Mindfulness is critical to boost your gray matter and provide clarity of thought. Dr. Fred Luskin at Stanford University says we have over 60,000 thoughts a day and that a whooping 90% of them are repetitive. Kind of like an 8 track tape (if you are under 50, go ask your parents) playing over and over and over and over. You get the picture. It’s a well worn canyon in our brain of the same old same old. It’s amazing that any innovation ever happens. Mindfulness is the key to unlocking those 6,000 thoughts that will bring about clarity and insight.
The amazing thing is that in a little as 5 or 10 minutes a day, you can bring about mindfulness; as noted by Lydia Dishman for Fast Company, Ready. Set. Pause. Unplugging from technology is part of the key. To sit in a chair in a quiet room and close your eyes for 5 minutes can change your thinking and recharge your prefrontal cortex. I think that most people associate meditation with sitting uncomfortably cross-legged on the floor with incense burning like Buddha; or hiking Nepal to some Monastery high in the mist filled mountains. The journey doesn’t have to be that difficult and it certainly doesn’t require a plane ticket. You can change your mindset without leaving the ground.
1. 5 minutes. All you need to do is find the space and 5 minutes. As with all things, there is even an app for that. “Headspace” is free for the first 10 days and has tutorials with excellent visuals to comprehend the actual “space” between thoughts. There are many others including “Mindfulness“, “Buddify” and “Smiling Mind” just to name a few. For less than $3 you could be getting some space in your head in just 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Sitting is Optional. Some of the apps are even tailored to be used during walks or exercising, so you may not necessarily need to find a quiet space. I have actually used an app to meditate on an airplane or in the passenger seat of a car. Maybe you drop your kids at day care and listen on the way to work. Park your car a half mile from your desk and get your head space on the walk in. No excuses.
3. Let Go. You’ll need to let go. When I’ve suggested to my husband that he meditate, he says that he has “too many thoughts”. We all do. And meditating doesn’t necessarily stop them. It’s giving up control that frees the mind. I’ve read many analogies like a ticker tape of passing thoughts through your head, or rain drops of thoughts falling down, or thought boats passing down a river. Let go of control and let the thoughts pass on through. Let go of the illusion of silence in your head.
4. Practice. Practice makes perfect. Actually, you aren’t looking for perfection. Schedule your meditation and show up and do it. The first few times (ok, maybe the first 100 times) I “tried” meditation, I’d end up coming up with “to do” lists or ruminating about the previous day. It’s OK. Unplugging for 5 or 10 minutes is helping grow your gray matter. You will find more head space and your thinking will improve. Just practice.
5. Benefits. There are countless benefits of being mindful. You will be less stressed and your cortisol levels will go down. You will have improved cognitive function which means you will produce better work. It will help your brain ward off mental illness. It helps even when you are not meditating because the effects are long term. It helps you sleep better and keeps you healthy. Research at Harvard and Northeastern University find that you will be more compassionate if you regularly meditate. It’s like taking a daily vitamin, the long term benefits are worth it.
It requires a little faith that taking 5 minutes a day will help your thinking in the long term. The way I see it, what is the down side? Can you afford not to?