awe, a most powerful emotion that has the potential to polish every aspect of our emotional and spiritual life. With awe, the promise is not that life will be free of challenges or adversities. Rather, awe coats each moment with appreciation, gratitude, and presence, lending a richness, depth, and enlightened perspective to all of life's ups and downs."
And don't we all have one minute a day for that?