Is your mind working well for you?
What kind of experiences does your mind generate?
Every experience leaves a trace on your brain and makes it more likely that you will do that same thing again. So what are you repeating? What habits are you creating? What does your mind tend to circle around?
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
“…plasticity has both positive and negative outcomes. At some level plasticity is not our friend.” - Norman Doidge, MD
Be careful how you train your brain because if you develop bad habits you are going to pay for it.
“We’ve learned that the plastic brain is very much like a muscle in the sense that you use it or lose it. When we’re not using a function, the maps for it actually start to degrade.”
Neuroplasticity refers to the physical changes that take place in your brain as you experience and adapt to the world around you. Self directed neuroplasticity is when we are actively using our mind to train or change our brain.
When we are not aware, then the brain just changes in response to our world.
Consider how much the world has changed since your grandparents were children. Is it about 2000 adverts that we are bombarded with every day? We have laptops, mobiles, ipads, radio, television, plus many more people in our lives and a much more complex life to deal with than 30+ years ago.
The mind damage to this bombardment is relatively subtle and yet probably all around us.
As a result of our changing world a new disorders ‘Attention Deficit Trait’ has been identified. It was mentioned in an article in Harvard Business Review. The disorder is generated by excess external stimuli. It slows us down, makes it hard for us to focus, we are less efficient and of course less present.
For our survival the mind is easily distracted. We need to be aware of a lion sneaking up on us or food appearing in our field of awareness. But what happens when our attention is flooded with distractions and ends up just hopping from distraction to distraction?
One aspect of Mindfulness training is brain training in response to a changing world as well as taming a naturally distracted mind with a negative bent.
A good place to start is to be aware of our intention.
‘Intention is a central organising process in the brain that creates continuity beyond the present moment.’ ‘Intention creates an integrated state of priming, a gearing up of our neural system to be in the mode of that specific intention, we are readying to receive, to sense, to focus, to behave in a certain manner.’ Dan Siegel; The Mindful Brain.
Intention is always on, so we might as well ensure that the programme is right and serving us. An intention of kindness is always a good start both for others and ourselves.
The second step can be focus training, it is very simple, you can check out instructions on our home page for how to start (or use one of our 10 minute Wonders.)
Make yourself comfortable, both feet flat on the floor, back straight, hands resting gently in the lap and close your eyes. Once you are ready you simply focus on the breath, wherever it is most noticeable, nostrils, mouth, chest, abdomen or the rise and fall of the body as it is breathing. In order to support your practice you can count as you are breathing by adding a number onto every out-breath. Start with 10 and count down to 0 and then back up again. When the mind gets distracted just focus it back on the breath and the counting. Noticing the distraction, this is where you get benefit from the exercise as well as just sitting getting to know your mind.
“The ACTIVE study, funded by the NIH and involving 2832 adults, found that some benefits of cognitive training can last over five years after the initial training.” Worth investing in….
We used to think that looking after our bodies was a lot of nonsense, when the idea was first introduced by a couple of Harvard professors about 100 years ago. It is a common misunderstanding that looking after our mental health is just for those who suffer a mental illness, it is for all or us!
It is a task for all humans to become masters of the mind rather than the mind being the master. The mind needs training and wise management! Just like the body.