When I was growing up (which was not that long ago) we were taught that once your brain was done growing it couldn't really grow anymore. Now we know that's not actually true.
Neuroplasticity. That's the fancy word for "your brain can grow and change."
A really cool discovery is that mindfulness-meditation can grow and change your brain. And not only that, it can grow and change your brain in some pretty important ways.
Empathy. Compassion. Resilience. The areas of the brain responsible for these attributes INCREASE with those who meditate daily. I want you to check out a 8 minute TedTalk on this research in a moment but before you do it's important to understand what type of meditation will grow your brain.
How to Meditate So Your Brain Grows
- Go somewhere where you won't be distracted (put your phone on "airplane" mode).
- Bring a pad of paper and pen as you will inevitably remember something important you won't want to forget right before you meditate.
- Set a timer on your phone for 5-10 minutes.
- Sit in a somewhat comfortable seated position with your limbs uncrossed.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe so that your stomach is expanding and contracting, not your chest. This sends a signal to your brain to "chill out," decreasing anxiety.
- Breathe for counts of 5 in, hold it for 3 and breathe out for a count of 5.
- Just focus on your breathing. You'll notice you will get distracted but that's ok just bring your attention back to the present moment.
- Do this until your timer goes off
A Word to Christians
If you are a Christian your anxiety might be rising thinking about meditation in this way. "What about talking to God? Where's the Scripture I'm supposed to think about? Isn't this practicing another religion?"
Good questions. Rather than address all those you can check out this article to learn more about how mindfulness meditation has Christian roots.
What I will say is this: mindfulness meditation is exercise for your brain. You can make it spiritual if you like but it doesn't have to be a spiritual practice. We all know that pausing and taking a few breaths calms us down, this just extends that simple act. I often find that my own prayers become more clear after I've taken a moment to be still for a few moments.
If You Are In Recovery
Rooted in God's Love is a really great book that uses Christian scripture to talk about the journey of recovery. After the Scripture and meditation a prayer is offered.
Answers in the Heart uses more 12-step language, like "Higher Power" and has a meditation for each day of the year, a provocative quote and an affirmation.
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