Can you train your brain and learn to control your thoughts? It turns out, yes. The mindfulness industry, which is already estimated at $ 1.1 billion in the United States, teaches this and not only . Mindfulness is practiced by Madonna herself and even by Google . Why do we need this mindfulness? Who can help and how to practice it?
What is it?
- The word “mindfulness” itself is usually translated as “mindfulness”, “awareness”, “presence”, “fullness of mind”. This is the ability to keep track of our thoughts, emotions, intentions, feelings, the situation in which we are, without turning into a mechanical response, which is especially important in a stressful situation. What is the difference from regular meditation?
- People who do not fully understand what the point is, often believe that mindfulness is one of the types of meditation. In fact, this is the name of the method of cognitive-behavioral therapy - that is, working with the perception of the world, oneself in it and one's behavior.
There is a small gap between stimulus and response. Mindfulness helps to widen this gap and fill it with awareness. What for? Man is a rational being. He knows how to act not instinctively, but deliberately. But often we make decisions “automatically”, not understanding whether we are making the right choice and whether we are going the right way. Expanding this gap, learning to look at the situation from the outside, we get more choice, learn to use the natural tool of awareness and begin to understand what is really important for us, we take control of our life in our own hands.
For example, you are riding the subway and you catch a gaze. For the first few seconds, the body is alert and throws negative thoughts into your head, just in case: “What does he want? Probably, he put on the jacket inside out, or maybe he is a maniac! " - etc. But time passes. And after getting off the train, you calm down and smile at your strange, frightening thoughts. The widened gap just helps in a stressful situation to say “stop” to yourself and soberly assess the situation so as not to experience unnecessary negative emotions. "Stimulus-reaction" - these are actions that are dictated primarily by a reaction to external circumstances, when emotions and actions of a person mainly depend on what the weather will be like, the mood of relatives, friends, work colleagues, the situation at work or at home. When there is no support in the form of an "inner core", in a situation of stress or the need to make a quick decision, it is quite easy for a person to get out of balance. And, for example, at an important meeting, a person, succumbing to the emotions and pressure of the situation, suddenly yells at the boss and ruins his career, although he could collect his thoughts and calmly argue his point of view. Mindfulness helps you learn this. By the way, classical meditation is also a set of different techniques for working with consciousness, simply framed in a religious, spiritual or philosophical context. In general, mindfulness meditation should not be confused with yoga or esotericism.
How exactly can mindfulness meditation help?
- The advantages of this practice are:
reducing background anxiety;
the ability to get out of the autopilot state and start being present in your life;
achieving a state of composure and clarity;
strengthening concentration of attention;
a conscious attitude towards yourself and your needs;
self-study and self-development;
self-regulation and stress management skills and their integration into everyday life. How does the brain react to regular meditation?
- To understand this, you need to know how chronic stress affects the processes in the brain. Stress in moderate doses is beneficial. But under chronic stress, the amygdala (our "panic button") becomes excitable, processes incoming signals quickly, but not always accurately. That is, it often distorts reality, interferes with the work of the hippocampus (the area responsible for translating information from short-term memory to long-term memory). The sequence of processes in the cerebral cortex is disrupted, which leads to:
functioning on "autopilot" without realizing the real state of affairs.
They say mindfulness relieves chronic pain. Is it so?
- There are also such studies, but, from my point of view, they should undergo a more detailed analysis. I do not think that meditation will help you get rid of pain forever, it is by no means a panacea, but learning to accept your pain, control its manifestations and, perhaps, alleviate some of the symptoms is possible. Pain doesn't always mean suffering. It's about our perception. People react to pain in different ways. Emotional and mental attitude is reflected both on the pain threshold and on the tolerance of pain. The element that determines the intensity of pain is the psychological reaction of the individual, which causes a painful feeling of suffering, a negative emotional assessment of the situation. Experiencing "pure" pain unmixed with emotion is extremely rare. Therefore, observing emotions, you can learn to live with them in harmony, let them go, thus change your attitude to what is happening, really influence the perception of unpleasant sensations.
