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Last Updated on May 9, 2018

Anxiety Help Through Meditation: How the ‘Here and Now’ Enhances Your Life

Anxiety Help Through Meditation: How the ‘Here and Now’ Enhances Your Life

Is there a “magic pill” that could solve all your stress and anxiety? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

In a world that’s becoming increasingly more stressful, people are now experiencing the symptoms of stress and anxiety more than ever before.

Many of the solutions you’ll find on a typical Google search will tell you to “reduce stress” or “avoid stress,” but there’s a problem with that logic.

Not all stress is avoidable or reducible. So what are you left to do? Anxiety help is possible, and it’s as simple as adding a daily meditation practice to your life.

Read on to find out how practicing meditation for anxiety is a smart solution.

Crush Anxiety and Stress with Meditation

You may not be able avoid the stressful board meeting, the sales call, or your kids jumping off the bed, but you can strengthen your brain’s ability to handle and deal with your anxiety and stress. If you can build your stress-handling muscle, you’ll be better equipped to tackle your anxiety and your stress.

Do you want to learn how to reduce the feeling of stress and anxiety so you can start living your life again? Meditation may hold the key.

Meditation has become the go-to brain strengthening training for people like Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, and Tim Ferris. In this article, I’ll show how meditation can help and how to get started, even if you’ve never meditated before.

Train Your Brain: Rewiring the Firing

Meditation isn’t just a spiritual practice. It’s more like a brain exercise.

If you want to build strong muscles, you need to go to the gym and exercise. Which muscles you choose to exercise will determine which muscles get stronger.

The same goes for your brain.

There’s a saying in neuroscience that says, “The brain wires the way it fires,” which means the more we participate in a specific way of thinking, activity, or habit, the more the brain will actually build more wiring to make that process easier the next time around.

When the brain is constantly stressed and anxious, it begins laying down wiring to make that process easier, which is the opposite of what you want.

So rather than trying to completely eliminate stress from your life, you need to train your brain to better resist and handle stress and anxiety.

Pump the Brakes on Stress

The brain has two modes of operation: Sympathetic (Fight-Or-Flight) and Parasympathetic (Growth, Health, and Relax). Imagine the sympathetic nervous system as the brain’s “gas pedal” and the parasympathetic nervous system as the “brake pedal.”

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Chronic stress and anxiety pushes on the “gas pedal” and hardwires your brain to become more sympathetic dominant (stuck in stress), which shuts off the parasympathetic mode (relax mode), making it more difficult to calm down, relax, and reduce anxiety and stress.

Meditation pushes the brake pedal and helps the brain strengthen the parasympathetic side of your nervous system, which helps you to restore balance and calm.

Mindfulness meditation, a meditation technique that emphasizes focusing on the present moment, trains the brain to shut off the signals producing anxiety and stress by simply doing something as simple as concentrating on your breathing. [1]

By focusing on the “here and now,” it helps the brain become more aware of the source of your stress and anxiety, while simultaneously training the brain to become more resilient against stress and anxiety.

Destroy Your Stress Hormones

When your brain is stressed, it promotes the release of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, to help the body deal with your stress. It’s a healthy, natural response to stress for a short period of time; but, it is not meant to be a long-term solution to the work, financial, or relationship stress that may be causing it.

Chronic high levels of cortisol from stress and anxiety can interfere with your energy, slow brain performance, promote weight gain, and increase the risk of depression. [2]

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to decrease your stress hormone, cortisol, which can help you feel more energized and healthy while simultaneously crushing stress and anxiety. [3]

Ramp Up Your “Feel Good” Chemicals

Not only does meditation lower the symptoms of your stress and anxiety, it also boosts the chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier. [4]

Chronic stress and anxiety can lower your brain’s “happy” neurotransmitter, serotonin, as well as your brain’s “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine.

  • Low serotonin levels can make you feel more sad, unhappy, lethargic, depressed, and anxious.
  • Low levels of dopamine can make you feel unmotivated, less resilient to stress, tired, and forgetful.

Studies show that meditation can increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, helping your brain not only crush stress, but allow you to feel happier, motivated, and energized.

Help Make Lasting & Positive Change

Do you feel like you are always stressed and anxious as though it is the preset mode of operation for your brain?

Would you like to be able to change that? Meditation may be the solution to lasting change and results.

Science has shown that the brain continues to change and reorganize itself throughout your lifetime depending on your lifestyle and your experiences. This is called neuroplasticity. One of the most influential promoters of neuroplasticity is a protein called Brain Derived Neutrophic Factor (BDNF).

BDNF helps the brain produce more brain cells, create new connections in the brain, and helps protect the brain against damage and stress. BDNF can help your brain adopt new healthy habits easier, learn faster, and even promote a healthy brain.

Meditation can increase the production of BDNF and help your brain reprogram itself for less stress, less anxiety, and more happiness. [5]

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Make Your Brain Bigger and Stronger

So is meditation only helping you manage feelings and emotions?

It turns out that meditation does more than meets the eye. Not only can meditation make you feel less stressed and anxious, it can actually change the physical structure of your brain.

One study in particular found that regular meditation increased the thickness of the brain. A thicker brain is a stronger brain. [6]

One area of the brain that scientists discovered an increase in thickness was in the insula of the brain. The insula is thought to be a center for controlling consciousness, awareness, and emotion regulation.

This means that meditation can help you increase the work capacity of the portion of the brain that regulates your consciousness and emotions.

Put Yourself In The Driver’s Seat

Often times, people who are chronically stressed can feel “out of control” of their stress and anxiety and constantly feeling overrun by the source of their stress.

Anxiety and stress act like a fire alarm in the brain. When you are stressed, often your concentration is on the feeling or source of your anxiety, not the solution.

