Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Mindfulness Meditation

Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Mindfulness Meditation

When I say the word “meditation” what’s the first image that pops into your head? Be honest.

 

Chances are you’re thinking of either a Ghandi-esque spiritualist or that substitute yoga teacher you had that one time who kept talking about their third eye when you were trying to get your downward dog on. You probably didn’t think of high ranking CEOs - or even me.

Most likely the image was followed by a second thought: I don’t have hours to spend sitting still trying to find inner peace. I’ve got a business to run, a house to clean, meals to cook and a family to wrangle. I’m lucky if I can find the time to go to the bathroom, let alone the time it takes to clear your head out.

You know what? There was a time when I probably would have been right there with you. It’s hard to get past the idea of meditation as a hokey form of spiritualism that you need to devote your whole life to, but taking a vow of silence isn’t the only way to start living a meditative lifestyle (and let’s be honest - you all know there’d be no way in hell I was going to stop talking!).

 

mindfulness meditation

 

What is meditation?

There are lots of different ways to meditate that all require different intentions and time put aside, but two of the most common types you’ll come across are transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation. If I’m already starting to lose you, then make the effort to pull yourself back into this article and devote your whole brain power to what’s currently in front of you - without scanning through social media on your phone or drafting a shopping list in your head. Congratulations, you’ve just been introduced to mindfulness.

That’s right, mindfulness meditation is all about being in the moment and concentrating on your breath going into your body without chasing those thoughts that are always racing through your head. You can practice mindfulness in small doses - such as really being present while you eat your dinner and appreciating every mouthful, instead of shovelling it into your mouth over the sink and barely chewing (guilty!).

 

Mindfulness meditation is all about being in the moment and concentrating on your breath going into your body without chasing those thoughts that are always racing through your head.

 

Transcendental meditation on the other hand is the type of meditation we’re all more familiar with and involves concentrating on a mantra that you repeat in your head. This can be an intention for something you want to concentrate on in your life or, in the case of pretty much all the meditations you’ve seen on TV, a sound such as the traditional “om”.

Whatever type of meditation you choose to practice, the goal is to be present in the moment and experience the sensations in your body as well as your thoughts and emotions without following them. It’s like standing on a busy train platform. You see the trains pull in and can acknowledge where they’re going, but you don’t get on any of them.

 

What are the benefits of meditation on your body?

The most obvious benefit of meditation that we’re all aware of - and one of the main reasons meditation is so often recommended to people leading a busy life - is related to stress reduction. Studies have shown that meditation can help ease symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, especially when the main source of stress comes from the workplace.

Mindfulness meditation in particular, which encourages you to focus on your breath and body and disregard all unrelated thoughts, can have a significant impact on your stress levels because it helps you to focus on the present and not get carried away worrying about all those emails you’ll have to respond to first thing in the morning or that message you got from an annoyed client that’s eating you up inside.

 

Mindfulness meditation can have a significant impact on your stress levels because it helps you to focus on the present.

 

But that’s not where the benefits stop. Meditation can also help your body in a more physical way by helping to ease blood pressure, which is one of the biggest risk factors of heart attacks. Regular meditation has also been linked to decreased mortality with older patients, as well as a decrease in blood pressure related symptoms in high-risk groups. It can also help with inflammation that can contribute to those feelings of depression.

 

meditation benefits

 

Importantly - and unsurprisingly for anyone who has tried to meditate and found themselves snoring - meditation can also help with your sleep. Whether you’re a bit of an insomniac or just struggle with sleeping through the night when you’re stressed out, meditation can help you get a good night’s rest and in some cases can be as effective as sleeping medications. If you’re stressed out and unable to sleep it just continues the cycle of stress that makes you feel frazzled and look like you just stuck your finger into an electrical socket.

 

What can meditation do to your brain?

The most exciting benefit that we’re discovering about meditation is how it can affect your brain. Sure, reducing stress and anxiety is one of the mental benefits that should have you getting excited about embracing a life in the slow lane, but there is growing evidence that meditation can actually help you to re-wire your brain.

