Have you ever wondered how something as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on your breath can drastically improve your life?
Pause for a moment and contemplate the power of meditation and mindfulness.
This episode takes you on a transformative journey through these profound practices, revealing their remarkable impact on reducing chronic pain, stress, and even the risk of cardiovascular disease. We dissect our traditional coping mechanisms and introduce a healthier way to manage stress that invites balance and fulfillment into your existence.
As we continue our journey, we delve into the intriguing concept of 'flow' and its role in cultivating contentment. You'll discover the ten factors contributing to the experience of flow and understand why mindfulness is crucial for achieving bliss.
We highlight the invisible barriers constructed by negative thoughts and self-pity and share practical steps to channel your energy in a more positive direction. We also scrutinize the damaging effects of dwelling on unproductive problems, giving you a fresh perspective on managing your energy levels.
The road to a successful meditation practice is often fraught with obstacles. We discuss common challenges, like frustration, boredom, and anxiety, and offer strategies to overcome these hurdles while embracing the present moment. You'll gain insights into the science behind the mental and emotional transformations triggered by meditation and comprehend the profound influence of consistent practice on discerning what truly matters in life.
We conclude our exploration by emphasizing the power of conscious choices and discipline in shaping your thoughts, words, actions, habits, and destiny.
Tune in and prepare yourself for an enlightening expedition into mindfulness.
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Chapter 5, mental Fitness. What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of meditation? Buddhist monks in saffron robes, cross-legged yogis or modern spiritual seekers? No doubt there's some truth in all these clichés, but these days, it's not only monks and religious devotees who are enthusiastic meditators. My first introduction to mindful action was Mr Miyagi's mesmerizing voice saying to Daniel-san wax on, wax off. But joking aside, I was transfixed by the karate kid as a child. He was a young teen wanting nothing more than to learn to fight to defend himself, but with the guidance of his sensei, mr Miyagi, he not only learned to defend himself but also to quiet his mind and focus on a single action through the practice of karate. Now, with the incredible growth in the popularity of yoga and other mindful practices, meditation has gone mainstream. People from all walks of life are discovering the benefits of going within as part of a healthy lifestyle. No more are my trademark bam and hurrah enough. I think I need to start introducing new mantras like ummm. And you know what I love it? Paradoxically, stillness is one of the most important aspects of the whole life. Fitness power 30. After regular exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep habits, calming the mind is one of the best possible ways to support the body and, honestly, it is one of the things I struggle with most. Daily meditation practice tunes up your brain, enhancing mental and physical well-being and reducing chronic pain and stress. Clinical trials have shown that mindfulness can conveniently and effectively replace painkillers. In a randomized controlled clinical trial, researchers studied 109 patients with varying levels of chronic pain. Some were placed in a mindfulness-based stress reduction programs and the remainder were placed in a control group. Now the results were literally amazing. The group utilizing meditation as a form of pain management experienced a reduction in general anxiety and depression and an improved sense of mental well-being. They also reported feeling more in control of their pain, along with having a higher pain acceptance or threshold. Now, this sure beats popping pill, doesn't it? Diabetes have also found that daily meditation can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. And lastly, mind-body medicine through meditative practice has been shown to boost the more conventional treatments of cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, pain and nausea, insomnia, diabetes, mental health issues and fibromyalgia. Although meditation alone can't guarantee specific medical results, I can tell you from my own experience and through working with clients that reducing your stress is not always easy to find a moment of calm, especially for those of us living in busy cities where we're under constant pressure. But just like a pressure cooker, we need to find a way to let off some steam. Like many others, I used to look to food and drink as a way to deal with stress. Eating sweets releases feel good endorphins to surge through the body, but the effect is short-lived. Alcohol may seem to bring short-term relief from stress, but it's actually a depressant that slows down reaction time, impairs vision and makes it harder to think clearly. Over time, alcohol abuse can have a negative impact on the liver and kidneys and puts you in a higher risk category for heart attack, stroke and various forms of cancer. In other words, the seemingly easy ways to deal with stress come at a cost. As an overweight teen, I dealt with stress by absorbing myself in TV, video games, movies and by eating sweets and fatty foods. By focusing my attention on things outside of myself, I was able to pretend that all was okay for a brief moment. Whenever the stark reality of my situation hit me, I'd go back to grasping for the temporary high I got from the spike in my blood sugar. At the time, I interpreted that feeling as happiness, but now I have a better understanding of the connection between certain foods and depression. It's no wonder I felt as low as I did when I was in that state of self-prescribed numbness. The foods I ate were actually making me more depressed the more I ate them. Have you ever noticed how you feel when eating highly processed fast food meal or baked treat that's loaded with refined sugars? I bet you felt pretty awesome while you were eating it. Taste buds exploding, the aroma is triggering an uncontrollable salivary response and, to top it off, a pleasure texture hitting your tongue. In the words of Homer H Simpson, it feels like ah, but as good as eating these treats might feel at the time, a 2012 study found that