Mindfulness: 3 Ways to Actively Boost Your Brain Cells
In celebration of March Mindfulness Month, we updated one of our favorite articles on mindfulness. Written by Charlotte Watts, author of the De-stress Effect, this post explains what mindfulness is and how it can change the ways our brains are wired.
This post was originally published on January 4, 2017 and updated on March 11, 2020.
Experiencing the Present Moment
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally experiencing the present moment, with compassion and without judgement. Mindfulness means paying kind attention to how we are really feeling–not just what we think we are feeling– at any given time. This allows us to become aware of the sensations our body is feeling and how they constantly change. Many of us are used to living with the constant chatter of thoughts, opinions and decisions to be made. However, if we can step away from this chatter, we can find profound and enjoyable ways to reduce stress in our day-to-day lives.
Being More Mindful
Mindfulness can be practiced as a formal meditation, sitting to notice the sensations of our breath and our body. The idea is to allow ourselves to be patient and accept thoughts, feelings or emotions that arise without the need to label them good, bad or even neutral. We can learn to simply be with our thoughts and cultivate not be taken away from the present moment.
Mindfulness in daily life allows for greater space, calm and peace. Mindfulness is being attentive to the whole experience while you eat, during a conversation, at a work meeting, in a yoga pose or as you’re washing the dishes. The idea is to not ruminate on the past or conjure up an imagined future.
3 Brain Changes
Spending time in mindful states has shown to actively change the ways our brains are wired. Mindfulness also changes how we respond to challenges and the world around us.
- Lowering resting cortisol levels. This means that you more easily come back to a calm state (and away from a stress response) after a challenge. This means we make decisions from a more reflective and less impulsive place. And we have less knee-jerk reactions that we might not be happy about later!
- Helping your mind become more adaptable, flexible and resilient. Mindfulness actively helps us build grey matter in the brain and create new neural pathways.
- Allowing us to adopt the dietary and lifestyle habits that keeps us most healthy.