Mindfulness and Neuroscience It seems that everyone is talking about mindfulness lately. Have you heard? *The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is working with a number of groups—college faculty, attorneys and judges, social justice workers, business leaders, youth and those who work with young people–to encourage the incorporation of contemplative practices in a variety…
When most people think about meditation, they imagine a person sitting in the lotus position trying their best not to scratch those itches. Because once you put yourself in the lotus position and stop moving, everything starts itching. The bad news is that you WILL start feeling itchy the second you close your eyes.Continue…
Breath is literally your life source, don’t underestimate the power of focusing on your breath. When you can control your breath, you can control your thoughts. When you can control your thoughts, you can be thoughtful about your actions. Think about how powerful that is! Use this exercise for generating compassion for yourself, a situation […]
The growth of interest in Mindfulness Meditation in the West and its therapeutic application for healing the many forms of emotional suffering that we all experience as human beings is a phenomenon of great significance indeed. This movement is not about adopting yet another religion, not about learning a new set of rules to try to live by, and not about finding another set of rituals and practices to follow.
Being able to practice gratitude daily is a great virtue. It helps people feel emotions that are positive and healthy. People who practice gratitude get more sound sleep and are kinder and more compassionate towards others. Practicing gratitude also creates an overall feeling of contentment and makes an individual feel satisfied with life. Science has proven that it can also lead to a stronger immune system.
Learning to practice gratitude begins with the understanding that ‘gratitude’ is not something that is meant exclusively for major events in one’s life. One is naturally grateful for things that hold special place in his or her life, like getting admission in a prestigious or desired college, or getting a promotion but what one needs to learn is that he or she can be grateful for things as small as a good cup of coffee after a hard day of work as well. In fact, this is the key to practicing gratitude in daily life. Following are some simple ways to practice gratitude in daily life and reap its wonderful benefits:
1. Nothing is small: When it comes to practicing gratitude the most important thing that we must remember is that nothing is small. One should appreciate and be grateful for every good thing, whether it is the wonderful weather or getting to work on time because, as said before, gratitude is not for the big things alone. Of course inculcating this habit will take time, therefore, begin with finding one thing a day to be grateful for. While being grateful, try to be in the moment completely, notice the minute details and appreciate everything whole-heartedly and with complete conviction. Only then will you be genuinely able to understand the importance and worth of gratitude. Soon you will notice how naturally it comes to you and that there’s so much in life to be grateful for.
2. Just the right comparison: Comparing ourselves to others is quite common considering the amount of time we spend on social media these days. It is quite unavoidable even. But the key to practice gratitude is to know what kind of comparison might help you be grateful. Comparing ourselves with those who seem better will only bring misery and will only rob us of our joys. Therefore, it is imperative to stop comparing ourselves with others if we truly want to be grateful.
Focus on yourself and be thankful for what you have. And at times when you find it difficult to be grateful, look around. You will find that there are so many others who are yearning to have what you have. This will help you appreciate your blessings.
3. Practice mindfulness: Practicing gratitude requires you to be mindful of all the little things around you whose value you fail to realize and those you often take for granted. Getting to office without getting stuck in a bad traffic jam, or taking a walk on a road that is clean and green are little things that often go unnoticed because we are not in the moment. Practicing mindfulness brings gratitude easily. You will notice that by being grateful, you’ve become happier and more empathetic as well.
4. Gratitude journal: Keeping a gratitude journal is a great habit. Develop the habit to write down all the things for which you are grateful daily, no matter how big or small. Keep a journal of all the positive thoughts that you experience while being grateful. It is also a wonderful way of realizing that there is so much in the world to be grateful for. Also, on the days you find yourself miserable or sad or down, this journal will help you feel positive. Practicing gratitude does not mean that you would never feel disappointed, sad, or low. You would, but the journal will surely come handy and will help you bounce back to a happy state quickly. You can keep a daily journal or a weekly journal whichever suits you better, though starting by keeping a daily journal will better serve the purpose.
5. Help others: Helping others or doing something for others, especially without expecting anything in return, can actually boost your happiness. Research has shown that helping others can increase well-being as well. When you bring smile on somebody’s face, you are bound to experience happiness yourself. Not only that, it will also help you be grateful for being able to do something for someone else. Small acts, such as effective listening or doing somebody’s work or simply being kind to others will instantly make you feel contented and give you a positive feeling of being capable.