This can make you feel like a passenger in your own mind, constantly rebounding from your emotions.

Meditation teaches you to calm the constant fire alarm of stress to gain perspective and clarity on the solutions.

Meditation trains your brain to regain control over your thoughts and emotions, which allows you to get back in the driver’s seat with your hands on the wheel and control the direction and course of your mind.

Meditation Techniques When Your Brain Won’t Turn Off

1. 5 Minutes a Day Can Make a Major Impact

Little steps still lead to large goals.

When you first started working out, did you start with a full marathon?

Of course not. You trained your way up.

You can use the same strategy for meditation. You can start with just as little as 5 minutes a day, adding a minute at a time to progress further.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist Monk, meditating for hours a day, to experience the benefits mentioned earlier.

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Even if you are busy, you can still find at least 5 minutes during your day to step away and find a quiet spot to take some time for yourself and meditate.

“If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”
– Tony Robbins

Try meditating at different times of the day. Some people prefer morning, while others prefer afternoon or evening. Find what works best for you.

Start with meditating just 5 minutes a day and begin building up a minute at a time until you reach 20 minutes.

2. Box Breathing has Big Benefits

A simple yet powerful way to start is by concentrating on your breathing. This helps to block all distractions and bring your brain to the present moment.

Box Breathing” is a great technique to start with. Here’s how it works

  1. Inhale for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold the top of your inhale for 4 seconds.
  3. Exhale for 4 seconds.
  4. Hold the bottom of your exhale for 4 seconds.

*Repeat as often as necessary

.

Deep and slow breathing has been shown to activate the “brake pedal” of your brain, helping your brain to deactivate the stress response and activate relaxation and attention. [7]

Counting the time of your inhales and exhales helps to keep your focus and attention during your meditation.

3. Try Out Some Tools of the Trade

There is no shame in seeking help, especially when it comes to meditation.

In today’s modern age, you have access to more technology and resources than ever before. Why not use them to help make meditation easier and more effective?

Using helpful tools like the ones listed below can help you avoid distractions and help you stay consistent with your meditation.

Here are some helpful tools available that can help you with your meditation.

  • Guided Mediations: Youtube videos, CD’s, and podcasts can be a great way to get started and pick up new ideas for your meditation practice.
  • The Headspace App: The Headspace app is an Apple/Android app that has plenty of guided meditations to help you get started and continue your meditation practice in as little as 10 minutes a day.
  • Music: Find nice relaxing instrumental music that you can play through your headphones to block any distractions like dogs barking, the neighbor mowing their lawn, etc.
  • Classes: Many cities have local classes or meet ups, where you can go for free or for a small fee and get some guidance for the meditation. You can also meet other like-minded individuals who you can connect with.
  • Timer: You don’t want to have to continually check the clock to see if your time is up. Set a timer that will do that for you.
  • Advanced Technology: There is some amazing state-of-the-art technology available today such as Muse. Muse is headset that measures your brain waves and gives feedback during your meditation to help you stay on track, while also tracking how you are progressing.

4. Keep Consistent

In the beginning, it’s natural that your mind will begin to wander as you meditate. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens. Just bring your focus back and keep going.

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If you want to lose weight at the gym, do you think you’ll get results if you only go once a month?

Not likely.

The key to creating change in the brain is effort and consistency. Consistency is one of the most important factors in getting the benefits of meditation while making it a lasting practice.

Remember the saying mentioned earlier? “The brain wires the way it fires.”

In order to create new wiring and to feel more in control of your stress and anxiety, you need to consistently “fire” the brain enough times to stimulate your brain to rewire itself.

Over time, meditation will become easier and the benefits will last longer.

5. Take It One Step Further

As you become more comfortable with meditation and it becomes easier to calm your mind and focus, you are left with an amazing opportunity.

As you reach a state of calm focus, the brain waves change pattern and your brain becomes very attentive and receptive to what you put your focus on.

This gives you a great opportunity to start programming into your brain the things you want to achieve from your meditation.

For instance, you can start focusing your thoughts and attention on:

  • What you are grateful for
  • Positive affirmations
  • Visualizations
  • Mantras or sayings that are meaningful to you
  • Prayers

Where to Go From Here?

Meditation can have profound and long-lasting effects on your brain. There is a reason why some of the most successful and happy people have sworn by meditation as one of the most important influences on their life.

Meditation isn’t as complicated as it may seem and there are plenty of simple strategies, tools, and resources to get started even if you are brand new to meditating.

If you are ready to get back in the driver’s seat and get a hold of your stress and anxiety, there is good news for you. Anybody can do it and you can start with only a few minutes a day to start experiencing results. So go ahead and get Zen!

Featured photo credit: The Digital Artist/ Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr Brady Salcido

Dr Brady is a Doctor, Podcast Host, and Brain Optimization Expert sharing how you can use your lifestyle to upgrade your life.

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Last Updated on October 18, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion.

Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

Video Summary

Why is it important to train up our core strength?

There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

Also, they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However, for them to be most effective, you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

Think you’re too late to start training your muscle, wrong! Here’s the proof.

One exercise, multiple benefits

There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

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By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

7 Things that happen when you start doing planks every day

    1. You’ll improve core definition and performance

    Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
    • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
    • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

    2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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      Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

      Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

      3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

        Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

        4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

          Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

          A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

          A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

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          On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

          5. You’ll improve overall balance

            Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

            6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

              Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

              7. You’ll witness mental benefits

                Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                How to hold a plank position

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                Watch the video if you have any doubt!

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                Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                  How to improve your plank time gradually

                  1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                  2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                  3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                  Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                  It’s all about hacking your body by building a lasting habit like this.

                  Who should be cautious doing the plank?

                  You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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