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How Meditation Affects Your Brain and Boosts Well-Being

How Meditation Affects Your Brain and Boosts Well-Being

Steven Laureys

Dr Steven Laureys is an award-winning neurologist who has just released his latest book, The No-Nonsense Meditation Book: A scientist’s guide to the power of meditation. It includes fascinating research on expert meditators such as Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk, and translator for the Dalai Lama.

Steven Laureys shows the scientific evidence of the positive impact meditation has on our brains, which can lead to many outcomes such as better sleep, reduced stress, and sharpened attention.

He shares with us his most powerful tips and how we can all add more meditation into our everyday lives.

I know that feeling all too well. Always running behind on schedule, trying to juggle everything. Driving the kids around, keeping up with work. While I kept raising the bar for myself, I felt that instead of getting by, I was actually losing track of myself.

Instead of finding balance in life, I kept pushing and shifting my boundaries – and not for the better.

And that was where mindfulness meditation turned things around for me. Meditation has become my pause button, always there to ground me in the moment when life is passing me by. I often take a few minutes to myself in between consultations with patients to reset and declutter my state of mind.

What is meditation?

However, a lot of confusion arises when I coin the word ‘meditation’. I noticed that it has somewhat become a trendy buzz word, even. So let me first clarify what meditation is not. It does not entail mysterious practices. It is not solely preserved for Buddhas and zen masters. Your brain is not suddenly exempt from thoughts. You do not transcend into nirvana overnight and it is surely not a magical cure-all for your problems.

Actually, it’s much more simple than all that.

There are so many misconceptions around the practice of meditation, that I decided to write The No-Nonsense Meditation Book, focusing on the scientific aspect of the benefits of long-time practice of meditation.

What is actually happening in your brain when you meditate?

Because of course, I am first and foremost a scientist. While aiming to demystify the stereotypes around meditation, I also intend to raise awareness to how easy it all can be. Trust me, if I am able to do it (and I am surely no zen master), you surely are too. Even your grandmother, the boy next door, the mailman – meditation is for everyone who is willing to try with an open mind. Because that is exactly what meditation is all about: looking at life without judgment, while fully aware of the present moment.

Accepting the monkey mind and letting things go.

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3-Ways to Practise Mindfulness

There are so many low-threshold ways to practice mindfulness, and more importantly, there is no ‘one’ right way to do it. Who knows, maybe you already have been meditating all your life without knowing. There are several tips to remember when starting out with meditation in your daily life, such as:

  1. 4 A’s: anybody, anywhere, anytime, anyhow. As I already mentioned, anyone can engage in the practice of meditation. Make the most out of your travel, your commute or your walk in the park.
  2. Take a hike: spending time in nature can help activate all senses. When feeling overwhelmed, it helps to mute digital stimuli such as notifications that don’t really need an answer right away. Instead, pay attention to the light, the sounds, the smell, the energy around you. Don’t worry if your mind keeps wandering off… you will still have a beautiful hike to look back on.
  3. Count your breaths: it can be as easy as it sounds. Count 4 seconds while inhaling, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. If you would like to take it up a notch, or if you keep getting distracted, you can always follow a guided meditation on YouTube or the Headspace app.

If you do happen to become a zen master after some time – that’s great, kudos to you! But if you don’t, that is just fine as well. But most importantly, find out what works best for you. Because in the end, mindfulness is more of a way of looking at life than carrying out a few exercises. Really make it your own, and have fun!

The No-Nonsense Meditation Book by Steven Laureys is published by Green Tree (Paperback: £12.99) and is out now. Stay up to date with Steven on his social media channels where he is @DrStevenLaureys.

Find the book here and save 20% with code CI20 (UK only, expires August 31st 2021).

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