HOW YOU CAN REWIRE YOUR BRAIN WITH MINDFULNESS
- You are an accredited mindfulness teacher. What does mindfulness mean to you and why is it important?
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, non-judgementally. Whether it’s your thoughts, breath or surroundings. I find the easiest way to be mindful is to consciously engage my senses.
The way we live in the 21st Century means we’re always rushing and constantly connected and distracted, so our poor old minds never get any space. And they’re simply not designed exist that way, like say, a machine is. Mindfulness also helps us appreciate the here and now instead of living in the past or future and research tells us it rewires our brain to be less stressed and more happy.
- How can we bring more mindfulness into our every-day lives?
To start with, just pick a few things you do every day and make those your mindful moments. Get off your phone or laptop, slow down and pull yourself completely into the present. I started with first thing when I wake up, brushing my teeth and eating my lunch (as I’m sure to do those things every day). At first, I set alarms as reminders but eventually you hardwire them as habits and now I do those (and more!) without thinking.
- You are a working Mum which I can imagine is not easy. How do you balance work and family?
You definitely have to get a lot more organised! My number one strategy is when I’m working I’m working and when I’m with my daughter I’m 100% present, not trying to sneak in a bit of work or checking my phone. I found the more I tried to multi-task and switch between roles, the more stressed I felt, so now I just keep in really simple. One thing at a time.
- You are a big believer in meditation. How has it helped you in your life?
I discovered meditation via various holistic health practitioners I was working with for my chronic pain and associated anxiety. I started with a guided meditation just 10 minutes a day. At first, I found it hard, but once I realised I didn’t need to stop my thoughts, but rather observe that I was having them, it changed my experience. Within a few months I had completely reduced my pain from 10/10 to 2/10 and my anxiety also significantly shifted. Suffice to stay it’s been pretty life changing, to realise that I can be my own practitioner. I have only missed about three days of meditation in the last five years. I absolutely love it and look forward to it each day now. It’s like a little mini vacation for my mind amongst a busy day.
- I’m always trying to get my friends and family to meditate but receive comments like “I can’t meditate” or “I don’t like it” – do you have any suggestions for people who struggle to meditate?
Once I understood the ‘why’ and the science behind meditation, it became so much more compelling for me. Stress is experienced in the brain and so is meditation. Brain scans show that committing to a 10-20 minute meditation a day for eight weeks literally changes the structure and function of your brain. Key changes include reducing the size and connectivity of our amygdala, which is the fear centre of our brain, responsible for anxiety and stress and it increases the grey matter in the hippocampus, which is related to self-compassion, awareness and introspection. The other benefits are too long to list here, but a few key ones include reducing inflammation in the body, increased productivity, creativity, lateral thinking, improved sleep, immune function and decreased fatigue. It’s the new miracle drug and it doesn’t cost a thing!
- You are a big advocate for play for reducing stress and anxiety. How can we utilise play to help us at times of overwhelm?
Play gets us out of our heads and into our bodies usually, which is where we need to be to reduce over-thinking which leads to stress. Think how much joy little ones get out of playing and being light hearted. Sadly, it’s conditioned out of us as we become adults. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Some of my happiest moments are playing on the floor with my daughter or dancing to loud music around the kitchen, just letting go. One great tip is to think back to what you loved most when you were a kid and do more of that now!
- What’s been your favourite mindful moment this past week?
Sitting on our swinging chair on the deck with my daughter on my knee, in the sun, singing to her, overlooking the ocean. It doesn’t get better than that 😊
- What would you tell your 14-year-old self?
That negative emotions are all part of life. That they only last 1.5 minutes and pass through you if you don’t resist or investigate them. To be kinder to myself and to be my own best friend.
- What’s the one life mantra you live by?
I love this little serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”.
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