For decades, I have had problems with insomnia. Like many people, I have trouble turning my mind off. It goes around in circles thinking about this or that. I call it the hamster wheel. It just goes around and around, expending energy without accomplishing anything.
So my interest was peaked when I came across this article from Good Relaxation by Unmet Seepter about ways you can turn your mind off, particularly before going to sleep. Seepter advocates that you can try:
reading a book
taking a bath
listening to calming music
doing some stretches
turning off the electronics
writing down your worries or thoughts
visualizing something positive
I would also add a few other things to this list, such as:
drinking a cup of tea
massaging your feet, neck, hands, or temples
petting a cat, dog, or something soft
or progressive muscular relaxation
So how about tonight, instead of tossing and turning, try some of these strategies to relax yourself. Perhaps the hamster will get off the wheel, your mind will switch off, and you can drift into a peaceful sleep. Now wouldn’t that be lovely?
Recently, I wrote about the benefits of meditation. Today, I’m writing about silence. While meditation is definitely good for you, we don’t always have time to meditate. This article in the Huffington Post by Carolyn Gregoire, talks about the benefits of silence such as:
- relieving stress and tension
- replenishing mental resources
- regenerating brain cells
Silence also helps us to:
tap into our inner resources,
make meaning in our lives, empathize with others, and
reflect on our own experiences.
Just a few minutes of silence, perhaps five minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening has been shown to have positive influences in our lives.
Good Relaxation notes that the benefits of silence are relaxation, clearing your mind, quieting the noise inside your mind, and refreshing your mind.
So, turn off the television. Turn off the radio. Put down the podcast and the music and the phone. Close your eyes, and sit for five minutes in silence. Notice your breathing. Notice your feelings. Notice your thoughts. Just be for a few minutes. Relax into your breathing. Enjoy a few minutes of silence a few times per day. It’s good for you.
Well, yes. That’s the short answer. Meditation has been shown to be effective in reducing emotional distress and increasing clarity. And it works with as little as 15, 20 or 30 minutes a day. But the key is consistency. A daily meditation practice, consistently applied has 76 benefits per this compilation of scientific studies by Giovanni at liveanddare.com, including:
Our Emotional Well-being:
improving mood and wellbeing (up 65%) by decreasing anxiety (down 30%) and depression (down 75%)
reducing stress and improving self-esteem
increasing optimism and relaxation
reducing fear and loneliness
Improving focus and memory
Improving thinking and creativity
Improving immune system and breathing
reducing blood pressure and heart problems
So with all of the benefits meditation has to offer, how can someone get started? Well, thanks to Leo Babauta at Zen Habits here are 20 practical tips to help you start meditating -> meditation for beginners.
Here is an interesting Ted Talk by Judson Brewer. He talks about breaking bad habits by using mindfulness. He advocates a process of:
- noticing the urge (to smoke or eat sweets, for example),
- get curiously aware and notice what is happening in your mind and body,
- feel the joy of letting go,
- and repeat.
I find it interesting that he starts this talk by speaking of meditation and he implies that the process above is very similar to the process in meditation of:
- notice your breathing,
- get curiously aware and notice what is happening in this present moment,
- if your mind wanders off bring it back to your breath,
- and repeat.
I would also like to add that for those who are spiritually and prayerfully inclined, adding a prayer of forgiveness or release before repeating has been very helpful for many people.
Here’s the video. It’s a little less than 10 minutes long.
This is an awesome video by Prince Ea about our minds and thoughts. We are the people who are thinking thoughts, we are not the thoughts themselves. And, as Prince Ea explains, our thoughts have as much energy as we give them.
Prince Ea video and his website.
Recently, folks at Alta Mira in San Francisco created an infographic to depict what we know about how our brains work. And it is true that we can teach the old dogs of our brains new tricks. Robert Montenegro, the Ideafeed Editor of Big Think, offers this blog post of a nifty infographic related to cognitive therapy. I think it should simply be called, How Our Brains Work.