December. It’s a month of family get-togethers, gifts, shopping, and let’s face it, that usually comes with a heightened feeling of anxiety. It’s a wonderful time of the year, but it’s hardly a month that we associate with rest and relaxation. During this busy month it’s important to remember that your brain needs balance and inner peace to keep it functioning at it’s best. While it’s good to actively “exercise” your brain, just like your body, your brain also needs periods of rest in order to recharge. This is because chronic stress is bad for the health of your brain, and peace and quiet helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Neuroscientists are now exploring both religious and non-religious forms of spirituality and how they affect the brain. Practicing meditation can help reduce depression, anxiety and stress, and researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that meditation can even specifically improve memory and concentration (Blumberg, 2014).
In addition to spiritual practices such as meditation, here are some other top tips to ease anxiety and find that inner peace and balance that your brain needs.
- Engage in daily prayer and/or practice complete forgiveness
- Engage in deep breathing (5 min. 3 times daily)
- Focus on and repeat positive ideas
- Practice yoga
- Engage in progressive muscle relaxation daily for 10 minutes (it’s pretty simple. First you deliberately tense your muscles and then simply relax them)
- Muscle relaxation is even more effective if you pair it with visualization and imagery techniques! (create a mental image of a peaceful or attractive environment)
- Give yourself 30 minutes a day to just stop and be at rest
- Play Fit Brains Emotional Intelligence games that are designed to help you assess your mood and put you in a positive state of mind.
What are your favorite techniques for reducing stress and anxiety during this busy time of the year? Share your comments with us!
Fit Brains. Brain Training Success.
We are often so busy we feel there is no time to add meditation to our schedule. But 10-15 minutes of daily meditation actually gives you more time by calming your mind and increasing your focus.
Your brain can adapt to a chaotic world, but it will function more efficiently over a longer period if you provide moments of inward reflection and rest. Mediation offers an easy way to achieve this. Taking a few minutes to meditate can also help you overcome stress and become more positive, happy and peaceful. Below are tips for beginners to learn how to breathe right and relax the muscles for meditation.
- Sit with your eyes partially closed and turn your attention to your breathing.
- Breathe naturally, preferably through your nostrils, without trying to control your breath.
- Try to become aware of the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. The sensation of your breath is your object of meditation so concentrate on this and nothing else.
- At first, your mind will be very busy; you might even feel that the meditation is making your mind busier. In reality you are
just becoming more aware of how busy your mind actually is.
- Resist the temptation to follow different thoughts as they arise; remain focused on the sensation of the breath.
- If your mind wanders and is following your thoughts, immediately return it to your breathing.
- Repeat this as many times as necessary until your mind clears.
Muscle Relaxation 101
- Squeeze your right hand into a fist as hard as you can.
- Hold the fist and pay attention to how uncomfortable the tension is in your fist.
- Now, slowly release your fingers extending them one by one.
- Notice how the tension leaves your fingers.
- Now try this with other parts of your body where you might feel stress.
- Tense your shoulders, neck, forehead, stomach, and then slowly release.
- At the end of the exercise you may notice that energy in the form of stress has left you and you feel better.
We hope this post has taught you how to easily incorporate a few minutes of meditation into your daily lives! Make sure to check out the Fit Brains portfolio of apps when you are done relaxing and you’re ready to work out your brain!
Sometimes, the influx of work and daily to-dos are stressful for many of us. Our brains will likely become exhausted on more than a few occasions so we need to remember how to relax the mind!
Here are 6 tips from the Fit Brains team to help you clear & calm the brain during those stressful days!
- Yoga / meditation – Practicing yoga or meditation will help relax the body, mind, and soul. Sign up for a trial yoga class, many community centers will offer the 1st class for free. You can also try meditating at home by sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, clearing your mind, and thinking about one specific but stress-free thing for 10-30 minutes.
- Keep hydrated – Drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated and clean. Toxins can build up in the body if it is dehydrated, which will often clog up the mind.
