Can your thoughts affect your body? Centuries ago, scientists believed not; the body and mind were separate. Fast-forward to present-day and researchers see the body and mind as an interconnected and inseparable organism. This means that knowing how to control our thoughts and minds can help us live happier and healthier lives. There is no better time than now to explore this as we struggle through our tumultuous COVID world on top of social and political firestorms. I’ve been studying this topic for years and offer a few ideas to help you get your mind to a better place—right now—right after reading this— and it has to do with meditation. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Meditation comes in two general types, passive and active. Passive meditation quiets the mind and slows our thoughts. This is accomplished by simply observing our thoughts and letting them go, like a tennis player batting away a ball. The benefit of this type of meditation is its positive impact on our bodies. Results of hundreds of studies with passive meditation show improvement in many conditions ranging from anxiety, asthma, high blood pressure, drug abuse, and heart attacks. Active meditation, also called “mindfulness,” is where participants are encouraged to focus on a pleasant scene, sound, or phrase. Studies in mindfulness show that it can change the way our brain works by helping us focus on the present moment and enabling us to think about things from new perspectives. So, quieting our minds can be useful, but is there a down-side to thinking too much? Read on.
A study conducted a few years ago showed that whatever we are thinking about, our mind is wandering about half the time. And, when our minds wander, we are less happy. Some refer to this as “monkey brain,” where we feel like our mind is jumping around, impossible to sit still. Placing even more emphasis on our thoughts, the researchers also found that what we think about is more important for our happiness than what we are doing. If you think you can’t do it, your mind just goes and goes, well, there’s hope! We can all learn to quiet our minds and reap the benefits. Following are things you can do to start.
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Put down the phone! At least for a few hours a day, you can also turn off all but one or two critical notifications and minimize your social media time. We know now that social media platforms track what you look at, click on, and how long you stay there. They send you what you want to see. It’s cyber nicotine and it clouds your mind. It will seem strange at first, but doing this can provide immediate results. But wait, there’s more!
Explore mediation—there are lots of apps, books, recordings out there. One type of meditation enables us to quiet our minds to not think about anything. There are also many resources to increase mindfulness in your life with exercises, recordings that present guided imagery, and mental activities to help you experience a quiet mind. It will seem strange at first because we are so programmed to react to a torrent of stimuli from everything around us, but keep trying to see which one feels right for you.
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Spend time in nature—take a walk at sunset, sunrise, or at night to see the starry sky. Walk along a river or stream and look at the plant and animal life, and notice how it all seems to work together. For me, spending time outside provides a break from whatever is happening in my life and provides a sense of peace by seeing the harmony of nature.
Well, there you have it. A crash course in meditation, what it is, how it impacts us, and what we can do right now to start. You have everything you need to make some changes today. Good luck in your journey! And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Dr. Scott Guerin Ph.D. is an adjunct professor in psychology at Kean University and author of Angel in Training Series.