Can’t turn off your mind? The neuroscience and virtues of meditation

Can’t turn off your mind? The neuroscience and virtues of meditation

Have you ever stopped to consider what your mind thinks of itself?

Slow down!

Let it go.

Do you really need to check the stocks, the latest episode, or your Facebook page while eating?

It’s important to tune into your mind. But it’s also important to tune into how you let your mind control your thoughts, behaviours and beliefs.

The moment we become aware of our thoughts is the moment we can make a healthy shift to the stories we tell ourselves and the life we lead. How we respond to our thoughts is one form of meditation that directly impacts our lives every day.

The key is detachment.

How we respond to any stressful trigger in our life is a reflection of our resilience and the power we have over our mind. Meditation – the practice of training our attention to induce a greater sense of calm – is a powerful skill to practice anywhere and anytime.

Science shows profound changes in brain structure and function (neuroplasticity) the longer you meditate.
Research shows the following benefits (and beyond) can be experienced by those who meditate regularly:

  • Slow or reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce symptoms of IBS and flare ups for those with ulcerative colitis
  • Ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Improve memory, higher level decision making, mood and patience

The research clearly supports meditation as a tool to enhance all aspects of our physical and emotional well-being. A daily meditation practice ensures the new neural pathways you create will remain strong. Otherwise, the brain can easily revert back to its old ways of reactivity including anxiety, taking things personally, a lack of empathy and uncomfortable bodily sensations.

Elements of meditation

The type of meditation you practice can look, feel and sound different. Nonetheless, most types of meditation have the following elements in common:

  • Focused attention
  • A quiet setting
  • Relaxed breathing
  • A comfortable position

Everyday ways to practice meditation

1. Breathe deeply:

Close your eyes in a quiet place and spend a few minutes focusing on your breath. Breathe deeply in through your nose for a count of four seconds. Exhale through your mouth for a count of four seconds.
When you breathe slowly and elongate your inhale and exhale, you ensure all of your cells are sufficiently oxygenated, which triggers the relaxation response. Your breath can literally help calm your nerves and induce a state of greater peace.

2. Scan your body and your senses:

Notice where your body is positioned in space. Plant each foot flat on the ground. Feel each toe as it touches the ground. Draw your attention to each body part sequentially. Pause for a few seconds before directing your attention to the next area of focus. Listen. Look. Feel.

3. Repeat a positive affirmation or count your blessings

 

4. Start Slow:

If you have a few minutes in the day try meditation. There are many forms of meditation and benefits are shown even if you’re not experienced.

If you’re walking, waiting, in transport, or in the middle of a challenging business transaction, try meditating rather than reacting, ruminating or finding comfort in your phone. Notice what happens to your energy and focus the more you pay attention to and believe in your thoughts.

Rather than react, practice letting the thoughts go without attaching any meaning to them. When your mind wanders, consciously return your attention to the object, sensation or movement on which you aim to focus.
One of the most powerful tools we have – our mind – is more controllable than we tend to believe. To start now, I challenge you to consider the following: where your mind goes, energy flows.