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7 Essential Things You Need For A Mindful Life You Dream About

7 Essential Things You Need For A Mindful Life You Dream About

1. Redefine mindfulness.

Do you dream about having a mindful life? Does it seem out of reach? Do you believe it takes a lot of time to learn mindfulness? A misunderstanding of the word mindfulness can put a wall between you and your so called mindful life.

I began to pursue mindfulness in 1973. I went to workshops and read books. I pictured myself sitting cross-legged on the floor, my hands resting on my knees with my fingers touching my thumbs, chanting a mantra that was mine alone. I pictured reaching a state where thoughts no longer entered my mind at all.

One summer morning, a friend of mine took me on a tour of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. The grounds are gorgeous! If there is a perfect place to find a spot and sit cross-legged, this is it. Although this took place forty years ago, I still remember walking towards a young man doing just that. As we approached, I noticed his eyes start to flutter under his lids. I knew we had disturbed his concentration. I felt bad, but I wondered how far he had gotten from taking that ultimate vacation away from his thoughts.

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Now don’t get me wrong. I know this type of mindful meditation has huge benefits. Those benefits have been highly researched and replicated. I just never found the time or the determination to get there. So if there’s more to mindfulness than meditating, what is it?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a biologist and an expert in mindfulness, defined it this way: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” This means that we purposefully pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. We cease living in the past through rumination or the future through worry. We strategically bring our minds back to the present moment so that we are actually living our lives anchored in our environment rather than in our heads. So first, redefine mindfulness.

2. Do only what works.

There are hundreds if not thousands of mindfulness exercises to choose from. As a psychotherapist who uses mindfulness practices in my group setting, I have seen some clients who cannot tolerate certain types of exercises, but find others extremely helpful. One client cannot handle it when we begin to focus on our breath or go through any sort of “slowing down” exercise. Her mind is constantly racing. She is now practicing an exercise for very short periods of time to help her slow down her thought processes.

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Another client needs a brain teaser—something to totally focus on—in order to bring herself back to the present moment. For another, using all of her five senses to experience her world is enough to bring her back to her “now” within a very short time. Explore the vast array if mindfulness exercises out there through the Internet or books or CDs. Some will work for you and some will not be as helpful.

3. Eat right.

You’ve heard it before: Food is medicine. We can get away with not eating right when we are younger, but as the years fly by, damage that is invisible to us is happening on the inside. We experience digestive problems or aching joints. We can become easily fatigued. Getting informed by reading blogs or books on healthy eating will help.

4. Sleep more.

Speaking of fatigue, getting enough sleep is essential to leading a mindful life. Our brains wake up with so much energy for a day. If we are healthy, we have enough physical energy, cognitive energy, and emotional energy. Then we have a reserve. Without enough sleep, once these energy stores are used up, they are used up until we sleep again. There is no reserve. That is when we feel our worst and can’t seem to get it together mentally or emotionally. If you are experiencing this, look at your sleep schedule. For most adults, 8–9 hours are needed.

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5. Learn how to listen.

Have you ever listened to yourself? I have. And sometimes, I don’t like what I hear. I will be sitting across from a friend having a latte or talking to my sister on the phone, and once I’m on my way home or I’ve hung up the phone, I realize I did not ask them what was happening in their life. I find my own life so exciting that I blabbed on and on without inquiring how they are. Ugh. Just intentionally listening to another is a type of mindfulness. As how others are doing. Find out what is happening in their life. Listen, and pay close attention. Ask questions. It’s impossible do that if you are not paying attention, living a mindful life.

6. Practice gratitude.

Research shows that if you write down a few things you are grateful for each day, depression lifts after a while. You cannot reflect on what you are grateful for if you are wallowing in the past or worrying in the future. You are thinking about your life—now. Practicing gratitude is part of living a mindful life.

7. Practice, practice, practice.

When you first rode a bike, you had to watch someone else do it first. You noticed that you needed to swing your leg over to the other side, sit on the seat, put your feet on the pedals and hands on the handle bars. Then you needed to push the pedal forward with one foot first, then the other, all the while steering the bike. Eventually you graduated to one without training wheels that had brake grips attached to the handle bars. Soon, with enough practice, you were going everywhere on your bike. If you put your bike away for awhile, even for years, chances are you would be able to jump right back on it and ride.

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You had developed muscle memory. Your brain knows how to ride the bike. This is how learning any skill works. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes, and the more automatically you use the skill when needed. You cease needing to think about it ahead of time.

I have taught mindfulness exercises to others for almost five years. I remember the first time I noticed I had automatically brought myself back to the present when I was ruminating about an event from long ago. I went outside and sat on my back porch. I changed my focus to the sound of the birds in the trees and the warmth of the sun on my face. I began to search the trees for the birds. I noticed the turquoise blue of the sky through the leafy branches of the ash tree. My mood lifted. I was living a mindful life.

So, have you only dreamed about leading a mindful life? Begin now by keeping these seven essentials in mind.

Featured photo credit: Mindfulness via

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12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and black tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here:

11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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