Ten Minutes That Can Change Your Life

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It's easy to feel overwhelmed with stress. No matter who you are or what you do, everyone goes through it. A question I am asked a lot in my practice is how do I maintain balance and cope with stress?

One of my answers is simple: sit for meditation. In order to feel more in the present, you need to give yourself the time to sit and do NOTHING. No texting, no emails, no music, no Netflix. In this Ted Talk, a man shares his story and gives his argument for why it is worth taking 10 minutes a day to refresh the mind by sitting and doing nothing.

Evidence is clear that meditation actually thickens the brain (as bicep curls thicken your bicep) and strengthens the connection between brain cells. A report from UCLA shows that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (folding of the cortex which allows the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate.

Another recent study, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomeslooked at 201 people with coronary heart disease who were asked to either (a) take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or (b) take a class on transcendental meditation. Researchers followed up with participants over the next five years and found that those who took the mediation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk for heart attack, stroke and death. 

So how can you make meditation a part of your life?

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1) Find a time that works. Evidence suggests that morning is the best time to meditate. I suggest it be the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, but do whatever works best for you. As Woody Allen famously said, 80% of life is just showing up. If you’re doing it at all, you’re doing it right.

2) Find a comfortable position. Meditation does not have to be done in a fancy "namaste" position. It just needs to be comfortable. I prefer being seated in a chair with my feet firmly planted on the surface below me, back straight, with all four corners of my feet even. I place my hand on my thighs face down if I feel tired and face up if I feel anxious or high energy.

3) Focus on your breath. Breathing in for 5 seconds and out for five seconds, making your inhalations and exhalations even.

4) Clear your mind and focus on being present. Be mindful of each thought at a time and acknowledge the emotion that comes with it and let it go. This will allow your brain to make the transition from a beta wave state (the alert, planning, working mind) to alpha wave state (the state of the brain in which hemispheres appear more balanced and we become more calm and peaceful). Many people think that meditation is about clearing the mind completely and get frustrated when they cannot stop the constant flow of thoughts. Letting your thoughts run away with you will happen, but don't worry. Just return to focusing on your breathing and let these thoughts roll away.

5) Set a timer if you are worried about time. Allow yourself a minute to transition from this state of relaxation to a state of consciousness. Slowly shorten your breath and move your fingers and toes. And don't forget to smile! Many are discouraged from meditation because they think they have to do it perfect. Like I said before, the most important part of mediation is actually sitting and doing it. So smile and thank yourself for finding the time to literally strengthen your brain and prepare yourself for the day to come.

Lauren KoellerComment