Cognition

Cindy Griffith-Bennett: Turn 5 Things You Do Every Day Into Meditation Moments

For most of us, a typical day begins when we get out of bed, wash, and then start our activities. At some point, we get a bite to eat, walk somewhere, and talk to someone. Often, by the end of the day we find ourselves stressed out and physically exhausted. It doesn’t have to be that way!

By turning everyday activities into meditation moments, you can bring more mindfulness, clarity, and peace into your day while energizing yourself and reducing stress. A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found: “Brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.”

These brief mindfulness meditations don’t require sitting like a pretzel or sniffing incense, not that there is any thing wrong with a traditional meditation practice if you have the time. But if you are like me, life keeps getting in the way! Here are five opportunities to add meditation without taking time out of your hectic schedule.

  1. When you get up in the morning, you usually wash. Let’s use washing your face for our first meditation opportunity. Feel the temperature of the water on your hands. Focus on the temperature as you add a little soap. Notice how the suds feel on your hand. When a thought comes in, think of it as someone else’s phone ringing. You hear it, but you don’t have to answer it. Next, feel your soapy hands or the washcloth on your face. Focus on that sensation as you wash your face. Next, feel the rinse water on your face — how does it feel? Is it too cold? Too hot? Just right? If your mind wanders, there is no need to judge, just go back to focusing on the feeling of the water on your face. As you towel off, feel the sensation of the air on your face. It’s that simple, you just meditated!
  2. As you go about your day, you are most likely waiting in line or in traffic, so take a moment to breathe. Everyone has to breathe, and there is no way the person in front of you in the coffee line will know you are meditating! Sense the breath coming in and out of your nose or mouth. Don’t worry about thoughts; you know what to do, think of your thoughts as someone else’s cell phone ringing. Some people like to label their thoughts as “thought” and then let them go. The important thing is returning to sensing your breath coming in and out of your body. You will feel your shoulders relax and your patience returning.
  3. Now it is time to grab some lunch. We all eat, don’t we? Another mindfulness meditation can be done while eating. Take a small bite and really taste the food. What is the consistency? What are the different flavors? Can you tell if there is salt or pepper added? Do you like it? Try to eat a few bites without talking. You don’t have to spend the whole lunchtime on this, but even 30 seconds or a minute will have interesting results. For even more relaxation and satisfaction, try chewing each bite until it is totally done before you take a drink. You will most likely feel fuller, and psychologically you will feel more satisfied. I love to eat a Peppermint Pattie one tiny bite at a time. The cool mint and chocolate taste even better! I also take a moment to be grateful for the food, the food preparer and, in the case of the Peppermint Pattie, for the chocolate!
  4. It is always healthy to take a walk after you eat. But even if you don’t have time then, you will have to walk somewhere today, maybe from the kitchen to the living room or from your car to the house. Take this time to do a quick walking meditation. Feel your feet as they touch the ground and lift up. If you have thoughts, label them or decide to answer them later. You may walk a little funny at first. You probably haven’t paid attention to your feet in a while! We all have to walk somewhere, and this meditation can be used for short walks or long ones. It is important to pay attention to where you are going, but besides that, simply focus on the sensation of your feet as they touch and leave the ground. Once you get good at this, you can add focusing on your breath!
  5. Lastly, you will most likely speak to someone during your day. Before you speak, ask yourself, “Are my words kind, useful, necessary and true?” What a wonderful opportunity to empower others with our words! This may not sound like a meditation, yet this technique uses focused attention. You really need to pay attention to your thoughts for this one! You can also give yourself the gift of paying attention to how you speak to yourself. Are your words to yourself also kind, useful, necessary and true? Often we have such negative self-talk. This is a wonderful opportunity to empower yourself!

So you now have five different opportunities to add meditation into your day and start to reap the rewards! Not only can you reduce your stress, increase your mindfulness, strengthen cognitive ability, and energize your body, you can also empower yourself and others without stopping your busy day! It just takes washing, breathing, eating, walking and talking — all things you do every day anyway.

For more by Cindy Griffith-Bennett, click here.

via Cindy Griffith-Bennett: Turn 5 Things You Do Every Day Into Meditation Moments.

 

Why a Little Bit of Stress Is Good For You | Greatist

There are times when I think I’d be much happier if I could spend the rest of my life lounging on the sands of the Mediterranean, having someone fan me with palm fronds while feeding me superfood grapes. In other words, life would be better without any stress. Or would it?

According to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, a little stress may not be so bad for us after all. While chronic stress may be harmful, acute (short-term) stress may actually boost our cognitive function. The findings are supported by other research suggesting a little bit o’ stress may have beneficial effects for our brains and bodies. The key, of course, is knowing when we’re too harried for our own good.

What’s the Deal?

Before we get into the science, let’s be clear that most of the research in this area involves rats, not humans, so it’s not entirely clear that the findings apply to people. For a while now, researchers have suspected that the effect of stress on the (rat) brain is like an upside-down U: Up to a certain point, stress boosts cognitive function; after that, it starts to take a negative toll [1] [2].

In this latest study, researchers wanted to see if short-term stress really would turn regular old rats into geniuses. So they subjected rats to acute stress by confining them in their cages for a few hours. The stress caused the rats’ corticosterone (a stress hormone) levels to shoot up for a few hours, and also caused the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory function.

Two days after the stressful event, the researchers tested rats’ memories, and found nothing had changed. But two weeks later, the rats’ memories had significantly improved. Then the researchers got super-techy and figured out that the cells produced after the stressful event were the same cells involved in learning during the second round of memory tests. In other words, the acute stress had made the rats smarter. The scientists concluded that acute stress has a beneficial effect on cognitive function.

Is It Legit?

Possibly. Again, we’re talking about rats here. And while the researchers behind the latest study believe the findings apply to humans as well, there’s currently no way to monitor neural stem cells in the human brain, according to study co-author Daniela Kaufer.

There’s some evidence that acute stress is not only beneficial for rats’ brains, but also for their immune system. Stress hormones released in response to acute stress may warn the immune system about upcoming threats such as an infection [3]. On the other hand, studies of humans suggest that if the immune system is chronically exposed to stress hormones, we may become more susceptible to diseases [4].

Together these findings imply that acute stress ­— think a job interview or even a ride on a scary rollercoaster — might actually be necessary for our physical and mental health. It’s chronic stress — like being stuck in a bad job or relationship — that causes our health to decline, contributing to issues as serious as heart disease and obesity.

Still, it’s worth noting that some forms of acute stress may actually cause serious damage, as in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The UC Berkeley researchers say it’s still unclear why some types of acute stress have positive effects, and others can be so damaging. It might just be a question of individual experience, so it’s worth figuring out where our own optimal stress level lies.

Do you think a certain level of stress can be beneficial? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet the author directly at @ShanaDLebowitz.

via Why a Little Bit of Stress Is Good For You | Greatist.