On a basic level, even a short course of regular meditation can improve cognitive function - that means you’re better at focusing, have better control over your emotions and even improved memory. In a recent Harvard study, researchers used regular MRIs to assess the changes made to the brain through regular meditation and found an increase in grey-matter density in the hippocampus. This part of the brain is associated with learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion and introspection.

So how can this actually help us?

Well improving brain function is always a good thing. Especially if you’re anything like me and occasionally find yourself staring at your computer screen for what feels like hours trying to figure out if “that” is actually a word. These changes to the grey matter can also help you train your brain to become more focused and productive during the day.

 

Meditation can actually help you to re-wire your brain.

 

This isn’t a change that only occurs immediately following a meditation session either - they’re alterations to the make-up of your brain that you can build upon every day. With each meditation session you’re training your brain to focus on the here and now - whether that’s a physical sensation, an emotion or a memory. This is a skill that your body automatically transfers to your day to day life and helps you to become more productive and generally better.

 

Meditation for beginners

So now I’ve got you all excited about meditation and ready to jump on in but you have no idea where to start? Well, as I mentioned earlier, starting a meditation practice doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking or involve finding a spare couple of hours in your day when the kids aren’t screaming your name (good luck with that!). You can start practicing meditation any time you have a spare second or minute and progress from there.

 

meditation guide for beginners

 

Mindfulness meditation is a great way to start dipping your toes into the world of meditation because it is all about experiencing the moment that you’re in. You can be mindful while eating dinner, exercising or even while lying in bed before you go to sleep. The key is to focus on your breathing and the effect that it has on your body, acknowledge distracting thoughts and intentionally bring yourself back to your breathing. Set yourself a timer and you’ll be surprised how quickly time can pass while you’re meditating.

Whether you need to download an app to guide you or take a few classes to get a feel for it you’ll find that the benefits will work their way into all aspects of your life. Making you a more efficient worker, a better parent and a happier person all round. And who doesn’t want that?
 


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Freedom Banana Muffins

Freedom Banana Muffins

INGREDIENTS:

3 medium ripe bananas, about 1.5
cups
¾ cup sunflower seed butter
1 tablespoon chia
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
paper muffin liners

 

INTSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place paper liners in 9 muffin cups or coat muffin cups with a coconut oil spray.

Add bananas, sunflower seed butter, maple syrup and vanilla to a blender and mix until ingredients are just combined.

In a medium bowl, stir arrowroot powder, chia, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together and add to the wet ingredients in the blender.

Blend everything together until smooth and pour into prepared muffin cups.Bake for 35-40 minutes until the tops are slightly brown and when you insert your toothpick to the center it comes up clean! Then remove and cool slightly before eating.

 

Recipe adapted from: paleoplan

 


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Zesty Coconut Lime Pancakes

Zesty Coconut Lime Pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup coconut, unsweetened shredded
1 ½  teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup coconut flour
1 medium lime, juiced and zested
1 large egg or egg replacement
2 tablespoons honey, raw
1 cup coconut milk, full fat
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons MCT oil
8 tablespoons maple syrup, for the top
Dash of cinnamon for the top

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lay the coconut on a baking sheet in an even layer and toast for 4-5 minutes, until it begins to brown. Immediately transfer from hot pan to a blender jar.

Add the baking powder, sea salt, coconut flour, and lime zest to blender and blend on low speed for about 5 seconds until blended.

Whisk the lime juice, egg, honey, coconut milk, and water in a bowl or measuring cup until well combined. Add to the blender and blend on low until combined. The batter should be thin, not thick. Add a tablespoon or two of water to thin out if necessary.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add the coconut oil, and pour the batter into 3-inch pancakes. Cook until bubbly, flip, and cook until browned on both sides. Continue cooking until pancakes bubble a bt and are done. Serve with your maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon on top, yum.

 


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Beets Over Berries Smoothie

Beets Over Berries Smoothie

At first I was hesitant with this one, but after making it the first time, I'm in love!  ENJOY! 

