Research has found that people who meditate for 30 minutes a day and did it for 8 weeks did increase the gray matter in their hippocampus, an area critical to memory and learning and reduction of the gray matter in the amygdala which is associated with anxiety. The control group that did not perform mindfulness meditation did not exhibit any changes in their brain matter. Start with just 5 minutes a day and work yourself up. You don’t have to jump right in to the full amount of time recommended. It is like the recommendations for exercising, start small and build up your time.
For your well being make it a point to find the time to sit and listen to your breathing. At first it may be a little irregular but over time it will calm down. Just like exercise, you will develop conditioning. The few minutes to download and recharge will help you greatly throughout the day. Deep breathing allows us to access our buried emotions so they rise to the surface. Sometimes we think we are losing control as a river of tears releases but in time we may find that this process is not destroying us but actually allowing us to let go of our past. It allows us to lift a great weight off our shoulders. Sometimes this technique really helps if someone is trying to lose weight.
If you find it hard to find time to sit still and breath you could sit in the car or under a tree at the park where your child has practice and work on it while they are busy or maybe you take a walk for 15-20 minutes around the field where they are and then sit in the car for 10 -15 minutes to breath and chill.
Sometimes finding 30 minutes is just not possible, ok, set an alarm on your phone for 3 brain breaks a day. Maybe you get up and walk to the lobby of your building or if it is a nice day you walk around the building, breathing in and out, stretching your arms over your head, taking in the noises, sunshine whatever is around you. Set a routine and then it become a habit. It may take a few weeks to find consistently and once you have a month of this process you will have established a new habit.
You then begin to notice how you feel when you don’t do it. Sort of like when you eat well and then go have a “splurge”. Do this a few times and you realize that you don’t like feeling that way so you start to make different choices. Miss your daily “quiet time” and you will find that you give up a few minutes of something else to keep it in your schedule or find creative ways to get it scheduled.
No matter what, be mindful and stay in the present moment. Don’t drift to the past, nor look into the future. You only have this moment right now. One side note, you can really face your fears through meditation, calming yourself down and focusing your breathing you can train your brain to make better choices. The part of the brain that gets shifted is the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for managing and regulating our emotions that help us analyze and retain information.
For some TaiChi or Qigong can be a nice blend of moving and meditation too. You are breathing and moving in a routine that helps you focus and relax. Similar affects may be felt with yoga where you focus on your breathing pattern too. All of these techniques can definitely help your sleep. So often we find it hard to unwind at the end of the day.