One of the most effective and heavily researched methods of healing the brain is meditation. Now and Zen is a series of articles from the Harvard Medical School on how mindfulness can change both brain and overall health. These articles will give you a great overview of the amazing range of benefits we can get from meditation.
What is meditation, exactly? How can it help us? Mediation is an ancient practice of focusing on breath, or repeated mantras in order to quiet our minds. For people with ACEs, it can soothe our nervous systems and bring us back to the present moment.
Meditation can not only have a tremendous impact on our nervous system and our health, but it can help us become more self-aware and intentional. Many of us are not in touch with what we’re thinking and feeling. As a result, there’s no pause before we react to situations. Meditation can give us the opportunity to simply observe our thoughts and feelings. We can get to know ourselves and, equally importantly, we can learn to gently guide ourselves back to our breath. This allows us to nurture awareness and build our capacity for choice. The result is changed attitudes and behavior that not only benefit us, but those around us. Our relationships with family, friends, and even coworkers can begin to change.
As we develop mindfulness, we may become aware of a lot of negative self-talk. When we come from a home with toxic stress, we can develop a less-than-optimistic outlook on life. We can have feelings of shame, or experience low self esteem. But these attitudes can be transformed. This article/blog outlines some practices, such as gratitude and loving-kindness, that will help you nourish healthy, happy brain habits.
One note: Meditation can be difficult. While we know it’s transformative, it may not be for you. At least not yet. At the moment, meditation may surface traumatic events that we’re not ready to handle right now. Reassure yourself that you are important. Know that there are many alternative practices that can feel safe and soothe our nervous systems and rewire our thinking, such as guided meditation, relaxation, yoga nidra, and breathing exercises.
Consider learning some of these breathing exercises with your kids. Who doesn’t want calm, focused kids? Let them pick some of the more fun breath work, like Flower Breath (where we imagine ourselves inhaling the gorgeous scents of a field of flowers), or Woodchopper Breath (which includes a playful physical element.) Try these before school, or any time kids need to calm down.