Tag Archive | brain

A Few SAD Ideas to Support Your Happiness

FOOD winterNortherners, it’s that time of year again. The beautiful colors of the leaves trigger the awareness of the impending cold, dreary days ahead, in spite of autumn awe.

My monthly client-load often increases about now, due to what has become known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder; also known as the “Winter Blues”.

And, yes, it’s a thing. Less sun, less vitamin D, increased isolation and home-bodiness, which may mean fewer interactions with friends and family. It’s an imposed hibernation-mode existence…Except, as humans, we don’t hibernate.

So, what can one do to help keep spirits up throughout the cold months?

If you are feeling depressed, can’t get out of bed (versus not wanting to), feel hopeless, isolate from others, or feel suicidal, please get help immediately! You are worth every effort you make to feel better!

Otherwise, I encourage my clients to tackle this season in mind and body:

For the body, there are several recommendations out there for the efficacy of ingesting extra vitamin D supplements. Check with your doctor for specific dosage and type that would be best for your body.

Another popular practice is using a sun lamp for the ultraviolet rays we miss out on when we are covered with layers of home and blankets. Twenty minutes a day, preferably in the morning (don’t use it before bedtime—it may interfere with your melatonin production, and therefore sleep cycle!).

Keep healthy food around. Since many food-focused holidays happen in winter, make sure your food choices are healthier ones. Keep bananas on the table, and apples close by. Snack on fulfilling nuts rather than chocolates (although a little dark chocolate here and there can go a long way!). Try new healthy recipes to occupy the part of your brain that focused on food. As you may have noticed, pumpkin spice goes a long way!

For the mind, exercise! Yes, this is great for your body, too, but exercise will help those good brain chemicals lift your mood throughout your day. Plus it will get you moving and distracted from the cold temperatures.

Every day, remember to acknowledge three things that you are grateful for in your life. Keep it simple, fun, and daily. You can keep a gratitude journal, or share your list of three with your partner or a friend. Studies have shown that three-a-day keeps the blues away, and trains your brain to look for the good in your life.

Go outside anyway! Yes, I said it. Get out in the cold! Bundle up and take a 20 minute walk in the cold. You’ll benefit from the movement, the bona fide sunlight (even through the grey skies!), and overcoming your mind-body resistance to the cold.

Be grateful! Just thinking about a few of your favorite things–anything you are grateful for–changes your brain chemistry for the better! If you don’t think so, try it once or twice when you’re feeling down–it will feel like magic! Your mind will calm, your body will relax.

Don’t let feeling SAD get you down this winter! Get up, get moving, and keep yourself looking for the good in every situation! Winter won’t last forever—even though it feels like it—and you’ll be glad you spent it supporting your happiness!

Waiting on God? Use Your ‘God Mind’!

As a child, when I wasn’t making smart choices, my mom would say to me, “Lynn, use your God Mind!” My God Mind? What is that? It took me a while to realize that this is my inherent Divine Intelligence. Wow! I have the ability to think things through, to discern what is right from wrong, to handle myself with wisdom–no excuses!

You’ve probably heard people say, “I’m waiting for God to tell me what to do”, then sit around without doing a single thing to support themselves. At these times, my college roommate and dear friend used to quote her mother’s favorite motto: “The Lord helps those who help themselves!” That was her mom’s way of saying, “Use your God Mind!”

Of course there are times when we wait, when it’s not time to take action. But it is important to discern between waiting for the appropriate time to act and being afraid to act. The difference is that when we are waiting for right timing, we feel calm and trust the flow. Fear of acting, on the other hand, can stem from feeling anxious about an outcome, stepping outside of our comfort zone, or not wanting to change.

Once I was traveling by airplane alone with my young daughter. I was used to relying on my travel-adept husband to guide the way. On this occasion, the first leg of our trip brought us to the airport an hour late, and we needed to catch the second leg of our flight in less than 20 minutes–on the other side of the airport! During our necessary stop to the restroom, I felt paralyzed. What are we going to do? This is bad! Now we’ll be stuck here!

This stinkin’ thinkin’ was interrupted by a strong inner voice telling me, “Use your God Mind!” I stopped and realized that I could either sit here in fear with my child, or…make a run for it! So we ran! And we made our next flight, and somehow our luggage did, too!

Practicing using our God Mind reminds me of St. Francis’ Prayer for Peace that begins, “Make me an instrument of Your Peace.” St. Francis is asking to be a channel for divine qualities of hope, light, love, and joy. Why not also ask to be a channel for Divine Wisdom? While we are waiting for God to tell us what to do, God may be waiting for us to use our “God Mind”, to take intelligent action, to do what is in front of us to do!

Here’s an updated prayer (if I may be so bold) to help awaken that God Mind–that innate Infinite Intelligence–in you:

10468459_4649134643373_3786408435342997086_oMake me an instrument of Your Mind.
Where there is doubt, let me have faith.
When I feel fear, don’t let me stay stuck!
Where there are questions, I will seek answers!
When I want to hide because circumstances feel too hard or too scary,
Remind me that You are in me,
Along with Your eyes, wisdom, and solutions.
Help me trust my own Divine Self,
That I may never feel lost, nor stagnant, nor abandoned.
I acknowledge and awaken to
Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Love, Infinite Will,
Guiding my open and listening heart.

