How to Reduce Stress With Meditation

Managing Stress over the Holidays

Mountain Trek's program director Kirkland Shave says more often he's meeting guests at the lodge who are struggling with stress. Whether it's their work, family life or personal troubles, he says that many people come to the lodge to escape their daily stresses, immerse themselves in nature, get a good night's sleep and, ultimately relax. However, when their stay at the lodge nears its end, their stress levels begin amping up again as they consider returning to their regular day-to-day.

As part of the educational component of the program, Kirkland spends time sharing various tips for how to reduce stress. For example, in this video below, he discusses the causes of stressors and what you can do to alleviate them and relax, and, ultimately enjoy a more fulfilling life free of chronic worry.

Kirkland also recommends meditation as a great form of relaxation. It used to be that meditation was viewed as something only “old hippies” did. But now its benefits are being touted by the likes of Oprah, Hugh Jackman, and Arianna Huffington. 

There is so much new research available since brain imaging equipment came into existence 20 years ago that its benefits are proving it can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and slow Alzheimer’s. Also, in a recent study by John Hopkins University, it was proven that mindfulness meditation can be just as effective as antidepressants for treating anxiety symptoms. It also boosts our feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine), lowers our stress hormone (cortisol), lowers our blood pressure, alleviates pain and inflammation and it invokes our parasympathetic nervous system to help balance our digestive and elimination systems.

If you're considering trying meditation for the first time, my recommendation would be to start simple. Here are the steps to take:

  • Find a quiet space and remove all devices such as your smart phone
  • Sit comfortably with a straight spine
  • Breathe slowly and fully while concentrating on a candle flame, or the sound of ocean waves, or the sensations of your breath as it passes through your nostrils
  • Notice how your concentration gets interrupted by your thoughts. Don’t worry though as this is the normal function of our mind to generate thoughts.
  • Gently (and without judgement of the content) come back to concentrating on your focus of attention.
  • Practice increases the power of concentration so start with just 5 minutes a day and then build from there.



5 Surprising Health Benefits of Massage

Benefits of Massage

Every guest who visits Mountain Trek enjoys the complimentary massages that are offered in the evenings but most would say they're part of the program so as to help people relax and ease sore muscles from snowshoeing all day. While that's definitely a key reason why we include Swedish massages as part of our all-inclusive retreat package, there are many other benefits to massage therapy that you may not know about.

Here are five surprising health benefits of massage therapy:

It helps your body release toxins

Release toxins with massage

Your body is designed to flush harmful chemicals, viruses and other toxins via the kidneys, liver, lungs, intestines, skin and lymphatic system. We can help it with this task by drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods, doing exercise, and, yes, getting a massage! A massage helps drain toxins through the lymphatic system, which clears your body of cellular waste.

It lowers cortisol levels

Massage for good health

Human touch is a powerful tool. By physically interacting with another person, you are socially validated and that has physiological impacts: it lowers your levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and releases dopamine. If you don't have the opportunity for daily physical interaction with a loved one in the form of a hug for example, the skin-on-skin contact offered by a massage therapist is the next best thing.

It boosts immunity

massage to lower cortisol

In 2010 a study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that determined the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on neuroendocrine and immune function. It was recorded that Swedish Massage Therapy increased oxytocin levels within participants, which helped decrease hypothalamic, pituitary & adrenal activity and enhanced immune function. The authors also concluded that massage boosts patients' white blood cell count, which help defend the body against disease.

It soothes anxiety and depression


As mentioned above, human touch in a safe, friendly environment has positive physiological impacts. Not only does it lower cortisol levels but it can ease negative moods. According to a 2005 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience,women diagnosed with breast cancer who received massage therapy three times a week reported being less angry and less depressed.

It improves sleep

Massage for better sleep

Not only does massage encourage relaxation but it can also help lead to a restful sleep. That's why we prefer to offer our Swedish massages in the evenings at Mountain Trek – by easing muscle pain and encouraging your body to relax, you're then set up for a deep, restorative sleep. [fbcomments]