Even though the country is starting to open up more businesses, unfortunately, the virus is still present. I thought this may be a good time to explore things that will decrease anxiety. What can we use to calm and redirect our energy during a pandemic? One of the tools we may consider is meditation. This therapy requires to equipment or special clothing, is freely available and can be very effective.
A particular kind of meditation is called “mindful meditation.” Mindful meditation involves concentrating on one particular thing. This can be breathing, an item like a square, circle, word, etc. The point is that you are concentrating on one thing. What does that do for your brain? It helps to teach your brain to clarify your intentions and strengthen parts of the brain that is responsible for making appropriate and mature decisions. It calms the brain.
Who could not use a little calming in an age where we are expected to multitask for efficiency? It turns out that multitasking is not so efficient. As I write this, in addition to an ongoing pandemic, we have had riots in our streets for a week. Many of use are unable to return to work. We have had to do major adjustments and changes with our lives.
So let’s go back to meditation. There are some interesting facts about it. Recent studies were done at Harvard on meditators and non-meditators. They ran MRI’s on both groups before and after 8 weeks. Significant increases were found in the gray matter of the brain in the meditators; no increases in non-meditators! For years it was thought that the brain and spinal cord are stable structures which do not change. Any insult to the nerves involved in these structures were thought to be permanent. How wrong we were! What we now know is that the brain is “plastic” or capable to change, including growth.
There are two major places in the brain that determine how people react and what directs their activities. One is the prefrontal cortex. This area helps “steer the ship”. It is responsible for rational choices in behavior. “I have extra money this week, I will put it in my savings account.” The amygdala is a short term pleasure type of guy. “I have extra money, what can I spend it on?”
Mediation helps to increase the prefrontal cortex to help us make better decisions and decreases the activity of our amygdala.
What are the results of this? Less addictions of all kinds, less depression, insomnia and anxiety. It even helps decrease inflammation in our bodies by affecting the immune system. It actually makes us smarter!
Just consider taking all the subjects being juggled in your brain and converting them to a peaceful moment of meditation.
How do we do it? Stay tuned for part 2.