Meditation is BRAIN FLOSS

I knew personally that mediation opened a doorway into a new experience of reality, but it wasn’t until I came across the recent findings of neuroscience and psychology that I learned the science behind the importance of meditation.

Dr. Siegel writes, “I introduce meditation to patients frequently now. Because I don’t have a big background in meditation, I don’t feel like I’m a religious zealot because I’m just offering this form of mental training because I think it is a part of brain hygiene. This is literally what I tell my patients: ‘I’m going to teach you a technique that is a form of brain hygiene. You brush your teeth everyday, right? This is a way of brushing your brain every day.’ And I also say it’s a form of mental floss. You know, you’re getting the garbage out between the different synapses, loosening the hardening of our categories.  Maybe its simpler if we just leave the image as simply brushing your brain.  Mindful awareness expands our sense of self by dissolving the prison of repeating patterns of thought and response.” 1

What neuroscience has discovered is that neuroplasticity (the ability to create new neural networks) and neurogenesis (the ability to create new neurons) happens throughout a person’s lifetime.  This is in direct contrast to the medication paradigm that says, “you are wired this way because of your genes, and therefore, medication will provide what is missing.”  I am not saying medication is or is not right, I am introducing the reality that “yes, you can take actions that help to shift your emotions and what you think.”

I will credit my professor, Stephanie Swann with this teaching that life is not about “trying” something new, it is about practice.  This is the way the brain changes: by experiencing new thoughts, emotions, and experiences repeatedly, over time.  Jon Kabat-Zinn has done a lot of research on this topic and the bottomline is that 45 minutes of mindfulness practice each day will change your brain.

Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends a body-scan to begin, since sitting (or lying down) in silence and observing the breath can be too overwhelming or difficult for someone whose mind has been racing their whole lives.  (FYI–Here is a great “body-scan” like activity given by Dr. Daniel Siegel.  I like the “Wheel of Awareness III” best. http://drdansiegel.com/resources/wheel_of_awareness/)

If you want the science behind what I am explaining here, I recommend, “Mindsight: the New Science of Personal Transformation” by Daniel Siegel.  (This book is a great read, he uses real life examples and common vernacular to teach what is actually complicated neuroscience.)  (I also give a talk here applying Siegel’s findings to wellness.)

Whether you choose to practice chanting, silent meditation with breath awareness or mantra, QiGong, yoga, pranayama, maintaining a 100 connected breaths daily, (more about this at the Power of Breath Institute,) doing a body-scan or listening to guided meditations, the bottomline is clear: any mindfulness activity done regularly will improve your well-being and brain health!

Whatever you choose, I recommend making the activity something that reminds you of what is most important to you in life.  Perhaps that “most important” will change with more practice, or perhaps, it will grow stronger.  Whatever you choose, I also recommend that you practice it regularly.

These activities grow your “mindsight” capacity, which is the mind’s ability to observe it’s own thoughts.  By doing this, you will achieve optimal use of the following fact: “The mind uses the brain to create itself.”2  By doing this, you allow for space between your thoughts and your moment-to-moment experience of reality.

Mindfulness activities ARE NOT just “fluffy mumbo-jumbo” to be judged and pushed aside.  Having a practice is a reflection of someone who is seeking and creating optimal mental health.

 

ps. The book, “The Mindful Way Through Depression” is based on the research that I quoted in this blog.  Included when you buy the book is a CD with six wonderful meditations including a fantastic 30 minute body scan and a weekly program to help you “floss your brain.”  In my opinion. you don’t need to be “depressed” to buy this book and receive great benefit from its content.

 

Questions? Contact me at HeidiCrockett@gmail.com

Remember, I want to help you live the healthiest life possible! –GreenLightHeidi

1 is from p. 146

Siegel, D. (2009). Mindful Awareness, Mindsight, and Neural Integration. Humanistic Psychologist, 37, 137-158.

2 is from p.261

Siegel, D. (2010). Mindsight: the new science of personal transformation. New York: Bantam Books.

photo credit to  AlicePopkom

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