"I don't have time to meditate" ,"I don't know how to meditate", "I can't switch off", "I just can't seem to do it!"...
I've heard all of your excuses and I have thought about how I can get you to at least dip your toe in so you can realise some of the benefits of meditation....
If you haven’t read about the benefits of meditation, you are probably one of the people who needs it the most. In this hyper connected and over processed world, our minds are getting a serious work out. Some studies suggest the human brain can cope with just 24 hours of the type of work we do these days a week, while we are attempting to extend the battery life and push ourselves to conform to 40 hour plus work weeks.
Scientists agree that the benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioral level. They also understand that different activities and exercise impact our neural oscillations or brain waves. "There are 4 basic brain wave frequencies and each correlates with a specific state of consciousness. Like sound frequencies, brain waves are measured in Hz, or cycles per second. In general, the slower the frequency of your brain waves, the more relaxed you feel. Meditation, neurofeedback, hypnosis, mindfulness and guided imagery have all been shown to help people control their brain waves more efficiently for better health, higher performance, and a more positive experience of life."*
In a Gamma state, we perform and learn in a Beta state we are focussed and analytical, in an Alpha state we are calm and passive, in a Theta state we are creative, imaginative and can visualise and in a Delta state we sleep. Hypnotherapists talk patients into a trance state (theta) and use suggestions directed to the subconscious to rewire thinking and change and modify behaviour.
Meditation is a state of deep calm and peace that can be achieved by closing your eyes and focussing on the breath, letting go of attachment to thought and allowing your brain to shift into a rhythmic and synchronistic state that is not focussed on task or activity.
Mindfulness is about reaching a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
There are subtle differences in the definitions of hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness but in my opinion, they are all about achieving harmony in our consciousness through shifting our brain processes and enabling our brain to get through the backlog, process the information overload and find peace to allow us to get to the holy grail of brain activity...imagination and play...Good old Theta... "Theta waves are often associated with deep states of meditation, peak spiritual experiences, and higher states of consciousness. Theta waves are associated with drowsiness or arousal in adults and older children. Young children are in theta most of the time."*
Ever feel like it is hard to let go? Be in the moment? Are you taking life to seriously?? Maybe you need to loosen up people tell you? Well, get meditating and let your brain recharge so that it can perform better!
Meditation is also a skill that can also improve your cognition! “In a 2010 study published in Consciousness and Cognition Journal, researchers assigned 24 people in the intervention group. They received four sessions of mindfulness meditation training. The control had 25 people, and this group listened to an audio book. Results showed that both the mindfulness meditation training group and the control group showed improved mood, but only meditation training reduced fatigue and anxiety and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory and executive functioning. Researchers concluded, “Our findings suggest that four days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported with long-term meditators.””**
But I get it, it isn't an easy skill to master, particularly for all those people out there pushing themselves and trying to keep ahead in this connected and over processed world. So here are my VERY easy to digest meditation hacks, to at least get you started (and hopefully addicted).
- Close your eyes in the TV ad breaks. Yes, I know you would rather just fast forward so you can continue to watch whatever it is that you are zonking out too, but do yourself a favour and just close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath while the ads are on. While you watch TV, you are in a hypnotic trance, which means your brain is probably only one channel away from meditation, shut off the sensory input by closing your eyes for a few minutes and focus on your breath, your brain will get to do some batch processing while you chill and before you know it you can resume your TV binge.
- Make yourself a mindful cup of tea. Fill up the kettle with water. Watch the kettle boil, put the tea bag into the tea cup, watch the tea brew. Taking a moment out of your day to engage in a simple activity like this allows your brain to switch into a different mode. One of the reasons that meditation and mindfulness are so wonderful are that your brain oscillations or brain waves are able to move into a different state. Slowing down your rhythmic and synchronistic brain activity allows your brain to switch processes and get other jobs done, think of it as locking your iphone for a few minutes while some apps upgrade and refresh.
- Go to the toilet without your phone. Yes, I need to say this because 2 in 5 Australians take their phone to the loo.... c'mon people, leave it behind to avoid germs and to enjoy the moment. Mindful wees and poos - they should be a thing, focus on your breathing and thank your body for doing such a brilliant job, a hell of a lot of cells had to come together to make this process happen! Not nearly enough of you are taking time to tune into your digestive system! When we take the time to understand and tune into the automatic processes in our body, we can get tremendous insight into our state, a simple yet informative look at your digestive system can be found here.
- Focus on your breathing. All day long, in the car, before bed, on the train, in boring meetings... if you can breath, you can meditate! Slowing down the breath not only slows down the heart rate, but also your brain oscillations! In for 5 and out for 6, give it a go!
- PLAY - paint, draw, go to the park and swing on the swings, connect with your inner child and ride the theta waves! We shouldn't need science to tell us the benefits of play, but for those inclined: Science says play grows your brain.
I promised to keep it simple, so I'll leave it there for now. Let me know how you go!