If you ever reach a point of feeling physically exhausted and emotionally spent you will be well and truly frazzled. We’re all vulnerable to such a state but some are closer to it than others. It doesn’t have to be this way. I want to share with you some simple routines that will build resilience and stamina. The cost to you is less than 30 minutes of your time each day.
How ever do we get to the point of being frazzled? The basic problem is over-secretion of stress hormones. This occurs from the daily drip-drip effect of stressors that gnaw away at our brains and eventually take on a significance they simply don’t deserve. I’m thinking here of the daily commute to work, the irritating co-worker, the ridiculous deadlines, the dependent relative, rudeness, indifference, lack of acknowledgement – well, you get the picture. In the midst of all this our brains are under siege. Bit by bit our immune system begins to down-regulate leaving us prone to infections. As a consequence our risk of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases, including depression, increases.
I’ve painted a bleak picture but it’s entirely possible and quite easy to stem the surge of these stress hormones to something more like a trickle. This makes everything appear more manageable and provides a fighting chance at recovery and health maintenance.
I’m thinking here of something called Mindful Meditation. Advocates of meditation have long extolled its virtues but now, with our use of modern technology, we can both see and measure the physical effects of meditation on the brain. The cost-benefit ratio is impressive. All the brain needs is a few minutes of our time each day and it rewards us hugely. Here’s just a sample of what this research is telling us:
Eileen Luders 1, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, discovered that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification ("folding" of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Furthermore, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain's neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.
It may also be the case that certain types of meditation have different effects on the brain. Cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato 2 at Leiden University, found that divergent or convergent thinking (two forms of creative thinking) are enhanced according to the chosen meditation technique.
Other beneficial effects of meditation may include decreased cardiovascular disease, better emotional behavior in children, reduced blood pressure, weight loss, relief from depression, and more besides.
Mindful meditation involves keeping the mind on the present and being aware of your thoughts and actions without judging yourself. The essential ingredients involve entering a state of relaxation and having awareness of your body, your breathing and your thoughts as they come and go. Throughout the process, remain calm and use steady breathing as a focal point.