What does it mean to be mindful? Being mindful means being fully present in the moment. When you can achieve this state of mind, even for short periods of time, you are creating the optimal environment for mind and body balance and harmony. You can create changes in your brain that are beneficial to your wellbeing.
Brain Benefits Abound When We Are Mindful
Take, for example, a Tibetan Monk by the name of Mingyur Rinpoche. He agreed to come to the United States from Nepal to allow scientists to study his brain while he meditated. He was instructed to meditation on compassion for a period of time, followed by a period of rest. What the scientists found was astonishing. As soon as Rinpoche began meditation, a burst of electrical activity was seen on the monitors. These bursts are not uncommon. What was uncommon was they were not attributed to involuntary movements AND that they lasted the entire period of meditation. Rinpoche’s brain circuitry for empathy rose 700-800 times higher while meditating compared to the rest periods and these results are not limited to him. To learn more click HERE now.
What is Gamma and what does it have to do with meditation?
The study with Mingyur Rinpoche is not an isolated event. A total of 21 Buddhist monks were tested and each were able to enter and leave the meditative state at will and each produced elevated gamma waves, not just during meditation but in everyday neural activity. This is key to what makes mindfulness meditation so special–a neural signature showing permanent change in the brain as a result of meditative states.
There are five brainwave states: delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. Our brains move between these states naturally during the day. Gamma is the frequency that is the fastest and occurs when we are “in the zone.” For most of us gamma bursts only last a few seconds. The Yogis had achieved prolonged states of gamma production. For the first time scientists could see the transformation years of focused mindfulness meditation could etch on the brain. Gamma waves give us the feeling that we’re in peak mental and physical condition. It is also associated with peak concentration and cognitive functioning.
The benefits of increased gamma waves are:
- Improved memory and recall
- Improved sensory perception
- Increased focus
- Increased processing speed
- Happier moods
- Feelings of calm and peace
- Improved sleep
Scientists believe people can increase gamma frequency by practicing mindful meditation on a regular basis. Fortunately, producing more gamma can be as simple as clicking into your BrainTap app and relaxing for a 20-minute session. In fact, a study in 2016 with 50 first-time BrainTap users found that gamma increased by 20% with just a single session. Imagine what regular practice could do for you!
These images show before and after HRV scans of an individual who used BrainTap to assist in mindfulness meditation. As you can see from the above, the individual came into the session with high levels of delta and very low gamma—in other words, very stressed and mentally fatigued. By the end of the session with BrainTap, the stress levels had dropped, the brain was more receptive to learning states and gamma and alpha had increased significantly, making them more alert, focused, and energized!
How Do I Become Mindful?
While mindfulness can feel unnatural at first, its benefits are worth the effort. Challenge yourself to find out what happens when you practice mindfulness on a regular basis. Pay attention to the changes you see and feel in yourself and upgrade your thinking and habits in the process.
- Breathe. Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to begin any mindfulness meditation practice. By focusing on your breathing, you decrease the effects of stress on your body. Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and the mind becomes calm and receptive. Read the following paragraph and then practice the instructions:
Take in a deep, cleansing breath. Hold that breath for the mental count of three and then let the breath out with a sigh. Just let it go. Let go of all the thoughts, the cares, the concerns of the day. There’s absolutely nothing that needs to be done right now. The only thing that needs to happen is for you to relax and let go. Now, take another deep breath in. Hold it for the mental count of three and then let the breath out with a sigh.
Did you feel your body letting go of the tension and stress with each deep breath in? Did you feel your muscles relax as you released the stress of your day? This kind of deep breathing technique can help you begin to practice mindfulness by concentrating on each breath in and each breath out.
- Focus in the Moment. When you’re stressed and anxious, you’re likely doing one of two things–regretting something you’ve already done or worried about something that comes next. Negative thoughts can cause vast amounts of stress and your body needs time to recover and rest from that. To reduce this stress, bring yourself back to the moment. Feel the sensation of your arms and legs either walking or resting on the surface you’re sitting on. If you’re eating, slow down and focus on the taste and sensation of the food you’re enjoying. If you’re outside, take a moment to really focus on the sights and sounds, the lights and shadows around you. Mindfulness allows us to just “be” in a moment and enjoy that moment for what it is.
- Start with a Purpose. The brain cannot function properly without intention. It’s important to think and act with intention to align your conscious and unconscious mind. This is best done in the morning when you first wake up. Setting an intention for the day helps focus you and keep you moving on a positive path. First, take a moment and close your eyes, connect with the sensations in your body. Take a few deep breaths and center yourself. Ask yourself some key questions such as “What is my intention for the day?” Other questions might include: How can I have the best impact today? What quality do I want to strengthen today? What do I need to do to take better care of myself today? How can I be more compassionate?
- Take a pause. Most of our actions run on autopilot. Once a habit forms, our neural networks make shortcuts for efficiency. This is a good and a bad thing. Good because we don’t have to consciously remember things we do every day. Bad because it makes it easy to fall back into old habits we’re trying to break. Mindfulness is the exact opposite of this. Mindfulness makes us slow our brain to focus on something specific and make conscious decisions about our next steps. It takes practice, but the more we activate this part of our brain, the stronger it gets.
- Be Intentional. If you want to practice mindful meditation, put your meditation cushion in the middle of the floor so you can’t miss it. Write yourself notes to remind yourself of your intentions. Place them in places you will see daily. Create new patterns of behavior by being intentional in the ways you practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation is proving to be a helpful way to increase elasticity in the brain, increase gamma waves, change habits and reduce stress. Using the tips and motivations above, you’ll soon find yourself practicing mindfulness on a daily basis and achieving the goals you set for yourself.