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups strawberries, frozen
½ medium avocado
1 tablespoon Brain Octane
1 large beet, peeled and grated
1 cup nut milk, unsweetened (I use cashew milk)

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place all of the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth, adjusting consistency with cold water if necessary. Drink it up quickly, yum!

 


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Everyday Regular  Chia Smoothie

Everyday Regular Chia Smoothie

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 cups spinach, baby
1 tablespoon Brain Octane
1 cup coconut milk, full fat
1 cup blackberries, frozen
1 tablespoon coconut flakes, for garnish
1 tablespoon goji berries

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, adding water to thin out if necessary. Serve immediately.  YUM.

 


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Vegan + Gluten Free Zucchini Pumpkin Muffins

Vegan + Gluten Free Zucchini Pumpkin Muffins

Here's why I love these... No egg, fiber, fat, protein and they taste GOOD!  Let me know what you think. 

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons flax seeds, ground
1 tablespoon chia seeds
6 tablespoons water
1 ½ cups coconut flour
½ cup tapioca flour or starch
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt, (optional)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon allspice
3/4 cup organic dates, pitted
1 1/2 cups organic pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar
¼ cup(s) MCT oil
½ package organic raspberries berries, frozen
1  cup organic zucchini, grated
¾ cup organic walnuts chopped finely (SOAKED overnight to eliminate lectins!)
⅓ cup organic sunflower seeds (SOAKED overnight to eliminate lectins!)
muffin liners

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine flax meal and water and let sit for 5 minutes, or until it forms a gooey, gel-like consistency.

Combine coconut flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon and allspice in large bowl. Set aside.

Combine dates, pumpkin, flax meal, chia, apple cider vinegar and MCT oil in food processor until dates are roughly chopped. Fold into dry ingredients.

Fold berries, zucchini and nuts and seeds into batter.

Spoon into paper lined muffin tins.

Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.. Muffins will still be very moist, even gooey on the inside. If muffins are too moist, turn off oven and continue to "bake" until oven has cooled.

I Need More Brain Power

I Need More Brain Power

Is it just me or do you find that on those days when you’re incredibly busy and just need to buckle down to get everything done you just... have absolutely nothing! You stare at your computer screen and suddenly forget all your words. Then the brain fog descends and even the easiest of tasks becomes a monumental undertaking that can take you hours to complete. Don’t ask me to sign my name when I’m in one of these moods - I’ll get it wrong!

Today when I sat down to write this I was ready to go with my notes by my side and then out of nowhere I was up to my eyeballs in the dreaded brain fog. At least an hour passed and I was still faced with a blank screen and a blinking cursor. How’s that for irony? Writing an article about brain power and mine was out of juice.

When you’re in one of these brain funks it can seem like that’s it for the day. You might as well crawl back into bed because your brain has called it quits.

Luckily for those of us who experience more fog than a Scooby Doo cartoon (that’s what we are watching these days in the house, after Adrian discovered it!) it's not the end of the road. There are lots of ways we can increase our brain power to become more focused, efficient and productive - and best of all they’re all little tweaks to your existing lifestyle that will be easier to maintain going forward.

But before we start thinking about how we can increase our brain power we first need to understand a bit more about how our brain works.

BRAIN CHEMISTRY FOR BEGINNERS

Look if I were to go into full details about exactly how your brain works we’d be here for days and this wouldn’t be an article, it would be a book. So I’ll try and summarize it the best I can.

To begin with, your brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons that all work together to keep you alive. Different types of neurons help to perform different functions with the help of neurotransmitters, also known as the chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and epinephrine.

Through a complicated network of cells throughout the body and the electrochemical nature of neurons, your brain is able to control all of your body’s functions. So your brain is kind of like the steering wheel in your car and the neurotransmitters are the brake and accelerator that transmit the messages needed to get you moving.

Since you need these neurotransmitters to perform every function in your life, if you’re depriving yourself of them then your brain is not going to be able to function to the best of its ability. This can have a run on effect with the rest of your life.

