Monthly Archives

January 2015

3 Ways Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain

By | Ignite | No Comments

3 Ways Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain

For those of you who think the practice of mindfulness is merely a woo-woo concept, think again. Recent research offers strong evidence that mindfulness, or practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness for just 30 minutes a day can cause measurable changes in gray-matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is associated with stress, sense of self, empathy and memory. This is incredible news and proves the mind-body connection that I have known exists for many years and backs my belief: change your thoughts – change your health – change your life!
Here are 3 specific ways mindfulness can change your brain:

Improves Your Ability to Focus
Mindful meditation helps you focus in a couple of different ways. First, it allows you to better focus on something specific while at the same time ignore the myriad distractions around you. Second, it helps you notice what is really going on around you in the present moment. And this incredible new ability to focus is not just for those people who have been meditating for years. The research proves that mindful meditation activates regions of the brain that are critical for controlling attention even in those people new to the practice. Of course in the study, experienced meditators showed even stronger activation in the regions.

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Reduces Stress
Mindfulness changes the way the brain responds to negative thoughts. This is huge and can greatly impact those who suffer from anxiety disorders. No more feeling like you are incapable of escaping your own destructive thoughts and emotions. MRI scans conducted after study participants practiced mindful meditation showed decreased activation in the amygdala, which is a region of the brain associated with stress and anxiety. In other words, practicing mindfulness helps sufferers witness their own negative and stressful thoughts from a place of non-judgment which prevents them from going into full-blown panic mode.

A Greater Sense of Compassion
Research is also pointing to evidence that suggests mindfulness has the ability to cultivate and increase a person’s ability to feel compassion. Imagine the ramifications of this! Another study revealed an increase in the meditator’s daily levels of hope, gratitude and joy, and a greater sense of purpose in life.

Start Changing Your Brain Today
Hopefully you feel a spark and are ready to embrace mindfulness and let it do for you what it has done and continues to do for countless others. You may be saying, “But Pru, I’ve never practiced this before. How much (or how little) mindful meditation do I have to do before I experience positive changes in my brain and my life?” The good news is there is evidence which indicates you can experience amazing benefits early on in your practice, even within days. You simply need to start. Just commit to 10 minutes of meditation and work your way up to more and you will soon discover that mindfulness holds benefits that even science hasn’t discovered yet!

I’ve put together a 10 minute meditation to get you started. Try this everyday for a week and pay attention to how you feel and how you react to things. Leave me a comment below. I’d really love to know how you are doing.

Learn more here

Mind Your Own Life

By | Inspire | No Comments

Mind Your Own Life
We’re three weeks into the New Year and how would you say it’s going so far? Keeping those resolutions? Have you lost ten pounds? Joined a book club? Quit smoking? Are you taking the stairs more often? While those are all perfectly nice resolutions, they may never get you where it is you really hope to go in your life. But I know something that will get you there, something that, if you stick with it, can truly and completely alter the course of your very existence.

What does this mean exactly? It means paying attention to the life you have right now. Right in this moment and the one after that and the one after that. What does your life look like? Are you happy with it? If not, you can create a better one. Not through half-hearted resolutions but through intention and mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply being purposefully present with life’s experiences; from the very small to the very big. It also means being aware that your mind has bad habits. Most people “live” their lives every day with the same thoughts running through their mind over and over like a record that keeps skipping on a really bad chord. When you think the same negative, depressing, angry, bored, sick, self-defeating thoughts every day, you create a negative, depressing, angry, bored, sick, and self-defeating life. You may think you’re fixing a salad, but are you present in that moment? Are you purposefully present with the experience of making that salad? Are you noticing the colors and smells of the produce, how the knife sounds when it slices though a carrot, how your fingers feel when you rip the lettuce? Or are you thinking about how much you hate your job and wish you could quit but know you’re not smart enough to move up the ladder and so you’ll probably die miserable?
Once you start being more mindful of your life and in your life, you will feel calmer and have more clarity. You will be able to recognize those thoughts that are from your higher self, and those that have a knack for bringing you down. When you are in dialogue with your higher self, you can begin to proactively create the life you want.

Here are some simple ways you can practice being more mindful in the New Year:
Our Minds Wander so Focus Yours on What Matters Most to YOU.

Most of our lives are busy and chaotic and there are numerous distractions around every corner. Because of these distractions, our minds have a tendency to wander instead of staying focused. When this happens, it’s important to remind ourselves what really matters to us and set an intention to focus on that. For instance, if having true connections with friends is something you cherish, then the next time you are with a friend, create the intention that you want to be fully present during your time together. You’re human, so your mind is apt to wander even when in a conversation with a dear friend. Just gently bring it back to the present moment.

Don’t Judge Your Thoughts
Be kinder and gentler with your own thoughts. Think of them as your children. You observe your children, you guide them but you don’t judge them. If you have a negative thought like “I’m never going to pass my exams,” acknowledge the thought and understand that it’s just a thought and let it go. If we can respond to our own thoughts without judgment, we can stop the cycle of one negative thought leading to another and another and another until we become dark, miserable people.

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Stop and Smell Whatever Flower You’d Like
I can tell you from personal experience, mindfulness and hectic schedules don’t mix. We all need to slow the pace of our lives if we want to be more present for them. At every possible opportunity throughout your day, take time to slow down and be more present. Listen to the buzz of the overhead lights. Smell the coffee brewing down the hall. Look at your hands and really see them. Even the smallest mundane tasks like washing a Tupperware lid can have tremendous meaning when you are present in that moment.

Taste Your Food
When’s the last time you really tasted your food? I mean really tasted it and felt it in your mouth? Most of us just inhale our meals without really tasting or enjoying them. We eat in the car on the way from Point A to Point B, at our desks during our lunch break, and then in front of the TV at night. No good. The next time you eat, really eat it and be fully present in the experience. Notice the textures and the smells as well as the taste. This is an easy and satisfying way to practice mindfulness.

Get Out of Your Boring Routine
It’s hard to be fully engaged when “involved” in the same old activities we do every day. That’s why it’s important to get out there and try new things, meet new people, and have new experiences. Being fully present in the moment is much easier when those moments are filled with adventure, excitement and wonder.

What are some other ways you practice mindfulness in your daily life?

More FREE mindfulness techniques here