Hello and welcome to Motivation and Mindset Mondays! Today, let’s talk about new research that suggests that meditation can alter your brain for the better. Meditation is life-changing and affirming for the millions of people who practice it. Recently, there’s been some fascinating research into how practicing meditation can actually make positive changes to your brain’s structure.
The academic journal, Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, recently published a study about meditation. This study, completed by Massachusetts General Hospital clinicians, looked at a small number of subjects and used brain imaging equipment to look at their brains before and after an 8-week meditation class.
The results were astonishing: for meditators, the areas of the brain that focus on being compassionate toward others and being self-aware got larger and the brain areas devoted to stress actually got smaller. Experts are so sure of the positive mind-altering benefits of meditation that it’s beginning to be taught in some grade schools.
For vibrant health, it seems that meditation should rank up there with your diet and exercise goals!
Follow these tips to get started with meditation so you, too, can enjoy its positive benefits:
1. Find 1 or 2 times a day you can meditate.
Before breakfast is great. Just before dinner also works.
2. Initially, plan to spend 10 minutes for each meditation session.
You’ll gradually increase your time by 5 minutes every other week or so, until you reach 30 minutes.
3. Find a quiet space.
If you have your own den or study, that’s probably a good place to meditate. Your bedroom might be another. If you have a quiet space in nature, that would be a fabulous meditation site. There must be silence or as little noise as possible in your surroundings.
4. Ensure you’ll have no interruptions.
Meditating before your kids or spouse arise might work for you. If that’s not possible, ask family members not to disturb you during meditation.
5. Cover or move clocks.
Ensure you can’t see them from where you’re sitting. You want to de-focus from everything around you, particularly from watching the clock.
6. Wear comfortable clothing.
Wear comfortable clothing. Stretchy or baggy clothing like athletic wear often works fine. Shoes or socks are not necessary. However, if you think your feet are going to get cool, go ahead and wear socks.
7. Get into a comfortable position.
Most people find that sitting on carpeting, a soft rug, or a yoga mat works best. If you feel you need to lean against something, try sitting on the floor while leaning against your bed or sofa.
- Cross your legs Indian-style if it’s comfortable for you. Either clasp your hands loosely in your lap or extend your arms to balance the top of your wrists on your knees, with your hands gently cupped upward.
8. Use a gentle-sounding timer.
Many people like an external stimulus to signal the end of their meditation session. However, avoid startling yourself after you meditate since it defeats the purpose of meditating in the first place. Most cell phones these days have a wide variety of timer sounds with a few of them on the gentler side.
- For example, sounds like a harp, sonar alarm, gong, or xylophone are particularly helpful to use when emerging from meditation.
The scene is set. Get comfortable. Close your eyes. You can also stare at a spot on the wall or an object of beauty, like a vase of flowers or picture of a sunset or the beach, if you prefer. Breathe. Listen to the sound of your breath and clear your mind. Should your mind wander, just re-focus on your breathing.
- After some practice, you’ll find yourself going into an altered state, almost like sleeping. You’ll experience feelings of tranquility. When your timer sounds, take some seconds before gently arising and going about your day.
If you get into the habit of practicing meditation twice a day for 10 minutes, every day, you’ll soon be amazed at the results you achieve. Alter your brain by meditating each day. You’ll live a more enriched life and have healthier relationships with your inner self and others.
I would love to give you a free resource sheet to support your quest for a healthy mindset. Click the button below to receive your gift.
I really wanted to talk about this topic today because I wanted to share some lifestyle-based strategies to improve your overall mindset and mental health, which in turn improves your life. You must do the internal work to improve your overall health. You can do this by learning what motivates you and working each day on improving your mindset. Your thoughts control your feelings, which controls your behavior. You can cultivate certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
If you are familiar with my approach, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle modifications, such as stress reduction and mindfulness exercises, can help you feel better about yourself and your life. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Motivation And Mindset
Although you don’t need a cushion to meditate, you may want to consider using one at some point. You could meditate in a chair, or simply sit on the floor if you want. You can also use pillows or cushions from your furnishings to try out. Cushion, chair, bench, floor – it’s all good. Eventually, though, if you’re not sitting upright on a chair, you’ll probably do well to buy a dedicated meditation cushion. The cushion will support your sitting posture and help you create an appealing mindfulness corner that will encourage you to practice every day. I recommend this meditation cushion and mat bundle.
If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can be a great idea. Even if you don’t have these conditions, journaling can enhance your life in many ways. Having difficulty processing your thoughts and emotions? Journaling can help clear that mental clutter and move towards a positive mindset. Research suggests that keeping a journal can have positive impacts on both mental and physical health. So, to start you on your journey, I recommend this self care journal.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, meditation and mindfulness, as well as healthy and supportive relationships are the best ways to support mental health. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
PPS. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe stress, anxiety, depression and/or other mental health issues, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. This is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
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