For example, Dopamine is released in the brain when you feel pleasure (such as getting a hug from your kid, eating chocolate or while having sex, yeah!) to reward you for behaviors your brain chemicals see as good. Dopamine plays a critical role when it comes to your mood, your nervous system and your ability to sleep (among other important functions).

So if you’re stressed out and find yourself isolated from your family and eating poorly then you will experience stress, anxiety, poor moods and difficulty sleeping. This will in turn affect your brain’s ability to function and learn the next day.

Every part of our body is linked and plays a pivotal role in helping us perform to the best of our abilities. If we stop looking after ourselves in one tiny way then it can have a run on effect with the rest of our body until we’re stuck in a funk and unsure how the hell we’re going to get out.

WHAT IS NEUROPLASTICITY?

The good news is that our brains are not fixed. While it might seem harder to learn new skills, such as foreign languages or hobbies, after we’ve left school the fact is that we never really stop learning.

Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways to help us to grow, learn and increase your brainpower. It doesn’t happen overnight and it takes a concentrated effort on your part to reshape your nervous system, but our brains are flexible and our intelligence has the propensity to grow if we want it to.

You can utilise neuroplasticity to help increase your brainpower by implementing new routines that become habits and by making an effort to train your brain to think in new way, whether that means you’re taking a different route home every day or reading news articles that challenge your language and personally held beliefs.

If you’re serious about increasing your brain power and making the most of every day then these easy tips will help you to develop better habits and put your body and brain in its best position to improve.

7 WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR BRAINPOWER

  1. Diet
    If you’re not great at taking supplements regularly then getting a broad range of nutrition from your diet is incredibly important. Apart from a diverse color palette of vegetables (you want to be eating the whole rainbow regularly!) you need to make sure you’re getting lots of iron from your leafy greens, antioxidants from fruit such as berries (or dark chocolate if you want something a little naughty), and omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish such as salmon or tuna. And when in doubt, give supplements another shot.
     

  2. Drink water
    How much water do you drink in a day? Do you get a gallon in easily or do hours pass without any liquid passing your lips (and in this respect we’re not counting coffee!)? When you’re running around or have a day filled with meetings you can forget to drink water, but did you know that when you start to feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated. From that point you’re playing a game of catch up. Drinking lots of water is vital because dehydration can lead to feelings of exhaustion and make it difficult for our brain to function properly. If you struggle to get multiple glasses in during the day try turning regular minor annoyances - such as pages loading slowly on your computer - as a sign to take a sip. It’s like a drinking game that rehydrates you.
     

  3. Sleep
    The eight hours of the night we spend resting are incredibly important because that’s when our body works hard at regenerating from the damage we inflicted on it during the day. It’s not surprising that when we’re not getting a good night’s sleep we tend to experience more foggy days. Aside from the physical side of it, sleep can help improve creativity by removing blinders and helping your brain to reset. It also helps cement your memories and “practice” certain skills or situations to help reduce anxiety.
     

  4. Meditation
    While meditation is most closely associated with stress reduction, it can also help to improve your cognitive functions. When you’re feeling less stressed your brain is better able to function at a higher level and you’ll find your memory and strategic thinking improves. Meditation not only helps you to work through your emotional issues, it can also help you to create new processes of thinking and ways of approaching conflicts as they arise that reduce feelings of stress in the future.
     

  5. Exercise
    Aside from all the general health benefits - not to mention the ability to still fit into your favorite clothes - regular exercise can help boost brain function. Even ten minutes of moderate exercise can help boost your mood and improve memory. During exercise your brain releases proteins known as neurotrophic factors that can trigger other chemicals that can promote neural health. The increased flow of blood to your brain can also help to boost your brain’s ability to function.
     

  6. Try Nootropics
    While taking supplements to fill in dietary gaps is always a great idea to ensure your body is functioning at its peak, it might be a good idea to consider Nootropics as well. Nootropics are drugs (in the same way that caffeine is a drug) that have been derived from naturally occurring ingredients and formulated in a way to help your brain and body function better. They can be taken on their own as a single function supplement or they can be stacked together to improve your brain’s function in multiple ways simultaneously.
     

