Updated: May 30, 2022
Meditation and our Brain
Hey everyone and welcome to the many modes of meditation supporting our brain and meantlth health. There are many modes of meditation. I for one, thought you sit with your legs crossed…if you can cross your legs. Sit straight and hold your hand on your knees and close your eyes, listen to some soothing music with your eyes closed. Well…that is only part of it. After diving deeper into why mediation is so important, I came across several modes of meditation, which I am going to share with you.
Before we get started. Maybe you are like me from my opening statement. You may also feel this way about meditation. You hear the word “meditation” and you experience one or more of the following thoughts: sit quietly for 20 minutes. WHAT!? HECK NO!? NOT POSSIBLE!? Do I even have 20 minutes to do this!? Where will I find 20 minutes in my day to meditate? There is no way I can sit quietly for that long. Seriously, 20 minutes with no thoughts. Nope, not happening. How do people do it? My mind will not shut down. Nope…this is not for me.
A dose of honesty. I said all those statements and probably more. Maybe you have a few that I didn’t share. For most of us this is where our mediation voyage starts. Let's disembark this voyage of saying meditation is not for us and embark on a new voyage, saying to ourselves meditation is for me and it will be fun and easy!
What comes to mind this very moment as I am writing for you. The meditation scene from the movie Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts. You know the scene I am referring to if you watched the movie. (For me I’ve watched the movie a dozen times. Yep, slight detour…okay back to blogging) If I recall her meditation was for 2 hours. WHAT!? Yes, 2 hours. I will not do the scene justice. You must watch the scene. Oh my goodness the scene is too good not to share. And yes, I watched it a few times as I write. Here is the link for those who want to remember the scene and for those who have not seen the scene I am referring too. Enjoy! And I want to know…is this you!?
Okay...is this how you feel about meditation!?
Another dose of honesty: That was me! Yes, I was her! I have changed my tune about meditation. It happened over time, I practiced and learned about meditation, the benefits of meditation especially the effects on our brains.
A few quotes from the scene in the movie Eat Pray Love that are so good to remember when it is time to practice your meditation will find them throughout this piece.
“The meditation room is within”
What is Meditation
First, let’s define what meditation is: A practice that an individual uses to focus their mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.
How does Meditation effect the brain?
The brain, and how we’re able to mold it, is nothing short of amazing.
In our brain, meditation affects the:
-Lateral prefrontal cortex - responsible for emotional responses, habits, and logic.
-Medial prefrontal cortex - processes information related to you, like your future, your perspective, and feelings of empathy you have for others. Often referred to as the “Me Center.”
-Insula - monitors bodily sensations and involved in the “gut feelings” we all experience.
-Amygdala - the fear center that affects the “fight-or-flight” response.
As you can see meditation is important for our brain and mental wellness! Who knew!? I didn't at first, but I do now! These facts play a big factor in my daily meditation routine. But there is more!
Many Modes of Meditation
Meditation & Anxiety
The more you meditate, the more your anxiety decreases, because the neural pathways that link those upsetting sensations to the “Me Center” are declining. In other words, you’re more able to ignore intense feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety in general.
Meditation VS Mindfulness
The difference between meditation and mindfulness have been long debated because they’re very similar. The main difference between the two: Meditation is a term that encompasses the practice of acknowledging thoughts in order to self-regulate it. To achieve purposeful meditation, one must practice many techniques and tactics, one of which is mindfulness.
Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is the act of focusing on being in the present and being aware of your surroundings in a grateful manner, as often as possible.
You can practice mindfulness in many ways. You can be mindful of your food, giving it your full attention, noticing the smell, taste, and temperature as you eat it.
Practice with a piece of chocolate, let it sit, melting on your tongue. Take a moment to taste the sweet notes and flavors.
How many ways can you describe the chocolate?
Never too much mindfulness
Mindfulness creates space to let new information in and to allow us to see how it relates to what we already know. It’s a way to let go of all judgments and just exist.
Here are a few ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day:
Create new patterns - Try “if this, then that” messages for yourself. For instance, “if you see the office door, then take a deep breath” before you start your workday. Or, “if the phone rings, then sit up straight and take a breath.” Each intentional action will strengthen your brain and create healthy habits.
Wake up with a purpose - As soon as you wake up before you touch your phone, take three long, nourishing breaths through your nose and out through your mouth. Ask yourself what your intention is for that day based on what you need to accomplish. Is there any way that you can fit in some self-care to support those goals?
If you don’t love it, don’t eat it! Take your first three bites mindfully, experiencing the taste, texture, flavor, and aftertaste. Are you feeling true enjoyment from this food? If not, try something that brings you joy, and savor it slowly.
“You have to learn to select your thoughts the same way you select your clothes everyday, now that’s a power you can cultivate”
Simple words and phrases have the power to interrupt negativity and invite change into your life. From song lyrics to bible verses and quotes from those we look up to, mantras can play a significant role in how we live our lives.
Mantras work because the messages they convey sear into our minds and actually begin to influence the way we live if we let them.
Traditional Mantras Mantras have been around for over 3,000 years, and many are practiced in Sanskrit, considered by some to be the “perfect language” as it’s correct pronunciation is believed to evoke a vibration into the Universe that helps place to motion whatever you are trying to manifest through your mantra.
Here are a few examples:
“OM” - said to vibrate at 432 Hertz, aka the natural musical pitch of the Universe, as opposed to 440 Hertz, the frequency of most modern music.
“Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” (“I call upon the Divine Wisdom and bow to this Wisdom”) - fun fact, this is one of Oprah’s favorite mantras to use!
They can be short and simple or a little longer and more detailed. They can also be changed as needed. Here are a few examples:
“I am grateful for all that is unfolding in my life and all that is yet to come.”