6. Spend time with family and friends: Spending time with loved ones will not only make your relationships stronger but it will also bring you closer to your loved ones. Knowing that you have a loving family and friends who care, can make you be more grateful and appreciative. It will also provide you opportunities where you can do something for them and practice gratitude. Hence, make it a habit to meet and spend quality time with your family and friends no matter how busy life gets.
7. Consistency is the key: It is well known that it takes 21 days to two months to form a habit. Gratitude too is a kind of habit; and the key to attain it is to remain consistent so that being grateful becomes a part of your behavioral repertoire. Soon you will realize that what required an effort earlier, has ultimately become spontaneous. Thus, even if initially it takes a little effort to look for the things to be grateful for, it will steadily become more and more effortless and spontaneous.
We should try to learn to depend on ourselves. Try not to look to others, or external things to bring us happiness or fulfillment. Being independent can be a tough battle. What many don’t understand is that being dependent on others can lead to misery, sadness, loneliness, and disappointment. Others aren’t always going to be […]
If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep at night because of too many thoughts, try adopting mindfulness on a nightly basis. Nighttime is the worst part of the day to have unresolved thoughts which you have not paid enough attention to during daytime. When these thoughts linger in the middle of the night, it makes falling asleep nearly impossible. Your mind becomes like a night owl, ready to scavenge whatever it can find. […]
Our negative mind states can feel so powerful that we can easily lose sight of how quickly they can change for the better. They are significantly more malleable than you may believe. It’s no understatement to say that they’re often based on a house of cards.
It’s a bit like being in two places at the same time. Imagine a basketball game in a sports hall, where you play along and in the same time you watch yourself while playing from the stands. Meditation makes us aware of our inner dialogue and it leads to metacognition. This way we learn to…
Meditation is about focusing on the present. Meditation can help you feel better and reduce stress. Researchers are also studying mindfulness and related techniques such as relaxation to see if they can help treat various physical and mental health conditions. . . . read more
Concentration is the ability or power of directing one’s attention to something. But we live in a world full of distractions, where we often feel overwhelmed by the ever-increasing demands from our personal and professional front. These distractions may or may not be paltry but they tend to make it difficult for us to maintain and improve concentration and do the things that really matter. Here are five ways that can help you overcome distractions and concentrate better:
1. Establish a daily routine: Creating a daily routine and sticking to it, is a great strategy to improve your concentration. Having a random routine wastes a lot of your time in just deciding upon what to do and when. But once you establish your routine, you will start doing the day’s tasks automatically. Creating a routine would save your time and energy that goes into thinking about what to do and in what order and thus helps you focus your energy and increase productivity.
2. Rank your tasks: You can improve your concentration by prioritizing your tasks and attempting the most important tasks first and leaving the smaller or comparatively less important tasks for later. While performing all the tasks together is neither realistic nor possible, thinking about all of those pending tasks can be daunting as well as overwhelming. Ranking tasks in order of merit, on the other hand, can prove to be an effective tactic for staying focused on the tasks at hand.
3. Practice Meditation and Mindfulness: Many studies have demonstrated that meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety, and improve focus. Practising meditation and mindfulness makes you aware of when your mind wanders off track and aids in bringing it back to the desired point of attention. Both meditation and mindfulness train your brain to stay attentive for longer periods of time.
4. Listen to Music: Music has a profound effect on not just your mood, but blood pressure and heart rate as well. According to a study conducted at the Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, listening to short symphonies engages the parts of the brain that controls an individual’s attention span, ability to make predictions, and update the event in memory. Though music boosts these brain functions and improves concentration, it’s the short period of silence between musical movements that maximizes brain activities.
5. Turn off notifications: Last but not least, the best way to improve concentration is to turn off the notifications of your personal devices. Research has shown that although a notification appears to only briefly divert your attention, it disrupts your thoughts for much longer, making it harder to bring them back on track. Irrespective of whether you interact with your cell-phone or not, checking out notifications in between can significantly impact your attention. Therefore, you should use your cell-phone judiciously and schedule some time away from the screen to be able to devote yourself single-mindedly to the tasks you do.