  7. Challenge yourself
    The most important way to help boost your brain function is to constantly challenge it. When we fall into the same routines and stop actively thinking our brain stops growing - that’s when we find ourselves falling into that zombie state often associated with too much iPhone time. Our brain isn’t able to learn unless we give it something new to try. Whether you constantly read, learn a foreign language, do the daily crossword puzzle or even play board games, as long as you’re challenging your brain you’re helping to improve its function. You can’t expect to run a mile by sitting on the couch so make sure you’re giving your brain a workout as well!


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Sleep and hormones?  (Sleep Series: Part Two)

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Struggling with your zzzzzs at night?  This is Part Two of Sleep Series.  Need to read Part One?  Want to grab the Sleep Reset Guide?

One of the quickest ways to sleep better is to start paying attention to balancing out your hormones. Hormonal imbalances can mess up (your) sleep like nothing else!

In fact, around the time you’re 40 and menopausal or perimenopausal you start to lose estrogen. (Our feel good, womanly hormone.) When this happens, it’s like the beginning of the end (just joking, but not really) brain fog becomes a regular part of living, that extra weight won’t budge, your supercalifragilistic happy mood no longer shows up when you need it, and your luscious, most cherished time of sleeping eight hours goes awry!  Yes, sleeping becomes a long ago friend.

One of the first things I recommend when you notice your sleep getting disrupted or when you find that you’re not waking up feeling 100% recharged and refreshed is… drumroll please...  meditate.  You might not want to hear that solution but science backed data proves that this sleep hack works!

The main and primary reason meditation can work wonders for sleep is because it helps to increase the production of melatonin in the body.

What is melatonin?

It is a hormone made by the pineal gland and helps you sleep soundly.  {Yeah!} 

When your hormones are out of balance, melatonin production is impacted dramatically. Meditation can help assist in restoring that balance.

Research has indicated that meditation can boost levels of melatonin in the body naturally and help you sleep better.

I personally meditate before bedtime for optimum results during those times when I know my cycle is at its worst.  Good news for you, you don’t need any special equipment or training and you can do it anytime, anywhere.

The site has an easy-to-understand set of instructions for both mindfulness meditation and relaxation meditation to help you get started, tonight!

My other go-to resource for hormone health is Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book, The Hormone Cure. I was one of Dr. Sara’s first students a few years back, becoming trained in what she is known for, The Gottfried Protocol which helps restore balance to our hormones.  You can read and use the resources in this book to repair your body’s imbalance, increase melatonin levels, and improve your sleep quality as well.

In the book Dr. Gottfried talks about a 3-pronged, powerfully effective and natural approach to treat hormonal imbalance with herbal therapies, bioidentical hormones, supplements and lifestyle changes, exactly like the one you're reading about now.  (I personally have done all the above and have been using bioidenticals for over 15 years now, total lifesavers!)

Practical Clean Living 

I want you to get a copy of Dr. Gottfried’s book either from Amazon, or you can even walk on over to your local library and check it out for couple weeks!  

Also, set aside 10 to 15 minutes every evening to meditate. Start small, even 5 minutes of meditation will help you settle into your evening and bring you a more peaceful night’s sleep.  

Here is one of my meditations- it's super easy.

  1. Light candle.
  2. Sit in front of a candle.
  3. Focus on the flame of the candle.
  4. When tiny thoughts or big thoughts enter your brain, say, “Thank you, I’m meditating now and being quiet.”
  5. Focus on the flame again.
  6. Inhale and exhale deeply on a count of 5 or 7 -- inhaling for five -- hold for five -- exhale for five.
  7. You can increase the count of the breath to 11 as you increase your meditation.
  8. Stay focused on the flame.
  9. At the end of your time, simply say, “Thank you”
  10. Blow out the candle and get into bed.

 

Remember, you can do this. You can create powerful changes for a positive lifestyle, I’m here to help you every step of the way.

Want to really catch more ZZZZ’s and feel alive when you wake up?  Grab the sleep reset Guide or a session with me!  


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Don Draper the One & Only

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