junk food consumption may increase a person's risk of developing depression. Luckily, there is a healthier route to relieve from stress of modern life, and it's available to all of us all of the time. Going with the flow, life can be approached with force or with flow. Force is simple. It's what many of us do day to day, without even realizing we're doing it. We jam our days full of activity and obligations, often over-committing ourselves, and then we spend the day stressing out about how we're going to make it all work when it gets to be too much to bear, we swear we won't do it again. But sure enough, we do it anyway. We force our schedules, we force our lifestyles and we force ourselves to do the things we don't want to do because we feel we ought to do them. Does any of this sound familiar to you? It's okay. We're friends. We can be candid and open with one another. As I have admitted, I live the better part of my life this way, until I made some big changes a few years ago. Flow, as is known among psychology experts, is another state of being. Flow describes a mental state of complete focus and concentration. It happens when a person is fully immersed in the activity in which they're engaged. When we are in a state of flow, we are completely and utterly absorbed in what we are doing. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? According to positive psychologist Dr Mehali I'm going to just butcher this last name here Zenzmigliarhe, there are 10 factors that play into the experience of flow. They are as follows. Number one clear goals, while challenging, are still attainable. Number two strong concentration and focused attention. Number three the activity is intrinsically rewarding. Number four feelings of serenity, a loss of feelings of self-consciousness. Number five timelessness, a distorted sense of time, feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing. Number six immediate feedback. Seven knowing that the task is doable, a balance between skill level and the challenge presented. Number eight feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome. Number nine lack of awareness of physical needs. Number 10, complete focus on the activity itself. So I ask you, which approach would you ideally like to take in your life? I'm all about flow with intent, being passionately aware of my life, my relationships, my surroundings, and using all of my senses to fully experience my environment. Now that's living to the max. Being in a state of forced living leaves you little time to smell the roses, as they say. You're caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, being pulled in a hundred different directions. You feel the pressure of high expectations you have set for yourself. Goals feel at a reach and your life plan seems vague or, at worse, unattainable. But when you let yourself enter a state of flow, you'll soon find that your circumstances and surroundings seem to move into alignment with your intentions. Life simply starts falling into place. Sounds surreal, doesn't it? I was definitely a naysayer at first, rejecting the very idea of mindfulness and meditation. But that changed when I decided to let go and give my life my full attention Literally my full attention. Ask yourself one question what's the worst thing that could happen if you gave yourself over to a daily habit involving mindfulness and meditation? Like, really, what's the worst that could happen? I think you already know the answer. There's no downside to trying it and yet so much to potentially gain. Now we all know the perils of poor stress management and how it feels when we are either obsessing about a past mistake or worrying about the future. It can feel like a never-ending itch and we just keep scratching it mentally. Scientist and author Catherine Tristan exposes this kind of stress in her book why Worry? Stop Coping and Start Living. She says learning to live and appreciate the present moment is an antidote to stress, but it also requires living mindfully and changing unproductive habits. John Kabat-Zinn is the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center of Mindfulness and Medicine, healthcare and Society at the University of Massachusetts. Now, in his book Full Catastrophe Living Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, pain and Illness, he defines mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the moment and non-judge mentally. He actively encourages his readers to build the habit of mindfulness into their daily routines. To achieve bliss by paying attention to our lives. Non-judge mentally, mindfulness allows us to look at the bigger picture and stop torturing ourselves with the perceived sense of lack. Look, life's not perfect. We will never be happy if we keep focusing on what we are missing, but we can be content now with what we have. It helps to remember that satisfaction can't be measured in terms of material things. It needs to be felt from within, and that is always within our control. Who hasn't experienced moments of heart racing, worry? That's unavoidable in our fast-paced world. The trouble comes when we get stuck overthinking a problem that doesn't have a productive outcome, or when we stress out about something that might never happen. This is a huge drain on your emotions, your energy and your ability to function productively. The negative voice inside your head might be repetitive, loud, habitual and involuntary, and that doesn't mean you have to take it too seriously. The simple fact is you will ultimately end up being ruled by your thoughts if you cannot take control of them. We can't control everything that happens to us, so it's okay to stop trying. You won't be comfortable all of the time in your life, but that's okay too. Learning to live with a certain amount of discomfort, uncertainty or even disappointment is a key to finding peace of mind. Be kind to yourself, because you deserve the love and kindness you give to others. In fact, you are worthy of all the happiness in the world. Try to remember that you are enough. Negative thoughts, self-pitying and even doom and gloom will inevitably enter your mind from time to time, but you can learn to redirect your energy in a more positive direction. Mindfulness is meditation. Mindfulness, in essence, is a very simple form of meditation. One of the most common ways to practice this is to concentrate on your breathing and focus your attention on the moment at hand. It's all about connecting to your inner self without judgment or criticism. Some