This is Your Brain on Mindfulness Meditation and It’s Not What You Think

This is Your Brain on Mindfulness Meditation and It’s Not What You Think

The Mind & Meditation Series

When I think about meditation the first thing that comes to mind is someone calm, soft, gentle. They’re quietly sitting on in lotus position on a beaded pillow in a temple surrounded by raging rivers and tall trees. This is their life. They have no distractions. They have no deadlines. I imagine they eat a vegan diet and don’t have sex.

This person is not me. And so I have always had an invisible barrier up anytime someone talks about meditation. I’m too busy for that, and I don’t live on a fucking mountaintop surrounded by tall trees.

But I’m not an idiot. There are over 3000 studies done on the benefits of meditation. I see all these headlines everywhere touting the benefits of mindfulness for growing your gray matter and becoming an all-around better human. And when you see something getting those types of results, it’s impossible to ignore. After some time, research, and experience, I’ve learned that mindfulness is tasty. It’s fucking delicious. That may sound strange, but having the awareness to actually breathe deeply and drink in your life whether you’re in a period of drama and strife or one of bliss and harmony is a gift. It abolishes the overarching importance of circumstance. Circumstance doesn’t matter because it’s all interestingly simple when you can calm the fuck down.

So what exactly is mindfulness? Giovanni Dienstmann describes it as this, “Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise.” So simple right? Except it means slow way down, eliminating distractions and being fully present, something not many of us do on the regular.

This is Your Brain on Mindfulness Meditation

Now most of the time I’m the opposite of chill. The only time I can really calm down is when I set the intention to do so. Mindfulness, for me, no longer seems like this far reaching unattainable thing. It’s become a practice that I owe my sanity to, but it’s also incredibly powerful for helping you get more done when you’re not collapsed in a heap of zen.

In a World of Distractions, Mindfulness Helps You Focus

Oh hey, sorry, I was just on Facebook, busy being super distracted as per usual. And it’s not going to get any easier to duck and dive through a minefield of distractions all blinking and beeping non-stop, trying to pull you out of the present and get you engaged in a bottomless discussion. Is the dress blue and black or white and gold dammit!?

Mind with meditation

How much effort does it take to pull your brain back after it’s been wandering in a distraction desert for hours? Less if you practice mindfulness meditation and science confirms it. On a scale which measures focus, the GRE score of those who practiced mindfulness meditation for just a few weeks rose by 16 percent.

Oddly enough ADD is mostly associated with children, but research also shows that it’s the adults that have a harder time concentrating. As you age the part of the prefrontal cortex that blocks external distractions starts to weaken.

Another small study over the course of 8-weeks discovered that mindfulness meditation helped patients to have better control over their alpha brain waves responsible for the experience of what we feel and take in from the outside world.

If you’ve ever heard the term flow, you’ve probably been attracted to it. I’m always striving to enter into a flow state. It’s a place where work doesn’t feel like work, and time stops existing. There are no distractions when you’re in a state of flow. And the only way to get there is to slow. Slow down and breathe. Allow the urge to check social media twenty times an hour to evaporate. Mindfulness practice helps this process exponentially.

brain before meditation

Preserve Your Precious Brain

Here’s the recipe: 1 tsp lactic acid, 1 tbs salt… But really, think of your brain as a vegetable. Slowly, but surely, vegetables turn to mush if you don’t preserve them. As a staunch advocate for fermentation I know all the tricks when it comes to preserving your brain and mindfulness is one of them. But you won’t see a graphic for it on Pinterest.

Your brain loses its prowess for a variety of reasons. What you put into your body is pretty damn important, but the external environment also plays a role. One study showed that experienced meditators had far more gray matter than their counterparts. Perhaps this is because of the effects meditation has on reducing stress. You and I both know how the devastation that stress inflicts on the body and mind.

Do you know any elders who meditate? I know a woman who’s been meditating her entire adult life. She’s a midwife and has helped deliver hundreds of babies into the world. I think she’s coming up on 80 but you’d never know it. She’s sharp as a tack and one hundred percent in charge of taking care of herself. She’s not on any prescriptions and she still babysits her grandkids! That’s how I want to be when I’m old. Not sick and reliant on other people to meet my needs.

This is just another example of mind over matter. Your mind is more powerful than you think. If mindfulness meditation can preserve gray matter, then think how powerful an effect a positive attitude can have on your business. Protect and preserve that noggin’ in the easiest way possible, just being present and aware.