Try this (or any method of quieting your thoughts) when you feel stuck or afraid, and see how getting still and opening to your inherent Infinite Wisdom–your God Mind–can support your next right action!

How Meditation Supports Your Soul Evolution — Part 2: How Do I Meditate?

Now that you are excited about the benefits you will receive from an ongoing meditation practice, the next step is to begin making part of your daily routine. Here’s step-by-step support for your budding meditation practice:

1. Make a commitment to yourself. Five minutes a day? Ten? Thirty? One hour? Commit to a meditation practice, no matter what daily quantity, for three months; then decide if you like it or not.

2. Choose your meditation space. Make it nurturing, comfortable, simple, relaxing, and peaceful. Use this same space each time you meditate.

3. Choose your meditation time. Meditating at the same time every day builds an automatic response into your mind and body. Your whole self begins to cooperate when you sit down for your time!

4. Find a spiritual symbol that resonates with you. Why? A symbol that is steeped in tradition or meaning for you will magnetize your innate spirituality.

5. Find a methodology that works best for you. Try a few of these to find out your own meditation style preference:

a. Perhaps a guided meditation would help keep you focused. There are CDs, mp3 recordings, YouTube videos, and even smartphone aps with all sorts of guided meditations. Find two or three that you like so you can use them interchangeably.

b. Centering prayer is a wonderful tool for a busy mind! Take a prayer that resonates with you, and recite it slowly to help you quiet your mind. Repeat slowly and sincerely throughout your time.

c. Mindfulness is the practice of observing your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and breath, with detachment, non-judgment, and compassion. Being present with what is, without having a conversation about it in your head, is an excellent and very portable meditation practice.

d. Visualization is a method often found in guided meditations, but you can create your own. Imagine yourself spreading out of your body, filling the room you are in, then stretching through your whole house, then neighborhood, then city, then state, then country, then throughout the entire planet, then universe! Sit in that expanded state without inner comment.

e. Group meditation is a great way to keep your commitment to yourself. Although it may not be feasible to meditate with a group every day, once a week—or even once or twice a month—has great value. You receive a vibration boost from others when everyone is generating energy for the common purpose of meditation.

6. Keep a journal. Meditation is going to awaken you to new ideas, experiences, and insights. Writing them down helps assimilate those new understandings into your consciousness.

7. Practice every day, no matter what! Some days, your meditation will feel extraordinary, or maybe it won’t. Either way, trust that something is happening, even if you aren’t consciously aware of it. Go back and remind yourself of the benefits of your practice. Let it be okay that you don’t feel enlightened at the end of your first month. Meditation is like brushing your teeth—you just gotta keep doing it for the best results!

Now give it a try! You will be grateful that you gave yourself this gift of a meditative life!

Mindful Minutes that Last a Lifetime

ImageSince the transition into the new year, there have been many scientific revelations around the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is focused attention, the observing of sensations and thoughts without getting caught up in them. Often the breath is the focus of mindfulness meditation, and yoga is an example of mindfulness practice.

Meditators and yoga lovers have known the power of focused attention, stillness and breath awareness for a long time—thousands of years, even. Through many recent brain scans studies, science now acknowledges several physiological benefits of taking just five minutes every day to pay attention to the breath:

  • Stress reduction
  • Better memory
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased compassion
  • Emotional stability
  • Decreased pain sensitivity
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Reduced cognitive decline
  • Strengthens will power

Literally, grey matter and folds in the brain increase allowing for faster processing time—mindfulness changes the brain structure so it works better for us! We can be more flexible, efficient at learning new tasks, and resilient during times of change.

Convinced like a scientist yet?

So, where to begin? All you need in your busy schedule is five minutes. Try to pick the same time each day so it becomes part of your daily routine. Think of it as necessary as brushing your teeth, except you are “brushing” away stress from your brain!

Sit comfortably. Begin taking normal breaths. Make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm (“belly breathing”) rather than your lungs only (“chest breathing”). Rest your hand above the stomach and below the ribs, which is where your diaphragm is approximately located. As you breathe normally from your diaphragm, you will feel your belly rise as you inhale, and retract as you exhale. Continue for five minutes.

If you find your mind wandering (which you will!) during this time, gently bring your attention back to your breathe. Notice any sensations in your body, but do not let your mind have a conversation about them. Simply bring your attention back to your breathe. Notice sounds around you, but again, don’t let your thoughts go on about them. Let your belly breathing be your primary focus.

Keep a journal of the changes you notice over time. People have told me that their doctors asked them why their blood pressure was lower than their last check up. Others have noticed emotional equilibrium that wasn’t there before they began practicing. Others appreciate the sense of overall peace throughout their day.

What benefits are coming to you through your practice?

————————————————————————————————

Further reading:

‘Mindfulness’ Meditation Alters Gene Expression, Study Suggests“, The Huffington Post  |  By Jacqueline Howard Posted: 12/09/2013 7:53 am EST  |  Updated: 01/19/2014 11:49 pm EST

The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better“, GEORGE DVORSKY on IO9NEUROSCIENCE
4/04/13 11:28a

The Power of Concentration“, By Maria Konnikova, Published: December 15, 2012