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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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

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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 April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

Reference

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