Who needs mindfulness meditation especially?
- This tool will be useful to absolutely everyone, but especially:
people who are confused and cannot figure out what they want in this life;
people who, due to their work, need to keep a lot of thoughts in their head;
people with increased anxiety;
people who often face stressful situations;
people who are preparing for a responsible event (interview, public speaking, and so on);
those who are interested in self-development.
Can you meditate at home?
- Yes of course. For mindfulness meditation, you don't need to wear any special clothing, light candles, or sit in the lotus position. You won't have to leave the body, and the astral is also not our goal. In fact, mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, even on the bus. But at home, of course, it is more convenient.
How to do meditation:
1. Sit comfortably (preferably keep your spine straight) or lie down (if you are not afraid to fall asleep).
2. Close or close your eyes. This is only necessary in order not to be distracted.
3. Allow yourself to set aside some time for practice, leaving all worries and affairs for later. There is no need to change anything, breathe more or less often, deeper, or vice versa. Just become an outside observer of yourself. Listen to how your heart beats, how your chest rises and falls, what you feel.
4. There is a myth that there should be no thoughts. Thoughts will come, they will come, they will try to distract you, but you should return your attention to breathing. It is impossible to get rid of thoughts. And you don't need to force yourself to do it. Just accept the next thought, you can even observe it a little, but then be sure to return to the breath and focus on it again. Do not analyze what comes to mind. I repeat: it is important to learn to observe yourself, and not to renounce worldly life.
5. If there are distractions, such as a heel itching, scratch it with your eyes closed, and observe this action as well. And go back to breathing.
6. All this is called relaxed concentration, which teaches us to calmly react to everything that is happening around us, to accept it without irritation or panic, and to draw conclusions in order to understand the whole picture of what is happening and have the right to make an informed choice in any situation.
7. Meditation seems easy at first glance. Try to sit like this not for 5, but for 30 minutes. And you will understand that this is a real art that needs to be learned.
How often should you practice?
- It is not so important how long your meditation takes, how much the regularity of your practices. The brain has neuroplasticity - this is the property of being able to change under the influence of experience, as well as to restore lost connections after damage or in response to external influences. But without frequent repetition, the connections between neurons weaken and knowledge is slowly erased. Constant meditation trains the brain, and the skill of being aware of one's thoughts and actions becomes a habitual state. Take time and practice as often as possible. The main thing is not to miss classes on your own schedule. You can gradually increase the amount of time allotted for practice. What time of day to study?
- Do it when you want. There are formal and informal practices in mindfulness. Formal is when you specifically set aside time and go to class or meditate at home. And informal is meditation in action, that is, the integration of meditation into everyday life. It would be nice to turn such a meditation into a pleasant ritual. For example, set your alarm 15 minutes early, allow yourself to wake up quietly, slowly, and make it a rule to sit down and do the practice right on your bed. Setting up for the day not only triggers neuroplasticity, but also helps you get up in a good mood, with clear thoughts and plans.
To advance your level, you can start meditating right at work. For example, at lunchtime. It is one thing to practice in your room, in silence, when nothing distracts, and quite another to close your eyes, distract yourself and try to observe yourself in the office, where there can be much more unexpected sounds.
When will the first results appear?
- It would be great if you could name a specific deadline, but, like other practices, mindfulness is a path, a process, and it is individual. There is no magic. It takes effort and discipline.
There are people who feel changes after a couple of sessions, and there are those who begin to see results only months later. The 8-week MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program) is in groups 2 times a week for 2 hours. In this case, the person undertakes to regularly study at home for 30-45 minutes. If he doesn’t "skip", as a rule, the result is not long in coming. To track personal progress, I recommend starting a mindfulness diary where the person notes:
what days he meditated;
what he felt at the same time;
what discoveries he made for himself;
The result of each lesson can be estimated as a percentage. For example: "Today I spent 80% in my thoughts, 20% in focusing on breathing." It would seem that this is a subjective assessment. But after all, it is she who we need. We learn to evaluate ourselves with an open mind and honestly. Believe me, everyone can do it.