Do you ever find yourself getting tired, fatigued, and having trouble concentrating?
Did you know that you can increase your energy just by sitting? Not just any kind of sitting though. The kind of sitting where you practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state in which you are equally relaxed and alert. Science is showing that it has a beneficial effect on mind and body.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. It means you are not wasting mental energy reliving the past or worrying about the future. This in itself is an intrinsically freeing and relaxing component of mindfulness.
We can improve our ability to be mindful by doing mindfulness meditation. In mindfulness meditation, you focus your attention on what is happening right now, in this moment only. During a meditation, you might choose to focus on your breath, or on a sound, or on a physical sensation. Each time your mind wanders (and it will – a lot), you gently remind yourself to focus on the object of the meditation. By doing this, you improve your ability to concentrate.
Meditation is a simple yet profound practice. All it takes is sitting down while calmly and patiently focusing for a few minutes a day. If you have a busy mind – a crazy-puppy-mind that won’t sit still – this will take some practice.
When we practice this kind of meditation regularly, we get better at it. Plus, we learn how to apply the concept of mindfulness in our daily lives. We become more patient with ourselves and others. The benefits of meditation expand into our thoughts, actions, and relationships.
Here are some of the ways that mindfulness meditation can increase energy and boost your brain power:
1) Multi-tasking means you are distracted
Studies show that we are less productive when we try to multi-task. In fact, research shows that there is actually no such thing as multi-tasking. When you try and do more than one thing at once, your brain is rapidly switching focus from one task to another. This uses a lot of mental energy.
In mindfulness meditation, you are thinking about one thing at a time, rather than expending energy trying to do many things. The brain and nervous system become calm.
2) Knee jerk reactions drain the brain
Is your brain being drained by emotional and/or knee jerk reactions? You can save that mental energy for things that are truly important by practicing meditation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m saying we should all be like Mr. Spock from Star Trek and have no emotional reactions to anything. It’s just that sometimes we overreact and take things personally rather than consciously deciding what to have feelings about. Through regular meditation, the part of our brain that modulates emotional responses, the lateral prefrontal cortex, is strengthened. At the same time, it weakens the part of the brain that causes us to take things too personally.
You can become skilled at focussing on the things that are meaningful in your life instead of wasting energy on things that don’t matter. You can learn to identify negative thoughts and thought processes. By becoming aware of unhelpful tendencies you can gain control over them, instead of letting them drain your energy.
3) Meditation makes you smarter
Studies show that regular meditation changes our brain structure and provides cognitive benefits. The parts of our brain that are associated with learning, memory, and concentration increase in density. There are also increases in the gray matter that make the brain more efficient and powerful at processing information. At the same time, there is a decrease in the density of the gray matter in the parts of the brain that play a role in anxiety and stress.
Bonus! The good parts get stronger and the trouble-making parts get weaker. We become smarter and are less likely to worry.
4) Stress reduces energy
Mindfulness meditation induces the relaxation response which reduces the production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. We all know that anxiety and stress sap our energy and make it harder to sleep. Stress also damages the digestive and reproductive systems. In the stress state, more internal resources are directed to our arms and legs than to internal organs. Our muscles get tense and it’s harder to relax.
By inducing the relaxation response through meditation, we put our systems back into balance. The body produces more helpful hormones like serotonin and less of the stress hormones. A big benefit of serotonin is that it blocks pain hormones. Chronic pain saps our energy – ask anyone with fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis. Less stress and less pain make for more energy.
5) Meditation changes metabolism at a cellular level
When we meditate regularly, we induce the relaxation response. This increases the function of our mitochondria, which are the energy centers of our cells. By increasing energy levels in our cells, we increase energy levels in the entire body.
How to Get the Most Out Of Mindfulness Meditation
Your brain is plastic – meaning it can adapt and change according to conditions. What we do and experience changes the brain. The gray matter in your brain has the potential to increase in density – this means you are smarter. The neural connections in your brain have the potential to become stronger. Your brain has the potential to create more neural connections – this makes you smarter too. Regular and continued meditation is important, otherwise, the brain reverts back to its old ways.
It all comes down to training. Do it a few times a week, or better yet, every day. It only takes 15 minutes per day. This increases your potential to strengthen the connections between neurons in the brain and possibly even create new connections – this is a stronger brain. The more you practice patient concentration, the better your brain gets at it.
Studies show that these brain improvements are evident in beginner meditators but they are even stronger in experienced meditators. Just like with any skill, the more you practice paying attention and concentrating, the less effort it takes to do so. Over time, it takes less mental energy to pay attention to what is happening in the moment. You are less distracted….ahhhhh, your brain gets to relax.
If you want to be a world-class sprinter who can run 100 meters in under 10 seconds, you practice. If you want to be a smart cookie who is sharp and attentive, you practice. It’s that simple.
The awesome thing about meditation is that you cannot fail. No matter how many times your mind wanders from the object of attention, you just start again. Nothing is lost. Everything is gained. Each time you refocus, you get better at it. A few seconds at a time.
It all starts with a willingness to make a change in your life. This is always step number one – a desire to change habits. In this case, its two habits that get changed: how you spend that 15 minutes of your day and what your brain is doing. That little bit of time can yield big results in so many ways.
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