“I am enough.”
“I deserve to be loved.”
“I am attracting all the love I dream of and deserve.”
“Just keep moving.”
Vision boards are a tool that can help narrow down desires through the power of choice by helping you invest the time and energy to visualize exactly what you want from your future.
When you continue to give your attention to things that you want, you’ll attract those things into your life. Energy goes where attention flows!
What’s one thing that you would put on your vision board?
Cleansing old thoughts
Part of being present and practicing meditation effectively means being able to let go of negative thoughts - a task easier said than done!
Here are a few options to clear out the bad to make room for the good (and positive):
- Write it out and transfer the train of thoughts running through your mind onto paper instead.
-Work it out and channel that anger, anxiety, or whatever else you’re feeling into some sweat-inducing movement. Dancing, yoga, running, lifting weights, whatever makes you feel good!
-There are special mental fitness programs focusing on automatic negative thoughts check our Saylors Journey Services.
“If you can’t master your thoughts, you’re in trouble forever”
Sitting still for long periods of time isn’t for everyone, and it’s important to acknowledge that. For those of you who are fidgety, shaky, or generally don’t enjoy sitting, try out a walking meditation instead!
Walking meditation involves deliberately thinking about the way you do a series of actions that you usually do without thinking. As you walk, notice the following:
-the lifting of one foot
-the moving of the foot forward from where you’re standing
-the placing of the foot on the ground, heel first
-the shifting of the weight
...you get the idea!
Focus your attention on your speed, where your arms fall, and where your mind wanders.
A body scan takes 20-45 minutes and can be performed while lying down, sitting, or in other postures. It involves taking the time to notice and sense pressure, tightness, etc. on every part of your body from your toes to the crown of your head.
Be sure that you’re taking deep, cleansing breaths the whole time, allow every part of you to soften, with the goal of reaching total relaxation.
Tools for better meditation
There are lots of tools out on the market to help you reach peak meditation, but here are a few classic pieces to consider:
Also known as prayer beads, these are useful in helping to count breaths, and can also be worn as a reminder to meditate!
A chair or cushion - Being comfortable as you sit is extremely important. A hard bolster might work for some, while a soft pillow might work for others. Test different materials out to see what works best for you.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation are practically one and the same in many ways. Both involve an in-depth focus on the breath, and both are rooted in the same ancient practices.
Check out these yoga poses to help enhance your meditation - because not all meditation happens sitting cross-legged:
Meditation for Sleep
If a racing mind is keeping you awake at night, meditation could be the perfect sleep aid for you. Here are some steps to keep in mind while you wind down for the night:
-Dim the lights 1 hour before bed, and switch from ceiling lights to lamp light after 10 pm.
-Avoid looking at any screens; the blue light tricks your mind into thinking it’s daytime.
-Don’t lay in bed if you can’t fall asleep. Instead, get up and do something until you feel sleepy.
Do you ever have trouble sleeping?
Starting your day with something positive is the best way to start your day! There are tons of ways to create a unique morning meditation for yourself, but they all have two components:
Environment and practice.
Setting the scene is crucial. Find a quiet space where you feel comfortable. This may be on your bed, on the ground, or in a special meditation corner you’ve created for yourself.
Practice for as long as you can - be it 5 minutes or an hour. Simply sit and breathe, or repeat some mantras and incentives for the day.
How to make meditation a daily habit.
As we’ve discussed, meditation can be tailored to whatever you want it to be and whatever works for you and your schedule. For some people, morning meditation is best, for some a nighttime routine can help lull them to sleep. Others find solstice in meditating several times throughout the day.
The most important part is making time for meditation - set reminders on your phone and don’t let yourself make excuses.
Five minutes for a better version of you to take on the day? Of course, you have time for that! Set your intention to slay the day before the day slays you!
The Importance on the Breath
Breathing is something we can control and regulate, and it’s imperative to life. When we take slow and deep breaths, we tell our body and brain that everything’s okay.
Slow and deliberate breathing means:
Our muscles soften, and tension starts to melt away
Oxygen delivery improves
Blood pressure lowers
Endorphins are released
Take a moment to adjust your posture and take a few deep breaths.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Like you could scream into a pillow of start pulling out your hair?
Try the 4-7-8 exercise. First, exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for seven seconds. Exhale completely to a count of eight.
Repeat as necessary until you can feel your blood pressure lowering and your body relaxing.
In fact, try it right now! How does it make you feel?
“Stop trying, surrender.”
Five minute Gratitude Practice
With everyone going on around us, it’s easy to get sucked into the negative and lose track of everything positive in our lives. When you sense this happening, test out this 5-minute gratitude practice:
Use your breath to anchor yourself to the present moment.
Picture something that you’re grateful for, a person, a color, a movement, a pet, whatever image comes to mind.
Shift your senses to scent, and smell what’s around you. What can you pick up on? What aroma is pleasant?
Tune into sounds. What do you hear?
What can you feel? The shoes on your feet, the fabric against your shoulders, the wood of the table in front of you?
Be grateful for the senses you have. How lucky are you to be here at this moment to experience the world?
Not sure where to start? Get an app to help guide you! There are tons out there for every budget, including free ones! You can also use vidoes on YouTube for free.
Now you you know about several modes of meditation.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to read my blog! One thing for sure is your time is one of your most valuable commodities. And I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. I certainly hope you gained insight into why you want to continue your meditation voyage and for those who are starting out. I hope you have changed your tone towards mediation. I hope you learned something valuable. There are options for eveyone to find what works for them to support brain health and mindfulness.
Are you disembarking your old voyage about meditation and embarking on a new voyage, meditation is for you! Please tell me that you are making this shift in your life!
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Quotes from Eat Pray Love movie with Julia Roberts