Intuition is sometimes thought of as the sixth sense. Basically, it’s an inner knowing that does not involve the mind, or intellectual or logical processes. It’s when we feel something instinctually without needing to be analytical. When we have an intuitive feeling, we’re receiving ideas without being aware of where they’re coming from.
Following your intuition means that you’re listening to your inner voice, which can be a huge tool in the decision-making process. A study done by Lufityanto, Donkin, and Pearson (2016) found that nonconscious emotional information can boost the accuracy of decision-making while also increasing an individual’s sense of confidence. In addition, it was found to speed up the actual decision-making process. This is fascinating information and confirmation that trusting our inner voices and intuition can be a positive action.
According to transpersonal psychologist Frances Vaughan (1998), intuitive awareness falls into four main categories: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, which we can use independently of one another.
An example of inner knowing as it pertains to the physical self might be when we’re in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation and we feel a sensation in our body, whether it’s a headache, stomachache, or a sense of anxiety. This points to a form of inner knowing that offers a message: “Learning to trust your bodily responses is part of learning to trust your intuition” (p. 186). If your body is giving you information, then it’s a good idea to listen because the information can ensure your safety. If you habitually have the same response to the same situation, it might have to do with a preexisting (perhaps childhood) trauma. Being mindful of this reaction will allow you to cope.
An example of emotional inner knowing is when you feel that someone’s energy or vibes are either positive or negative. Most often, this will affect your behavior when you engage with them. Often there’s no particular reason for how you feel; it’s just felt at a vibrational level. Moving forward, these vibrations can provide you with valuable information. Those who experience this type of intuition might have a tendency for synchronistic and/or psychic experiences. For example, you might be thinking about someone and then that person phones you.
Mental inner knowing, according to Vaughan, pertains to an awareness accessed through images or “inner vision.” You might see patterns in a situation that was previously chaotic. This sort of inner knowing or intuition is sometimes referred to as “having a gut feeling.”
Spiritual inner knowing or soul guidance might be associated with mystical experiences. Experts have suggested that regular meditation practice can foster and enhance a sense of this type of intuition.
In his classic book You Are Psychic! (1989), Pete A. Sanders says that psychic abilities can be tapped into using the “psychic reception areas.” He identifies four different psychic senses in the body: psychic feeling (in the solar plexus), psychic intuition (knowing or inner awareness), psychic hearing (on both sides of the head above the ears), and psychic vision (the third eye or the place between the eyebrows). In the same way that some of us are auditory or visual learners, we each have strengths in one of these psychic areas. Sanders says that in order to face challenges and make good decisions, it’s important to learn your own psychic strength because it can affect how you live your life. Also, when you know the psychic strengths of your loved ones, you can communicate with them more effectively.
How to Tap into Your Intuition
1. Begin a regular meditation and mindfulness practice. Meditation will help you tap into your subconscious mind and is a powerful way to awaken your intuitive powers.
2. Use the intuition “psychic reception center.” This was discussed by Sanders and describes a spot on your head where you receive intuitive messages. The idea is to imagine a funnel on the top of your head, with the larger end of the funnel touching your head and the narrow part extending into the universe. When you need to tap into your intuition and focus on something, place this imaginary funnel on your head and focus your awareness on that area. Be receptive to the messages you receive.
3. Maintain a regular journaling practice. Journaling is a wonderful way to tap you’re your intuition. For example, try to think about a recent situation you’d like more insight about. Focus on that event and pay attention to the thoughts that emerge. Write in your journal what comes to you. As you go about your day, observe others, and see if you can pick up any messages from their body language even before they speak to you. It’s all about “tuning in.” When you have the opportunity, jot down your observations in your journal.
4. Practice creative visualization: Shatki Gawain wrote two seminal books on the subject — Creative Visualization and Developing Intuition, which work hand in hand. Creative visualization is a technique where you close your eyes and use your imagination to create what you want in your life. It can open you up to new creative energies that will help you tap into your intuition.
Begin with a few minutes of diaphragm breathing. Then, let go of any thoughts that enter your mind, and imagine them fading away. Picture yourself in a cave where you remove all your clothes and lie down. Feel the moisture dripping from the ceiling, as its acidic nature begins to dissolve your skin, organs, and body systems. Think of yourself as a skeleton, while being completely aware. Being stripped of everything can offer a magical opening into your intuitive self and may also help you tap into your inner voice.
