By Paula Franken
Meditation isn’t really doing nothing, although it might feel like it at first. If you’re new to meditation, you might find it difficult not to fidget.
But once you get past that stage, it’s all worth it.
Why meditate? It calms the mind, relaxes the body, releases feel-good endorphins into your bloodstream and creates measurable physical changes in the brain.
Your brain is constantly reacting to stimulation and creating new neural pathways through a process called neuroplasticity. Positive messages have positive effects. Negative messages have negative effects.
And positive ones can increase gray matter volume.
This means the way you talk to yourself is important. Messages like “This may be a lot of work, but I know I can get it done” are key. Because whether you opt for positive or negative, your brain probably believes you!
So, to defeat feelings of being overworked and overwhelmed, try this. Sit still, breathe deeply and picture something pleasant — or better yet, something you feel grateful for. When your attention strays (and it will), just keep bringing it back to your breath and whatever image you’ve chosen.
Even 5 minutes can make a big difference. But don’t be surprised if your sessions start naturally getting longer because meditation just feels good.
Best of all, you might return to the task that felt like a major challenge with a new perspective — and maybe some creative inspiration — to help you get the job done. Efficiently. Effectively.
And with a deep sense of calm.
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Riding the brain wave
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects the brain’s electrical activity — also known as brain waves. As you meditate and reach deeper levels of relaxation, the waves appear calmer, with lower highs, higher lows and more space between them.
When advanced meditators reach their highest state of bliss, the waves become intense. This state is called “gamma” and is the fastest measurable type of brainwave an EEG can capture. When gamma is achieved, the brain is processing information from different regions simultaneously.
Going for gamma
Beta: The brain is active and alert, you’re busy thinking, having conversations and focused on the task at hand. This is also the state where you can start feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
Alpha: Hello meditation! When the brainwaves reach alpha state, you are calm and relaxed. Ever been so focused on a project that you lose all sense of time? You were probably in alpha.
Theta: These can be measured during deep meditation. Automatic tasks that disengage the brain (like washing dishes), as well as daydreaming, are likely theta states, too.
Delta: These brainwaves occur during deep, dreamless sleep. They can also be achieved through deep meditation. In fact, advanced meditators pass through here on the way to gamma.
Gamma: The highest level of mental activity, perception and consciousness. It’s often described as pure joyful bliss.