I’ve talked, a lot, about how engaging your brain is as easy as thinking about a sensory experience – dive in more deeply and tap into more of your senses. Those thoughts can activate your brain in very distinct and nourishing ways.
Another really cool way to be mentally engaged is to actively direct your thoughts – guide your thoughts both to and away from just about anything. This can take many forms but the most common methods are through some kind of focusing or centering activity like practicing yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or other directed/guided techniques.
How meditation and mindfulness changing your brain is a pretty hot topic in research right now. There is growing evidence to support that directing your thoughts through a variety of methods can help you:
• Reduce stress
• Increase both focus and creativity
• Reverse memory loss
• Maximize feelings of well-being
• Decrease depression symptoms
• Boost energy
• Improve mood
• Improve quality of sleep
• Control inflammation
• Elevate outlook on life
• Create feelings of personal control
That is a pretty attractive bundle of benefits. Since meditation and mindfulness have no known adverse side effects, honestly, there is no downside.
I believe that the key factor behind all the evidence is this: practicing a method that allows you to direct how you are thinking makes it possible for you to control chemical releases in your brain. Think about that. You can change your brain chemistry by directing your thoughts…. That is a pretty big concept.
The more actively you participate (the more engaged your efforts), the more likely you are to feel both the short term quality of life benefits and long term brain protective and building benefits.
Sometimes I have a hard time staying focused on one thing and find it difficult to keep my mind from drifting off. If you feel yourself drifting, bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Feel the rush of the cool air in through your nostrils and the warm feeling of an exhale. Your future brain thanks you!