people find it helpful to continuously repeat a specific phrase or a mantra, as they say, or closely focus on the sensation of your breath flowing in and out of your body, while allowing the free flow of thoughts to enter and leave your mind without getting caught up in them. Each of us has an endless parade of thoughts moving through our awareness. When we can try to concern ourselves with each and every one, they can start to pile up like items on a factory line conveyor belt, just like in the famous chocolate wrapping scene in I Love Lucy. When the conveyor belt becomes overburden, it can lead to anxiety and even depression getting in the way of our ability to pursue our goals productively. Just like Lucy, we got overwhelmed, we have rushed, we overcompensate, we panic, we cry. So here's the thing Thoughts and feelings change with each passing moment. It's within your power to decide which ones to pay attention to and which ones to act upon. Without good mental self-management, we are at the mercy of whatever shows up in our awareness. But with mindful self-awareness, we can consciously choose how to respond to each thought, that is, whether to give it deeper consideration, to act on it or, if it's an unhelpful or unhealthy thought, to simply let it go. Meditation allows you to practice letting go and letting your thoughts and feelings flow. As you calm your fight or flight response, you'll soon reduce your tendency to react to each and every thought. Thoughts will still enter your mind, as they did before, but you'll learn to let them burst like soap bubbles when they aren't the thoughts that you'll want to have. So let's get started. Maybe you have experienced moments of soul searching and what you connected with your inner self and reflected on your life. If so, you've already taken a step toward basic meditation principles, but the goal is ultimately to achieve a state of mind that is relaxed and focused at the same time. As author and mindfulness expert Ed Halliwell says, it's only when we meditate for its own sake, rather than trying to get something from it, that we find the results we're after. Now here are a few techniques to try 1. Basic Mindfulness Meditation Sick quietly and focus on your natural breath or on a word or mantra that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment, gently returning your focus to your breath or mantra. 2. Body Sensations this subtle body sensation, such as an itch or a tingling, without judgment, and let them pass. Well, I mean, if you really have to scratch that itch, just do so. Then get back to meditating, but do a mental scan of your body from head to toe, taking note of the sensations throughout your body. Now, number 3 is Sensory Notice what you see, hear, smell, taste and touch, whether you are active, in a seated, walking or eating. Meditation silently. Name them sight, sound, smell, taste or touch, and then let them go. Number 4 is Emotions Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of the emotions Joy, anger, frustration. Accept the presence of your emotions without judgment and let them go. And lastly, a technique that I always really encourage to try and I know this one is challenging in our day and age, especially with social media and just so many things coming at us, but it's the urge urge surfing. Now, realize like, cope with cravings for addictive substances or behaviors and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the craving with the knowledge that will eventually subside. I find this really interesting because many people that I work with or have been through some of our various programs and those people that have embarked on this whole life fitness manifesto journey are like me. I've dealt with certain urges in the past cravings, especially for sugar, you know, and more often than not the urges I would feel were so powerful that the only way I could quench that thirst, if you will, was to go and get something sugary. I have a treat. But as we start to become mindful, rather than letting these urges control us, we start to control the urges. I'm not saying it's a easy process, but it is a simple process. But you have to be mindful. You have to start noticing these urges and starting to take an inventory of them, but also realizing that if you can get yourself into that moment and really appreciate the moment for what it is, basically have a plan what to do, you'll find that these urges become less and less. When you meditate, the important thing is in trying to allow your mind to roam freely, thoughts floating to the surface of your awareness without judgment. In this state, you are free from the tensions, worries and priorities of life and you can truly live in the moment. You might experiment with reflecting on your personality, your nature or your challenges, but the main thing is that you don't allow any of it to take a toll on you. Take a deep breath and just take it easy. Meditation feels great once you learn to relax into it, but at first it can seem difficult when you try too hard or are fixated on reaping the benefits. Now, during your early attempts at meditation, you might feel frustrated, bored or even anxious, and that's normal If this happens to you, simply acknowledge your feelings and then let them go returning to your awareness of your breath or to your mantra. If your mind wanders, aimlessly, accepted and then gently. Bring your mind back to your meditation and you've given your best to your meditation practice. Return to your daily activities and notice whether things start to fall into place more effortlessly. Nothing happens overnight, so a pace to be patient. Keep it up and you'll soon feel the difference. Time literally expands in the stillness. As you know, the most common excuse I hear is I don't have time. What if I told you that cultivating irregular meditation practice can actually give you more time? How's that possible? Well, when we meditate, we shift into and out of a trance-like state that brings us into contact with a natural inner peace. When we return back to the business of life, we naturally bring this sense of calm into our interactions, or what I like to call the state of pure awesomeness. Of course, we can't actually create more hours in a day, unless we happen to be Dr DC with access to a time machine, but what I'm suggesting is that you start to feel more balanced, calmer and more in tune with yourself and your surroundings. Through regular mindfulness practice, you'll develop a greater mental clarity around the things that