Lufityanto, G., C. Donkin, and J. Pearson. (2016). “Measuring Intuition: Nonconscious Emotional Information Boosts Decision Accuracy and Confidence . Psychological Science Online.
Sanders, P.A. (1989). You Are Psychic!. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Vaughan, F. (1998). “Mental, Emotional, and Body-Based Intuition.” In Inner Knowing, by H. Palmer, Ed. New York, NY: Jeremy Tarcher.
Panic attack refers to sudden or unexpected onset of fear or terror that often seems to come out of the blue. The episodes of these attacks can occur anytime and anywhere. The panic attacks are often emotionally overwhelming and are accompanied by physical symptoms. The person experiencing them may feel that he or she is having a heart attack or is going crazy and is often concerned about having another attack or about the consequences of having such attack. Another characteristic of panic attack is that these episodes occur in situations where they are least expected like during sleep or during relaxation and often last for not more than thirty minutes. However, in some instances, panic attack can be situationally predisposed, occurring only in certain situations such as being in a crowd or while driving. If left untreated panic attacks can develop into panic disorder and other difficulties and can become quite disabling. If you have experienced one or two such episodes without any further episode or complications in the past month, chances are that you are not suffering from panic disorder, and there’s nothing to worry. However, if you have been repeatedly experiencing such episodes along with fear of having another attack combined with major behavioral changes, for at least a month, then you might be suffering from panic disorder or at the risk of developing panic disorder.
Symptoms of panic attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Shaking or trembling
- Depersonalization (a feeling of being detached from one’s body) or derealization (a feeling that external world is strange or unreal)
- Fear of dying
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Fear of “going crazy,” or of “losing control”
- Hot or cold flashes
- Choking feeling
Here are some effective strategies to handle panic attacks:
Breathing exercise: Panic attacks can often cause rapid breathing and this hyperventilation can actually worsen the symptoms. Hyperventilation leads to light-headedness, dizziness, palpitation, tingling sensation in feet and hands, and breathlessness, which can actually make the experience more overwhelming and terrifying. Engaging in breathing exercises, however, can really help you ease yourself and control the related symptoms. Engaging in diaphragmatic breathing can actually help calm yourself as you start to experience the symptoms. Close your eyes and slowly inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. You can count to five as you breathe in and out. Try to concentrate on your breathing.
Avoid alcohol, smoke, and caffeine: Eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol, and smoking as these have been shown to make the symptoms worse. Furthermore, avoid medicines that contain stimulants.
Relaxation techniques: Engage in relaxation techniques like progressive muscular relaxation, yoga, and meditation. Make them a part of your daily routine as these activities tend to calm mind and body, and help keep anxiety symptoms in check while inducing feelings of happiness in general.
Exercise: Exercise has been shown to release feel-good hormones and hence, works as a natural anxiety buster. You can engage in walking, running, or simple aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. Even dancing for 30 minutes can help relieve anxiety symptoms.
Sleep: Lack of proper sleep can also worsen the symptoms of panic attack, so try to get seven to eight hour sleep daily. But there’s another side to it also—symptoms of panic attacks or fear of getting another panic attack can actually damage your quality of sleep.
Learn mindfulness: Mindfulness can help your control the symptoms of panic attack. Depersonalization and derealization are some of the symptoms of panic attacks that can be quite distressing. Mindfulness can help you stay in touch with the reality and present. Concentrate on the physical sensations, like texture of clothes on your body and your feet touching the ground etc. These can help you stay in your present reality.
Concentrate on the objects: As your experience symptoms of panic attack, try to focus your mind on some object that is in your sight. Try to observe all the details of the object. This can help you distract your mind. As you concentrate you may feel the symptoms are settling.
Acknowledge: Since most of the symptoms of panic attack are often physical and the person experiencing them can feel that he or she is having a heart attack or is about to die, it is important to first and foremost acknowledge that you are having a panic attack. It is important to rule out any medical condition, and once that is done, you should educate yourself about panic attacks. Learn about the symptoms and find out any cues that act as a trigger. This can help you manage your condition more effectively. You might experience that the symptoms are not as overwhelming as they used to be. Once you acknowledge that you are having a panic attack you will be able to calm yourself more quickly and effectively.