- Listen to music – Listening to music you enjoy triggers natural endorphins in your brain, so take a break and listen to some soothing music that you love.
- Shut off your brain – Do something mindless and/or repetitive. Activities like easy chores or light exercises are good because they don’t require a lot of thinking. Good examples are swimming, folding laundry, going for a walk, doing the dishes.
- Eat right – Cut back on stimulating foods such as coffee, energy drinks, sodas, and candy. Also try to avoid processed & artificial foods. You are what you eat so you need to eat healthy to have a healthy mind!
- Treat yourself – Do something you love and know will lower your stress level. We have all been living in our bodies long enough to know the things we like to do that will help us relax. Sometimes all we need is a break! Take a nap, get a massage, melt away in a bubble bath…do whatever you need to do to recharge yourself!
While brain breaks are great once in a while, don’t forget to keep your mind active on a regular basis to maintain its optimal performance! The Fit Brains Trainer app is great for exercising the mind without any burden of stress. If you have kids, they can stimulate their brain skills with our new Fit Brains for Kids app as well!
In addition to a good night sleep and plenty of rest to enable the brain to consolidate information learned during the day, the brain also benefits from quiet moments during the day.
A quiet moment does not involve any goal, task completion, or endpoint. It is about process and about being in the here and now. A quiet moment can occur anywhere at any time so long as you permit your brain to shut down and to turn inward.
Removing structure and demand from your existence enables your brain to freely roam and to explore ideas and feelings that get shut out with structure and task driven behavior. Your most creative moments will come from such experiences.
It is not easy to create quiet moments. You need to establish parts of your day when you remove all chores, all responsibilities, and all task demands. It is simply time to be, for you to exist. It might mean a walk, sitting on a bench or under a tree, or playing an instrument. There is no conscious deliberation, it is meditative and introspective.
Sounds easy, but it is not. Give it a try and perhaps you will get in touch with your creative side!
Benefits of a Brain Healthy Lifestyle
As we learn more about the power of the human brain it is more common to hear about ideas regarding our ability to guide our future, intuition, and premonition. Given that the brain is an electrical, magnetic, and chemical system we should not be too surprised by such ideas.
Research has already demonstrated the brain’s ability to move a cursor on a computer screen merely through thoughts. Other research indicates meditation can slow the progression of HIV and the military is presently working on communication between soldiers on the battle field that is essentially based on telepathy.
We are perhaps more accustomed to ideas such as mental focus, discipline, and attention. These mental qualities are perfected by athletes such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan to name a few. It is precisely these attributes that distinguish these professionals as superstars relative to the other great athletes. Can the human brain train to use these forces to guide their future and to derive positive outcomes?
My opinion is that the human brain can do anything so I certainly believe each of us has the ability to visualize and to increase the probability of our future being a good one. I believe we have the ability to imagine or dream and to focus our energies in a positive stream towards that goal. This is most likely quite foreign to most, but begin by developing more and more positive thoughts, visualize positive outcomes, and create energy around you and inside you that is positive. Take an inventory of what occurs in your life after you begin and sustain this mental process.
A recent study found that meditation may slow the progression of AIDS in just a few weeks. Researchers believe that meditation may help boost the immune system in combating the progression of the disease. This finding needs replication in a larger sample of patients, but it could offer a cost effective and relatively pleasant method to help people battle the terrible and progressive fatal condition. The stress lowering program known as “mindfulness meditation” was used. This type of meditation employs an open and receptive awareness of the present moment, avoiding thinking of the past or worrying about the future.
Researchers found the more often the patients meditated the higher their CD4-T Cell counts, a standard measure of how well the immune system is fighting the AIDS virus. The CD4 counts were measured before and after the two-month program. Researchers point out that this is the first study to indicate mindfulness meditation stress management training can have a direct impact on slowing HIV disease progression.
A larger issue here is that we are beginning to explore how the brain itself can begin to change the physiology of the body. Indeed I have speculated for some time that the brain has the ability to fix the body, we simply need to learn how. Perhaps we are on the right path!