10 ways to destress after a long work week
Neuroscience and Neuro-Psychology have been showing again and again, in randomly controlled trials and studies with humans, that both mindfulness and meditation help to reduce Anxiety, Depression, Worrying, Panic and Stress.
It has been demonstrated again and again at universities all over the world that when we mindfully focus on our breathing and allow our thoughts to float through us and away, without actually paying attention to them, a number of positive health developments occur in our brain and in our body.
Let’s look at how the brain responds and changes it’s plasticity with meditation. You are not in a neurological vacuum. So this matters. Pay attention. Brain imaging studies have shown that when you mindfully meditate you literally activate the 3 brain regions responsible for worrying (the anterior cingulate cortex, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and and the anterior insular). In doing so, feelings of stress and anxiety are neurologically reduced.
The more you practice, the more you re-inforce this neural pathway and the better your brain gets at focusing on reducing anxious, dark, negative and depressing interpretations and feelings. Imagine it like landing strip lights, lighting up every time you send your mindful instruction to do so. The more they light up, the brighter the place becomes.
What you feel, is interpreted by your brain. Vice versa, every thought always connects to a feeling. Feelings live in the body and thoughts in the brain. Your mind is the machine which allows you to read it all. All of this is electromagnetic energy. Literally every thought and feeling you experience (conscious or not, imaginary or real) produces a energetic electrical force. This is science. You are always either producing positive energy or negative. So the obvious question is how do I produce more positive vibrations? Well the answer is clear. By teaching the brain to produce positive interpretations which feel positive. You can’t just think positive. You have to feel positive. This is the trick.
Brain, mind and body are neurologically connected. You literally can’t have a feeling without it showing up somewhere in the brain as a thought. Did you know that your brain processes something like 100,000 thoughts a day (give or take a few thousand)?Judging and measuring this number has caused some controversy but the actual number is not important here. What is important is that an awful lot of these events (thoughts) occur in your brain undetected by your conscious mind. As a psychologist, I am always humbled when a client suddenly accesses an insight they didn’t know they felt or thought. It is not a surprise then that we all feel burdened by a sense of a busy, hectic brain and we loose our sense of self.
So our neural reality is that a few thousand thoughts go through our brain every day undetected and we need to learn to attend to the good ones, rather than the negative ones. So the point is, Meditation and Mindfulness can help you with lighting up the areas of the brain which process and generate good thoughts, and good feelings. The more you do this, the more you will help your brain to learn to recognise and focus on positive thoughts which bolster your wellbeing and less on negative, judgemental thoughts which deplete your energy resources and flatten your wellbeing.
What have you got to loose by trying?
More brain studies have also shown that when you mindfully focus on your breathing, you also activate that area of your brain which helps to reduce the volume of judgemental thoughts (the right dorsal pre-lateral pre-frontal cortex). This literally means that your mind is not able to focus on processing your experience of mindfully breathing and of being judgemental of yourself at the same time.
Someditation also helps to increase feelings of self compassion (absolutely vital to your recovery) and nourishes your wellbeing.
Practicing even 3 minutes a day makes a difference. What’s 3 mins? Nothing. Everybody can fit that in to their day.
The more we look at the scientific evidence of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness the more it speaks for itself.
Meditation and Mindfulness help you feel and think positively. How do I do it?
I include a few instructions below and will soon be releasing a few videos to help you expand your practice. For more get in touch with me.
Happy to help.
MINDFUL BREATHING EXERCISE
Start with 3 minutes in your day. Do this everyday. Preferably in the morning or at the end of your day. Make sure you are not interrupted.
Sit comfortably. Not lying down. Sitting up.
Imagine a cone of silence around you. Immerse yourself in this. Feel it a protective space around you, impenetrable to others.
With your feet barefoot, focus on them resting firmly on the ground. Focus on your back and sit comfortably upright. Hands by your side. Palms down to help you connect with your groundedness. Eyes shut. Keep them shut throughout. This helps.
Focus your mind on your body. Scan the whole of it. Where are you holding tension? Release it. Start from your toes. Wiggle and release. Same all through. Just stop clenching that jaw. Go all the way up to the top of your skull. Let it all gradually release. This is important. Don’t skip it.
Then turn your attention to your breathing. Nothing more. Breathe slowly. Fill your lungs. Then gradually, slowly, mindfully breathe out.
When you do this, imagine your breath going all the way into the ground beneath you – connecting you with earth. Giving you that feeling of being one with the earth’s power. You can use this thought to imagine you are like a strong plant which will not be buffeted about by other people’s energy. You are strong. Each breath heads strongly into the ground. Keep doing this.
If you find your mind is trying to distract you with a million thoughts, let them come up, notice they are coming up, do not judge them, put them in a cloud and blow them away. This is time for your breathing. The mind will try to stop this but you won’t let it. Same with emotions. Do not judge them. Let them come and go. They are all just passing through you. Your attention is on your breathing. Do not give in to thoughts or emotions.
Keep breathing mindfully and go for at least 3 mins. If you can do 5, go for it. If you can do 10 even better. Go with what works for you. This will expand with practice.
When you are ready to come out of it, open your eyes, rub your thumbs across your fingers, wriggle your toes and gradually return your consciousness to the here and now. Thank yourself for making time to do such a positive thing.
And say – I am practicing positive self-care today and I am grateful to me for doing so.