Monday, August 25, 2014

Brain Training

We all know that we need to train our bodies if we want peak physical performance.  So the same makes sense for our brains.  But until very recently we have not understood exactly how to do that or what the implications are.  Now we do.

Recent advances in neuroscience have demonstrated that various “mindfulness” training activities actually strengthen parts of our brain that allow us to improve our focus and executive capacity.  As a bonus, these activities also improve our health, lower stress, and make us happier.*

Mindfulness training activities are now being promoted among many leading companies, including Google, which pioneered its Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute – now a private entity.

Mindfulness training can include things like meditation, yoga, journaling, and other attentiveness activities that allow the brain to practice focusing.

The value of meditation has been discussed for many years, but until only recently has neuroscience been able to track actual changes in brain functions as a result. 

Unfortunately, many people who try mediation get frustrated quickly because they get distracted during the practice.  As it turns out, that is normal.  In fact, the value of the exercise is training the brain to notice when it becomes distracted and bring it back to the focus of the meditation.  Bringing back the focus is the workout.  Spending as little as ten minutes a day can make a difference.

More and more is being written about this.  Check out these sources from The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Mayo Clinic, and Psychology Today. Also read how the Seattle Seahawks credit meditation with helping them win the Super Bowl.  The same is said to be true for the German World Cup soccer team.  It worked for Samurai warriors, so I guess this all makes sense.

I can’t write enough here to explain the methods of these mindfulness activities, but I hope to peak your interest enough to click some of the links, read the Mayo book referenced below, learn more, and try some of these activities.  I have personally experienced the value of these exercises and have recently added more, including yoga – which more and more athletes are using for its physical and psychological benefits.

Train your brain!  It will make you more effective, less stressed, and healthier.

*The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living, Amit Sood, 2013.

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