You look after your body, stay as fit as you can and make time for a healthy lifestyle, right? It’s just as important to keep your brain healthy too if you want to deal better with stress, be more productive, and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in life.
The good news is that you can keep your brain in tip-top condition by practicing meditation for as little as five minutes a day. Meditation has been shown to reverse the shrinking that happens as part of the natural aging process from your mid-20s onwards. A Harvard study showed that meditation can increase the size of your brain after just eight weeks of regular practice.
Here’s how you can develop a meditation practice to suit you and your lifestyle to start taking better care of your brain right now.
1. Find the Right Meditation Style for You
Possibly the most important way to start a meditation habit is to find what works for you. You don’t have to sit on a cushion for hours in a temple unless you want to. There are meditation apps for your smartphone, yoga and meditation tutorials on the internet, or you can find a meditation group in your local community. It can be as easy as sitting in a park during your lunch hour.
2. Schedule Meditation Time
Be intentional and make time in your schedule for regular meditation practice. Studies have shown that as little as five or ten minutes a day is enough to feel the benefits of meditation, but it must be done consistently. If you can find time to brush your teeth, you can find time to meditate.
3. Start Small
You don’t have to launch into a full meditation to start with. Take baby steps and begin by just sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. Observe your breathing and feel calmer as you concentrate inwards.
4. Add Some Meditation Exercises
Once you feel comfortable with sitting and breathing quietly, you can add in some meditation exercises. A good one is the V-Shaped Breath exercise:
Focus your attention on the point between your eyes. Imagine cool air coming in and out in the shape of a V. As you breathe in, expand the V across your forehead. Then as you exhale bring the breath down the V to the point between your eyes.
As well as regulating your breathing, you are calming your frontal lobes, increasing your capacity to analyze and problem solve. Adding a five-minute meditation practice to your day is the first step in a healthier, happier brain.