What if I told you there’s a way to improve your memory, reduce stress, and increase your ability to learn… and best of all, you can do it from YOUR COUCH.
Sounds crazy, right? Well, it’s true – and there’s scientific proof.
I’m talking about meditation… but not the kind where you sit cross-legged on a pillow chanting “Om” (although that’s really good for you too!)…
I’m talking about mindfulness meditation – a specific and scientifically proven technique that’s making huge waves in the neuroscience community.
Now, meditation has been associated with reducing stress — and decreasing other issues like anxiety, pain, and insomnia.
And researchers at Harvard wanted to see how those sorts of changes might affect your brain.
So they got a group of volunteers who had never meditated. Half of them were put into a mindfulness meditation program, and the other half became the control group.
And after 8 weeks they examined both groups.
What they found was astounding.
The group that meditated had enlarged their brains. That’s right… they had actually developed more gray matter in the frontal cortex – helping to boost their working memory and decision-making.
But that wasn’t all.
The meditators showed definite development in other parts of the brain, including those associated with:
Learning, thought, memory, and regulating your emotions.
Empathy, compassion, and taking perspective.
Senses like taste, hearing, and balance.
Even basic functions like breathing and sleeping.
And just as impressive, the amygdala, which is responsible for anxiety, stress, and fear – actually got smaller for those in the meditation group.
So essentially, the brains of the meditators were getting stronger in areas like learning, memory, balance, and compassion, while reducing their stress, fear, and anxiety.
Those are “brain changes” I think we all could use!
And the people in the study got there by doing a type of meditation known as mindfulness…
“Mindfulness” is the practice of becoming more fully aware of the present moment in a non-judgmental way.
The goal is to stop living on autopilot… stop thinking about the past… stop worrying about the future… and focus on whatever’s happening in the current moment.
And best of all, you don’t even need a dark, quiet room. You can do this anywhere, anytime, and you don’t even need to shut your eyes.
So with that in mind, here are three of my favorite Mindful Meditations for Everyday Life:
From mindless to mindful
One of the beautiful things about mindfulness is taking a completely boring chore, and turning it into your meditation. For example – washing the dishes.
Start by becoming aware of your senses: how does the soap feel, what does it smell like, what sound is the water making… and so on. Try to stay focused on your senses for 5 minutes.
Whenever your mind wanders, notice it, and bring it back to your senses. By the end of 5 minutes, you’ll feel fully alive and present. And the dishes are clean!
Become the traffic
We all hate being stuck in traffic, but to the other drivers, we ARE the traffic. So this technique is about tweaking your perspective when you’re driving – and EMBRACING it.
Start by focusing on helping traffic flow. Let people merge. Be non-judgmental about the moves other drivers make. Imagine what the other driver is going through. (Hey, maybe they have an emergency!)
Suddenly you’ll find your crazy commute is not as “crazy,” and your blood pressure will be much lower!
Ever notice how easy it is to stay angry at someone? It could be a friend, co-worker, or the guy who cut in line at Starbucks. But all day long, just thinking about them will set you off.
In this technique, you take 5-10 minutes and imagine – as fully as possible – what it’s like to live their life, what problems they might be dealing with. This will not only help you lose the anger, you’ll be much more grateful for all you have in your own life.
Being mindful has other, smaller benefits. I try to be mindful when I get home from work… and as a result, I haven’t misplaced my car keys in weeks!
So give these exercises a try. I think you’ll enjoy them.
And please don’t get caught up in worrying, “Am I doing this right?”
Rest assured – you are.
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research, 191(1), 36–43. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006