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Meditation: The Key to Mental Fitness for Very Stressful Jobs

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By Matthew Loux
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University

I have been in law enforcement for many years. It is a stressful job in many respects, as you have probably noticed on television. Working out and eating right were part of my daily regimen, but I was looking for alternate ways to reduce my stress levels.

One key to mental fitness that I use based on my research is meditation. Meditation involves mentally concentrating on some object or on a peaceful time in your life in order to achieve a state of calmness.

Meditation was developed in Asia thousands of years ago. Some Asian meditative techniques have been developed, practiced and refined over hundreds of years.

Meditation Has Multiple Benefits

The main goal of meditation is to help the mind to slow down and let go of distractions that cause stress. Various techniques increase one’s ability to perfect meditation and the calming effects it brings.

There are several major benefits of meditation that can substantially improve the life of law enforcement officers and others in stressful jobs.

The first and most well-known benefit is that meditation reduces stress. Stress is caused by situations or pressure that places high demands on law enforcement officers. Those demands have a great effect on their on-the-job performance. Using meditation techniques, relaxing the mind, and focusing on one object or image helps stress fade away and elevates one’s mood.

Another beneficial aspect of mediation is happiness. When feelings of anxiety are relieved, individuals feel happier. They are less likely to become angry and short-tempered whether they are on or off the job.

Mediation also boosts brain power and improves concentration. A stressful job becomes easier to manage and you are less forgetful.

Additional benefits of mediation are an increase in cardiovascular and immune health, a slowdown in the aging process, and a healthier lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is particularly important to someone in the law enforcement field.

For example, police officers often have to chase someone fleeing a crime scene or participate in a car chase. A healthy cardiovascular system greatly increases law enforcement job performance overall.

Other beneficial qualities of mediation are the practice of self-awareness and an increased feeling of self-acceptance. Self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. When someone is self-aware, he or she feels better about a stressful job, realizes when it is time to move on and knows when to switch moods during the day.

There are six meditation techniques that can be performed by law enforcement officers or other people in stressful jobs — spiritual reflection, mindfulness, movement, focus, visualization and chanting.

Simple meditation involves sitting in a comfortable chair or lying on a bed or couch. You close your eyes, place a candle in front of you and just focus on that candle. Pay no attention to noise or other distractions.

Breathe normally and naturally. If you try to control your breathing, then you are focusing more on the breathing and not on clearing your mind. Feel your body moving with each inhalation and exhalation.

When to Meditate

The best time to meditate is before breakfast so you can start your day with a feeling of peace and a sound mind. Even just five minutes in the morning is beneficial.

The time needed to meditate and clear the mind of stress depends on the individual. For most beginners, it is recommended that you set aside five to 15 minutes in the morning or whenever you have time.

Meditation Apps for Mobile Devices

There are two main apps that I have used successfully. One is Stop, Breathe & Think. This app has been downloaded over two million times and is very highly rated. It takes only a few weeks to create your personal place of calmness through the app.

Another mobile app is Headspace. It has many levels to increase the meditation process. The first level teaches easily understandable meditation with 10-minute sessions.

If you are like me, meditation is something you’ve heard about, but never really tried. Since I started meditating a few months ago, I have experienced an increase in my mental focus. I also have less stress and an overall sense of well-being.

You might say you don’t have time for meditation, but isn’t your health worth it? I use the Headspace app for my meditation and it easily fits into my busy schedule.

Whether you are in the military, law enforcement, fire department or other stressful professions, take a little time for yourself every day to meditate. The mental and physical rewards are worth the time you spend on meditation.

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About the Author

Matthew Loux has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud and criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years.

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