This is Your Brain on Mindfulness Meditation and It’s Not What You Think

You Can Be Less of a Selfish Prick

Let me pull an Eckhart Tolle and tell you that the cause of all your suffering is that dreadful invisible soul sucking entity called the ego. Ah yes, did that hurt? It’s not your real self that’s hurt, it’s the ILLUSION of your real self. Ok I’ll stop now. But whether you’re doing well in life or you’re down in the dumps, the ego can easily get the better of you.

I know I have my ups and downs in egocentric tendencies and it’s all about finding balance. Mindfulness helps you to lose the idea of self-importance. When you just sit there and watch your silly thoughts float by, it all seems so meaningless. You realize that helping others and being a good person feels better than being a dick.

The ego is the first thing to begin being dismantled in this practice. Wait, you can’t even sit still and calm your thoughts for 5 minutes? How can you have a huge ego after that humbling experience? A healthy ego is one that knows its limitations and works on improving them. Without a doubt when you go into meditation you’ll face your limitations. It doesn’t take a course in Buddhism to figure it out, just try it and witness the unraveling of selfishness.

Put Down the Glass

I used to drink a lot. I think a lot of millennials rely on alcohol as a social lubricant and a way to release tension after a long day (or any day). Alcohol is just the beginning of the substance abuse parade, and so many millennials get sucked into substance abuse just to cope with modern stressors.

It’s tough not to numb with something when you’re stressed out a lot and live in such a crazy culture as we do. But eventually you might realize it’s not doing your health any favors. At least that’s what happened to me. Trying to replace the zen you get from a few beers is no easy task. Meditation is a tool that every sober individual should have in their arsenal.

Recent studies show that mindfulness is incredibly useful in kicking addictions to the curb. If you smoke, mindfulness can help you too. One study showed even brief (5 hrs over 2 weeks) meditation training can help you on your journey to quitting smoking.

Because substance abuse often comes from an unconscious desire, bringing a little bit more consciousness to the table makes perfect sense. Mindfulness encourages awareness and acceptance. So instead of beating yourself up because you’re dying for a double bloody mary extra spicy, you become more adept at analyzing WHY you want that in the first place? Instead of coming from a standpoint of reacting to the desire and simply fulfilling it, you can spend a moment looking at the desire and ask ‘will this serve me?’ Will the money spent on an expensive bottle of wine be better used to buy organic fruit and veg for a delicious dinner? Mindfulness creates the space for these important questions.

Become a Networking Champ

If you’re working on growing your business, you gotta network. It’s just part of the deal. Forming relationships, building connections and reaching out to potential clients or investors is what makes a business successful. But holy fuck can those meetings get awkward. Especially if you’re in a mental state of wanting to say and do everything right.

Mindfulness has been shown to help reduce social anxiety which many entrepreneurs struggle with. Jess Ekstrom describes the relationship of entrepreneurs and anxiety as this, “Anxiety for entrepreneurs is like finding a Starbucks in New York City” aka pretty much everywhere you look.

So it makes sense to get strategic and learn how to be socially charming. But you can only learn so much beyond addressing the main culprit: your nervous system. That’s where mindfulness meditation comes in. It helps you learn to control your nervous system in a whole new way. You become aware of the thoughts that make your heart race, and you train yourself to slow your heart back down. You realize that thoughts can elicit a physical response just as powerful as reality. Nothing in the external world is as scary as our own self-created little worlds of strife and drama.

I used to always worry about what other people would think about me. I would try and filter myself to such a degree that I didn’t seem natural and I felt completely awkward in the presence of people I didn’t know. This HAD to change when I started working for myself. I’m basically the face of my own company. It’s a whole new pressure, and not necessarily the welcomed kind. But it has helped me grow. I learned that I’m in control of my reactions and people care far less about what I look like, what I say, how I dress than I initially thought they did. What a fucking relief.

You Might Smile More

Mind on Meditation

The secret to happiness. Wouldn’t we all love to know that. I’m not professing to have the answer, but I do think mindfulness and making space to be present in life can help the cause. The thing with sitting still for a few moments is it gives you the chance to bring to mind all the amazing things you’ve got going on. Gratitude IS the right attitude and has been linked to happiness and contentment.

The happiness project, devoted to it’s namesake, lists mindfulness as one of the top ways to boost your happy levels. Their research shows- Environment is 10%, Genes are 50% and Intentional Activities (like mindfulness meditation) are 40% of the happiness puzzle.

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PS.Be sure to check out the rest of the Mind and Meditation series over the coming weeks!


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This article is part of a monthly series all about mind and meditation .

 If you like this post check out Meditation’s Role in the Entrepreneur’s Life