Meditation has changed my life. It can change your life too. In fact, as a long-time meditator, the benefits of meditation continue to compound as my practice deepens. I am updating this article during the holiday season of 2017. Why? Because getting through what can be a stressful time by meditating is a game changer. Plus, I came across a relevant and timely article about CEO’s who meditate and I wanted to share this with you at the beginning of this post.
The brain is a very popular organ. There is not much we could do effectively without a healthy brain. There are, however, some ways we ask too much of our brains, and I’m not referring to learning new things that challenge our brains to grow in a good way.
Here are three ways we put our brains at risk. I’ll show you how meditation is a very effective way to get our brains to work for us to be healthy, happy, and energetic.
1. Too much stress. Our brains need to rest just like any other tissue or organ in our bodies. If you are always thinking, worrying, fearing, and obsessing, then you are zapping your brain of precious resources. It is difficult to learn and grow if your brain is jammed full of relentless mental tension and preoccupation. On the bright side, finding time to relax your brain and enjoy quiet time can boost your brain’s function as well as your general health.
2. Wrong kinds of food. Foods that lack nutrition can increase fatigue in your brain, cause brain-fog, and make you feel crummy. If you eat junk food and let yourself get dehydrated, you can disable the part of your brain that naturally helps you feel good by producing neurotransmitters and endorphins. Conversely, super foods will give your entire body, including your brain, the kind of nourishment that helps cells function better and have far fewer toxins which get in the way of your good health.
3. Exhaustion. As I mentioned above, your brain needs to rest. This is one of the reasons why I am excited to discuss meditation with you below. Your brain is designed to release the build-up of toxins during the night, as described in an excellent article in Forbes. Good memory, good critical thinking, and the ability to make good choices—including what foods you eat!—require that your brain be well-rested.
4. Time/hurry sickness. Much has been written about the stress to our brains by always being in a hurry. In our fast-paced get-it-done, hyper-productive culture, it is astonishing how we can become impatient with the littlest things. Road rage is a classic example. When people don’t reply to our texts instantly we can experience real anxiety. In meditation, our brain waves change and we are calibrated to a completely different rhythm. Dr. Joe Dispenza believes we can rewire our brains in order to benefit from this shift in brain wave patterns. For you, here and now, I am encouraging you to experience this exquisite relief from chronic hurry through meditation. After, and with practice, you may find that you can move through life, with more efficiency and less anxiety. For me, this translates to being in a flow of time, rather than pushing against it, or even worse, without the nagging perception that there is not enough time.
Meditation for your brain and the rest of you
This is a primer for you if you are unfamiliar with meditation. Since this is such a vast topic, if you become interested in practicing meditation for your own benefit, you may want to take a class or read further. However, this will get you started. Meditation has been part of my life since I was a teenager. I took a break for no particular reason but found my way back to my daily practice after a weekend with Tony Robbins. He teaches meditating on gratitude, love, forgiveness and other altruistic values. These are very easy to find through a Google search.
1. Keep it simple. You can get tremendous value from sitting quietly, releasing physical tension, and noticing your breathing. I made a recording to guide you through this. The simpler you keep your practice, the more you will reap the benefits. As you can hear in the recording, you simply cycle between finding the quiet spaces between thoughts in your mind, noticing and releasing tension (relaxing), and sensing your breathing (and letting your breath get bigger and your exhalation be more complete.)
2. Pay attention to your experience. Check in before you begin to meditate. Your emotions, your body, your breathing, the volume of thoughts in your head are all good indicators of your pre-meditative state. Then, at the end of your practice time, check in again. It is this change of state that makes this so powerful. Practice allowing this state to flow into your day. You may experience more energy, calmness, and peace as a result of discharging tension and toxins. This is worth noticing.
3. Don’t judge. If you think you are “bad” at meditating, keep at it. You may experience a cacophony of sounds in your mind when you start, or perhaps that your breath tends to be shallow, or maybe that your body is stiff with tension. That is part of the process, namely becoming aware of this feedback. With each tiny, incremental shift toward quiet spaces in your mind, the release of tension in your body, and more spaciousness in your breath, you can be assured that this is working. Learning not to judge your experience is part of why you do this and where the benefit lies.
4. What you might notice. I love to meditate because I have grown to greatly appreciate how refreshed I feel during and after. For me, this is exactly like pressing reset both in my body and my mind. For you, this reset means that you are taking a break from figuring things out, making decisions, worrying about stuff, feeling bad about stuff, etc. After you meditate, you can notice that your mind is more clear, that some of the debris from worrying has dropped away, and that you are able to make a better decision, including what foods you select to continue to provide your body—and your brain—with nourishment. With practice, you will want to encourage your state rather than disregard it.
5. Be regular. Meditate when it works for you. Some options are first thing in the morning, after you go to the bathroom, wash your face, and brush your teeth. I recommend doing these things so you are more alert and less likely to go back to your sleep state. After work, before the evening begins is another good time. At the end of the day is lovely, but for me personally, I really enjoy the aftermath of meditating, so I’d prefer to get on with my day or evening afterward, rather than go to sleep.
6. Integrate your practice. The discoveries you make, the experiences you have, your ability to influence your state are all benefits that I mentioned. Also, you can consider that mini-meditations work beautifully during the day. When you are sitting in traffic, when you see someone at work freaking out over something, when your kids don’t behave the way you think they should, when your spouse is in her or his own tizzy — these are times when you can relax and breathe. Instead of letting other people’s stress be contagious to you, you can become more in charge of what you are thinking and feeling. People who meditate regularly will tell you that the benefits go beyond the time when you are sitting in meditation. The health benefits to you are compounded by your willingness to bring what you have learned to go back into “real life.”
I choose to press this reset button every day. Even after all these years, I am pleasantly surprised how beneficial it is to let go of stuff that simply filled my mind with junk. Those quiet spaces are sublime. This is when and where you get to make new, upgraded choices about how you take care of yourself. You can head off at the pass reacting in ways that compromise your health and put you at risk. You can become that guy or that gal who meditates and show up differently in your life because of how you have improved your inner state.
Rosie Bank is Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and the founder of Health Matters Coaching. She is the author of the book, Health Matters and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Rosie is an international speaker, blogger, and the founder of Health Matters podcast. She is certified as a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant through the American Fitness Professional Association and as a Nutrition Advisor through Sanoviv Medical Institute. Rosie’s partner in nutrition since 1999 is USANA Health Sciences. To learn how Rosie can help you maximize your health and achieve your goals, schedule here. Join our online community at Facebook to keep up on ways to stay healthy.