“In its broadest and most universal definition, meditation is a discipline that involves turning the mind and attention inward and focusing on a single thought, image, object or feeling”.
– The Australian Teachers of Meditation Association
Definitions of meditation vary from one individual practice to another, however the general idea is to train the mind to improve focus. Different forms of meditation focus on different aspects such as breath, an object, a mantra (repeated word or sound), a mental image or positive statements.
The effects of relaxation are an immediate result of practiced meditation and can provide a range of long-term benefits.Advertising
From a physical view, meditation lowers high blood pressure, reduces anxiety attacks, increases serotonin production which improves mood and behavior reduces stress-related pain (e.g. tension, headaches and insomnia, and increases immunity and energy).
Mentally, meditation decreases anxiety, improves emotional stability, provides clarity and peace of mind and sharpens the mind.
To add to the abundance of benefits meditation offers, research by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) now suggest that meditation could slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain.
During an individual’s mid-to-late 20s, the brain begins to decrease in weight and volume, by which stage it begins to lose some of its functional abilities. Through the following years, the risk for mental and neurodegenerative disease increases.Advertising
The study by UCLA shows that meditation can actually help lower these risks. It also suggests that meditation can preserve the brain’s gray matter, a neuron-containing tissue which functions to process information.
The study focused primarily on the association between age and the brain’s gray matter, comparing 50 people who meditated and 50 who had not, with both groups already showing signs of loss of grey matter as they aged.
Each group consisted of 28 men and 22 women, aged 24 to 77, with those who meditated for an average of 20 years. Using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists scanned the brains of the participants. Both groups of people naturally showed the degeneration in the gray matter (a loss of brain tissue with increasing age), but the large parts of gray matter in the brains of those who meditated were found to be better preserved.
While other factors, such as lifestyle choices, personality traits and genetic brain differences, need to be taken into consideration, the magnitude of the results was surprising even to the researchers.Advertising
“We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating…Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
– Dr. Florian Kurth, co-author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center
Many people around the world are well aware of the cleansing and relaxation properties of meditation and most will make an excuse that it is too difficult or too time consuming. However if you think of it in terms of a few hours of your day in exchange for a better sleep at night and a healthier brain as you age, it might be time to reconsider.
To those who are already well-acquainted with the practice of meditation, this might provide encouragement for you to continue on with meditation into older age.Advertising
“Our results are promising…Hopefully they will stimulate other studies exploring the potential of meditation to better preserve our aging brains and minds. Accumulating scientific evidence that meditation has brain-altering capabilities might ultimately allow for an effective translation from research to practice, not only in the framework of healthy aging but also pathological aging.”
– Dr. Eileen Luders, first author and assistant professor of neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA
Last Updated on March 13, 2019
How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck
Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?
You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.
Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:
1. Work on the small tasks.
When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.
Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.
2. Take a break from your work desk.
Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.
Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.
Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.
The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?
4. Talk to a friend.
Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.
Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.
If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.
Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.
Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.
6. Paint a vision to work towards.
If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.
Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?
Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.
The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.
Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.
Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.
8. Have a quick nap.
If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.
9. Remember why you are doing this.
Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.
What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.
10. Find some competition.
Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.
Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.
11. Go exercise.
Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.
Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.
As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.
12. Take a good break.
Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.
Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.
Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.
Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime
More Resources About Getting out of a Rut
- How to Get Out of a Rut and Start Living the Life You Desire
- Feeling So Stuck in Life That You’re About to Give Up? Help is Here!
- How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life
- How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up
Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com