truly matter most. When I practice mindfulness, even for just five minutes, I find that I'm able to see things much more clearly, I can see what needs my attention right now and what isn't so important and perhaps doesn't require so much of my time or my attention. By following this practice, I free up more time to do the things that are truly important to me, the things that put a smile on my face and a pep in my step. We all get bogged down with the minutiae of life. Our calendars are full, but are they full of the things we truly value and need in our life, or are they cluttered with priorities that pull us off our own personal life track? Only you can answer that. Try practicing mindful meditation daily and see whether you can accomplish more and less time simply by utilizing your energy more effectively. Your Brain on Meditation. Now, thanks to modern technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, otherwise known as an MRI, scientists are developing a better understanding of what actually takes place in our brains when we meditate. In a meditative state, the transmission of beta waves in our brain decreases, which means we process information more slowly. With a lateral frontal cortex, which is responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions, self-awareness, it goes into sleep mode during meditation. Meanwhile, the Pareto lobe, which detects changes in our environment, slows down during meditation. This is a great thing, especially when trying to maintain a meditative state, as we are able to calm ourselves, relax and ultimately reduce physical and emotional stress. Meditation can also make your brain bigger. Regular meditative practice has been linked to increased amounts of gray matter and frontal areas of the brain. More gray matter means a greater proportion of positive emotions, more emotional stability, heightened focus and longer attention span. This does not mean that meditation requires a forced shutting down of your brain Absolutely not. You can't drain your mind of your thoughts. They are part of being human. Numbing out is not our goal in meditation. Instead, we are attempting to reach a natural state of tranquility that already exists in the space between our thoughts. This is also referred to as the Gap by Deepak Chopra. The space between thoughts is pure consciousness, silence and peace. Pick a time of day that works for you. Are you a morning person who would like to begin each day feeling grounded, or would you prefer to meditate to wind down before you go to bed each night? There's no right time except the one that works for you. It helps to remember that cultivating a meditation practice is a journey just like developing a physical fitness routine. Mindfulness is like a muscle If it is not used regularly, it will weaken, but when exercised, it will become a strong and powerful tool. The overarching aim is to tone your mind and deepen your connection to your spirit. The more challenges life brings your way, the stronger you will emerge. Personal Development Putting Inspiration into Practice. Right after a meditation session, your mind is primed to soak up positive messages and life-enhancing information, making this a great time for personal development activities. This could include reading from an inspiring book, journaling, drawing or writing out your life goals Anything that strengthens your sense of possibility and purpose. You might work on developing a particular talent, boosting your professional potential or simply enhancing the quality of your relationships through greater self-awareness and better communication skills. Personal Development encompasses everything that contributes to the realization of your dreams and aspirations, whatever is most important to you. Have you ever thought about how incredible it is that you've arrived at this exact moment in time, right here and right now? Our lives don't unfold by chance alone. You've made a steady series of choices. You've, from the time you were first able to conceptualize the ability to choose for yourself, and every one of those choices has led you to this moment in time where you just happen to be listening to this passage of this variable Amazing. This type of thinking really opened my mind to a bigger question back in my university days. It put things into a much bigger perspective and made me feel more accountable for the choices I make and the actions I take in my life. When layering this view into my why, I find myself wanting to explore even more, to learn more, to live more or to be more Anything that can help me live my purpose and follow my passion. This is why I feel so strongly about Personal Development. Thinking is essential to constantly push oneself to learn new things, explore new ideas and participate in conversations that expand our understanding of the world and ourselves. Of course, this is a personal point of view. I've coached many people who feel content with their place in life and don't feel a need to seek out any more answers. Some of them have shared with me that they feel that practice of personal development is an onerous one, a waste of time. My response to that can't help you. That's not because I don't care, but it's because of Newton's first law, an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. At some point in their lives, those individuals decided to learn, grow and experience. Life came to a stop and now they've reached a place that is comfortable and they don't want to rock the boat. My hope is that you choose to remain in motion. Don't settle for good enough. That is just one step below happiness. To be honest, as business author Jim Collins says, greatness is not a function of circumstance. Goodness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline. Choose greatness, choose awesomeness. Develop yourself to be the best at whatever passion you have. You have one life to live, so make it the best it can possibly be. Why not? I love this old saying Be careful with your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful with your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful in your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful with your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny. That was written by Frank Outlaw, late president of Vila. So how are you thinking, speaking and acting? What do you choose to listen to, to read, to watch? Each and every day, feed your mind and your life will change. So go forth and plant seeds of awesomeness in your mind's garden.