How Mindfulness Changes Your Brain
Enhancing Decision-Making Processes
This is a 3-minute exercise to be done twice a day, possibly in the morning as soon as you wake up and in the evening before going to sleep. This exercise is about experiencing a moment-to-moment awareness of your breathing, sitting in a chair with your back straight. Pay attention to the sensation of the abdomen moving with the breathing.
All you need to do is following the instructions in the audio below.
What is Awareness of Breathing? If you regularly practise Awareness of Breathing (AoB), it will be rewarding and of great benefit in terms of reducing anxiety and stress. It will take just a few minutes every day to create a habit in your daily life.
In his book The Joy Of Living, Yongey Mingyur says "It's impossible to keep your mind from generating thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Thinking is the mind's natural function". At the beginning of a mindfulness practice people are not aware of the thick stream of thoughts and don't realise that they have drifted off into their imagination. With this exercise you will be able to see the your mind's habit of automatically carrying you away into thinking.
Use your phone alarm to remind you to focus your attention on your breathing. This exercise will take no more than 30 seconds.
Set your phone with 3 random alarms over the day, selecting a discreet audio notification, similar to the one the alerts you to receiving a text. Then, each time you hear the alarm, focus your attention on the movement of your body as you breathe, for just one in-breath and one out-breath. For more information you can watch the video below.
TAKING A MINDFUL MOMENT
This week, you are encouraged to do this exercise only once. Your Mindful Moment will be while you are driving a car. The anchor of your attention will be the steering wheel in your hands and the sensations coming from your hands. Then expand your awareness to what you are looking at while you are driving. The way to do this is without judgement. So, if you are stuck in a traffic jam, you will have a great opportunity to do this exercise observing colours, movements, shapes (other cars, traffic lights, people, buildings). Each time a distraction comes to your mind, in the form of a thought or a feeling, gently bring your focus back to what you are looking at in front of you. If you are not driving a car this week, keep doing this exercise while walking. The duration of the exercise can range from 10 seconds to 5 minutes.
Very important: I suggest that you schedule this exercise the day before you do it.
MINDFULNESS CHANGES OUR BRAIN
Perhaps you have already noticed that meditation makes you feel at ease, maybe more relaxed. Perhaps you have also noticed the difference between the days when you practise it and the days where you don't keep up.
The benefits of meditation are well-known: it improves immune system functions, controls anxiety, enhances the quality of sleep and improves blood circulation, to name but a few.
But, as the research shows us, there are also physical changes in our gray matter.
Recent studies show that meditation makes the gray matter grow, for example increases in thickness of the prefrontal cortex in the brain, the part just above the eyes and associated with attention.
This part of the brain processes information when you are daydreaming, thinking about the future, reflecting on yourself, feeling empathy for others. Scientists know that a larger prefrontal cortex improves decision making and brainpower and reduces anxiety and depression.
Week 3 - How to transform your negative thoughts developing your critical thinking skills