Warning – a regular meditation practice may seriously improve your mental health.
Mindfulness and meditation practices lower activity in the default mode network (DMN) of the brain – the monkey mind. The monkey mind is active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, but wandering from thought to thought, i.e. unconsciously jumping from tree to tree 😉 often resulting in dissatisfaction, anxiety and fear about the past or future.
In studies, it has been observed that an eight-week mindfulness/meditation practice, causes the brain’s “fight, fright or flight” centre, the amygdala, to shrink.
As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex associated with higher brain functions e.g. attention control, awareness, concentration and decision-making becomes more robust.
Compassion-based practices e.g. ‘loving kindness’ meditation show increases in the limbic system, which processes emotions, and the anterior insula, which bring emotions into our conscious awareness.
With all of this literally in mind, where do you start? For many Meditation or Mindfulness can be seen to have ‘otherness’ about it, but the brain boosting benefits are available to all.
Here is one simple practice you can try to make your first beginnings, it’s called the RAIN method and can be practiced while sitting comfortably in a chair in a well-ventilated room.
(5 minute practice)
Sit comfortably and observe your breath, noticing the expansion and contraction of the rib-cage and abdomen on the inhale and exhale. After one minute, turn your attention to your mind:
Recognise any thoughts, feelings and sensations, negative and positive that come to you;
Allow all thoughts, feelings and sensations to be present, give them your fullest consent as this will help you access more power;
Investigate any negative thoughts which disturb you in this moment, assessing them for accuracy and truth, if you like, present hard evidence to contradict the thoughts;*
Natural awareness will come to you with practice, whereby you will become neutrally aware of all thoughts, feelings and sensations and observe them objectively as if from outside of the body;
To finish the RAIN practice return your attention to the breath, noticing again the expansion and contraction of the rib-cage and abdomen on the inhale and exhale for one minute.
*When dealing with recurring, troublesome ongoing thoughts about past memories or events, practitioners are wise to work with a dedicated CBT professional as well for support.
Yogapal – because we care.