3 De-stressors for Brain Health
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.
2 Stress-Busters for Your Spirit
Breathing Mediation 101
- 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.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- 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.
2. Take a Walk in Nature
Have you ever noticed the calming effect that occurs when you get away from the bustle and noise of a busy lifestyle and into nature? Whether it's a run along a favorite waterfront path or a walk through local parkland, nature often has a way of taking the edge off of your stressful state of mind. It can be soothing to let your mind wander as you experience the sight, smell and texture of everything nature has to offer. You may already have a spiritual place, but if you don't, a little bit of exploring will probably provide one for you. Visit a stream, forest grove, lake, mountain trail, bird habitat, backyard garden or whatever moves you. Take a minute to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Then reflect on the sources of stress in your life. Ask yourself what significance they play. Over time you may find that you have clearer perspective on what's important in life and a brain that's both healthier and more enriched.
3. Turn in Early
One of the biggest boosts you can give your brain is a good night's sleep. Adequate sleep is vital to proper brain function. Without it, our judgment, reaction time, memory and other brain functions may be impaired. According to Dr. Mark Mahowald, a professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, one night of lost sleep has the same impact in simulated driving tests as illegally high blood-alcohol levels.
Turn in early to give yourself 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night (This is considered average, though some people may need as few as 5 or as many as 10 hours.) For many, falling asleep is a challenge. Anxiety, stress, pain, interpersonal conflicts and medication all impact one's ability to get a good night's sleep. Luckily, sleep is a learned behavior and you can change it.
7 Suggestions to Improve Your Sleep
- Cut down on caffeine - even if you don't stop it completely, reducing makes a difference.
- Get more exercise - walk daily, you will notice a difference immediately.
- Listen to a soothing CD before bed. Or try white noise to create a background.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Maintain a regular schedule. Going to bed and getting up around the same time help you develop a rhythm that can make falling asleep easier.
- Spruce up your sleeping area. A comfortable mattress, comfortable bedding and blackout curtains can make a world of difference.
- Use the bed for sleep, not channel or Internet surfing.
- Give yourself 20 to 25 minutes in bed to try and fall sleep.
- If you can't fall asleep after that time, get out of the bed and leave the bedroom.
- Identify an "anxiety chair" or area in your house where you sit to think about all the things on your mind that may be keeping you awake.
- When you are done worrying go back to your bed and try to sleep.
- Give yourself another 20 to 25 minutes to try and fall asleep.
- Be prepared to get up several times.