Space for Your Brain
Have you ever had a bad day? Have you ever been super stressed-out and anxious? Have you ever felt like everything needed your attention all at once andthekidsneedmeandthephoneisringingandthe- dogisbarkingandwhyisthewashermakingthatnoiseandtheneighborjusthadtomowRIGHTNOWandwhycantIjusthaveaminutetobreatheohmygosh…
I’m about to sound like an infomercial, but hear me out, okay? Mindfulness and meditation have changed my life, and anyone can do it anywhere they are. It’s not difficult, but it does take some practice to get your brain to stop being so loud; it’s a hard habit to break *cue Chicago singing*.
Here’s the long and the short of why we’re so stressed out: way back when we were hunters and gatherers, we were running from prey all the time. It was either that or be some saber-toothed tiger’s lunch. We were under lots of stress and needed lots of adrenaline just to live day-to-day.
Fast forward lots of time to present day, and we still have that fight or flight response to stress, but we don’t need it. We’re not running from predators; we’re responding to 3:00 deadlines and whether or not that passive-aggressive Facebook post was directed at us (you’re blocked now, Tina). We have lots of things coming at us at once, and it’s stressing us out. We’ve got to handle it better to be happier, well-adjusted people, don’t you think?
Say hello to mindfulness and its best friend meditation. I’m sure you’ve heard of living in the moment. That’s what mindfulness is. The past is over, and it’s certainly not doing us any favors. Name one way thinking about the past is serving you well. I’ll wait. Sure, we all have fond memories, but how frequently do they lead us down the path to places we’re unhappy? Sometimes our brains are just scumbags, sabotaging our good moods with the sour of our past – mistakes, downfalls, things we’ve said, things we’ve heard, etc., etc., etc.
On the flipside, how often do you find yourself worrying about the future? What will happen tomorrow? What will happen next week? How much do you think these thoughts benefit you? How much can you control the future by constantly worrying about it?
Listen, I know these thoughts are a large part of your life. I. Know. Just see how frequently you can catch yourself and check in with the present. Concentrate on what you’re doing *right now*. It’s scientifically proven (I read it on the internet so it’s true) that people who practice mindfulness are happier. Enjoy the moment. Appreciate what you have right now. Appreciate your surroundings and pay attention.
And always remember that thoughts are not facts. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true or right.
Try this simple exercise: close your eyes (not now! Read this first and then do it), and take inventory of your senses. This is best done in a quiet place. What do you hear? The clock ticking? Traffic? TV in another room? Next, what do you feel? The chair beneath you? The fabric of your clothing? The ground beneath your feet? Go as far as you can. What do you smell, taste? Lastly, what do you see? Paint yourself a picture of somewhere you feel safe. It can be anywhere you want, as long as it’s yours. It can be the beach, the mountains, a campsite, the rainforest – mine is a field of wildflowers – put yourself there. Involve all your senses and make it real. Each time you find your mind wandering – and it will – simply accept it and bring it back to your scene of serenity. It’s yours. You’re there. Try this for just a minute at first, slowly increasing the amount of time you do it. Aim for three minutes, eventually. Congratulations! You’ve just created a three-minute meditation!
Those committed to meditation will do longer, guided meditations (some are a half hour to an hour long!), which are simply awesome and *so* good for your brain. You can find guided meditations on YouTube or get audiobooks with meditations at the library. You’ll feel like a superhero once you’re meditating regularly. Add mindfulness to that, and you’ll be walking on sunshine. All of this with no equipment, no money, and no physical strain. Just you and your brain, hanging out.
There are some great mindfulness and meditation resources here, here, and here. Here’s a guided 3 minute meditation on YouTube. Go. Research a little, and then change your thoughts and change your life.