“My brain has too many tabs open” has become an idea that I personally encounter on a daily basis. Whether it's managing and organizing my tasks as an attorney, brainstorming and planning content for you all, putting aside time for meaningful moments with family and friends, or figuring out exactly how to get in my workouts and my meal prep, there are usually about 500 simultaneous thoughts running through my head, which can be overwhelming, exhausting and anxiety provoking. If you’ve ever felt similarly I can promise you that you are not alone, and I can promise you that there are simple things you can do anytime anywhere that can help sort, set aside, and minimize some of the tabs that your brain can’t seem to otherwise close out of.
Recently, I have been prioritizing mindfulness in my daily life. Mindfulness is scientifically proven to alter our brains and how we engage with ourselves, our thoughts, others, and our work. This is because through consistent and repeated mindfulness practice brain activity is re-directed from ancient, reactionary parts of the brain, to the newest rational part of the brain. To nerd out for a second, MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” center (also known as the amygdale) appears to shrink (this is the ancient part of the brain associated with fear and emotion and is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress). While this part of the brain is shrinking, the part newest part of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) becomes thicker (this is the part of the brain associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration, and decision making). Mindfulness therefore allows us to rely more on the higher order functions of our brains, giving us more control over our minds and our lives, by helping us put some space between ourselves and our reactions. Mindfulness is available in every movement, through meditations or mindful moment practices as simple as taking time to pause and breathe.
While I have been experimenting with different forms of mindfulness and meditation on my own for some time now, this week I decided to try MNDFL in NYC to experience their group meditation sessions/mindfulness training. I have to admit, I really loved the experience of being in a space devoted to mindfulness and being a part of a group for guided meditation sessions. Before the session, I walked into a room filled with cushions set up in rows (the same way a yoga class would be set up) facing the leader of the class (I’m not sure if leader or instructor or something else would be the right word here). We were encouraged to get comfortable, using whatever cushions, chairs, or blankets we liked for the session. The leader then gave a brief introduction on the topic for the meditation and we were instructed to close our eyes. Every few minutes, the instructor would say something that would either guide us back if our minds had drifted or something else to consider while we meditated. I have to say, I was shocked at how quickly the time passed and how zen I felt when the 30 minute session was over. I really enjoyed the whole experience and I can’t wait to get back for more.
As much as I loved the group meditation experience at MNDFL, there are obviously times when we need mindfulness on our own schedules, in our own homes, or in our own offices. So I’ve also been doing some research on ways to be more mindful in our daily lives, no matter what centers or resources we may have available. After readings a LOT of research on and in this topic (in my own life at least), here are my top tips for being more mindful in your own lives.
Set aside 5-20 minutes a day for mindfulness training (at any time of day)
You don’t need any special equipment for mindfulness training, just a place where you can sit, observe, and pay attention to the present movement without judgment. If your mind drifts away, just bring it back to the present moment, and be kind to yourself when this happen
Stop multitasking (this is the one I am so guilty of)
And most important, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work immediately, you will get there, I promise