Do you practice mindfulness? If not, have you ever considered it? Maybe you are curious about it; maybe you already have a thriving practice; or perhaps you tried it and figure that it’s not for you. This post is dedicated to exploring the idea of a mindfulness meditation practice. Most of the information here I learned from Hiroko Demichelis from Vancouver Brain Lab and MOMENT Meditation, who recently came to our office to teach us about meditation.
why am I writing about mindfulness?
First of all, why is your chiropractor talking to you about mindfulness? I certainly do not claim to be an expert, though I have recently worked on my own meditation practice.
There is a fascinating link between the chiropractic adjustment and your brain that research is just beginning to demonstrate. A study by Richard Barwell, D.C., et al. looked at brain activity using electroencephalogram (EEG) scans in around 100 participants both before and after an adjustment. The study showed marked improvement in all areas of brain function following an adjustment. Specifically, it was noted that there was significant improvement in participant’s Alpha brainwaves. Alpha brainwaves are the ones that are most active when your body is in a meditative state, and are associated with relaxation, healing, and learning. With a simple adjustment to the spine being able to have such a positive impact on the brain, who knows what sort of effect a positive brain environment could have on the spine? Maybe that’s for us to practice and find out!
Mental illness is a serious problem in Canada. It is the leading cause of disability in our country, affecting around 20% of Canadians. Also, mental illness can cut anywhere from 10-20 years from a person’s life expectancy. Even though we have higher standards of living in Canada, with access to health care, food, clothing and shelter, we are not happy. We are constantly distracted, focused on future tasks, and are stressed to our limits, trying to keep up. Is meditation going to solve all of your problems? Probably not! But it certainly can’t hurt to try!
dive right in…
Meditating does not mean that you have to sit in a room and do nothing. You are not required to travel to a secluded mountain retreat. And, believe it or not, meditation is not boring! Rather, meditation can (and should) be fun; you can meditate anywhere you like; AND you can practice doing mindful activities! In fact, let’s try it right now! Quick, get out a piece of paper and a pen, and find yourself a comfy seat. Once you have settled in, hit play on the video below and begin to draw.
Let yourself draw whatever comes to mind – people, places, or shapes. Try not to think too much about it. Instead, observe your thoughts long enough to recognize them and then put them on the paper. Don’t worry about what others might think, try not to judge yourself, and just DRAW.
Congratulations! You just spent over 2 minutes practicing mindfulness, and you got a beautiful picture out of it. How did it go? How do you feel? Was it easy? Was it more challenging than you thought it would be?
No matter what the outcome, remember that you did it! When setting out to meditate, rest assured that you cannot do it wrong. You are working to retrain your brain. It will take time, but you will get better as you practice. Through neuroplasticity, you are physically changing the connections in your brain. Just like with any new skill, it will take time and consistency, but it will get easier.
There are many different ways that you can practice mindfulness. It is a good idea to try several of them out and see which methods you prefer. You can do a body scan, focusing on different areas of your body, starting at your feet. Maybe try having your eyes open or closed, you can be sitting up or lying down, eating or colouring or going for a walk. You can find a quiet space, be outside in nature, or listening to music. Most importantly, you are taking a step away from your thoughts. Stop interacting with them. Instead, be curious and observe what is happening in your brain and in the world around you.
…and reap the benefits
Depending on what source you look at, the benefits of having a meditation practice seem to be endless! Some of the highlights that I picked up from Hiroko include:
- Better Health: Meditation can improve your immune system (read about your immune system in my blog post here!). Those who meditate also experience less pain, and have reduced cellular inflammation.
- Higher Levels of Happiness: While lowering depression, anxiety, and stress, meditation helps you experience higher positive emotions.
- Better Social Life: Those who meditate have a higher emotional intelligence and a greater sense of compassion. And, although meditation typically happens alone, those who practice aren’t as lonely as others.
- More Self-Control: Taking the time to examine one’s own mental and emotional processes seems to lead to improved emotional regulation.
In order to achieve these amazing benefits, it is going to take PRACTICE! It will take time to retrain your brain, so it is important to practice meditating regularly. If you find that your brain never seems to stop, you are 100% NORMAL. Your thoughts may never stop. It is now your job to stop interacting with them. According to Hiroko, you want to practice mindfulness for at least 12 minutes a day in order to experience the benefits.
Just be present. Without judgement.
And let me know how it goes!