By Bles Carmona-De La Rosa
Ideally, how must we nurture our body, mind, spirit, and brain? According to world-renowned neuroscientific researchers Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg, MD., the most important quality for optimal health is “a relaxed mindful awareness.”
Intuitively, we have long already known that excessive stress is the key exacerbating factor to most of our problems. In a health-conscious world, almost all of us are aware that too much physical stress leads to acute and chronic pain, and too much emotional stress is at the root of many psychological problems. These effects may spill over into work or performance problems as well. Now if we know that physical stress can be reduced by stretching out tense muscles, how do you relax a stressed-out brain? According to Waldman and Newberg, you need to “reduce excessive activity going on in the neurons of your thinking and imagination networks.” Those over-firing neurons generate too much metabolic heat, literally become “fried,” and disrupt the way your brain networks are supposed to function.
In mammals, what normally happens in this situation is that they begin to yawn. Yawning increases cerebral blood flow, and this liquid cools down those overstimulated neurons. But as it happens, humans in polite society suppress yawning, believing it to be rude. Contrast this with the attitude of Hippocrates in 400 BCE, who promoted yawning to release the tainted “humours” causing mental illness and disease. It appears that yawning may have its merits. However, most people yawn, relax, or stretch and do these “mindlessly,” bringing little relief or benefit. Are we too busy to take 60 seconds to mindfully do anything?
We forget to slow down and give full attention to how we think, feel, and react. What we need is to become aware of the contrasting experiences of stress and relaxation. And this may sound meta, but we also need to become aware of the experience of awareness.
So here is what the doctors recommend: Take three mindful yawns, pausing between each one to notice the subtle shifts in your body, mind, mental and spiritual state. Stretch slowly, taking a full 60 seconds. The slower you go, and as you become more aware, you allow your brain to send relaxation signals to your body and mind. So there you have it: relaxed mindful awareness.
Added to any of the following exercises, all of which are equally important, you will dramatically improve your health.
- A healthy diet is best. Add one minute of mindful eating with each meal, taking one super-slow bite of food and savoring it. You may end up eating less and enjoying your meal more.
- For minor body pains, move gently and slowly. Yawn into the pain. It often disappears. Try it.
- At work, practice relaxed mindful awareness by installing a mindful bell app on your phone. When it rings, one to three times in an hour, pause for 10-60 seconds to do any item on this list and do it in the most enjoyable way possible because pleasure heals a stressed-out brain.
- Focus on a deep inner value throughout the day, i.e., faith, cheer, compassion. This will anchor you, stimulating the social and spiritual circuits in your brain.
- Be positive even if you do not feel like it. Put your negative thoughts on a sheet of paper and mindfully gaze at your list. Your mind will find out that your negativity is not real but just a projection about the future.
- Ask your intuition, not your conscious mind, for an insight whenever you struggle. Your self-confidence will increase, and you will make better decisions.
- To stimulate the motivation networks in your brain, bring playfulness and curiosity into your work and relationships.
- Build these top two criteria for happiness according to the United Nations: economic and social wealth.
- Slow down your speech by 30%. Learn how to mindfully listen and speak to others.
- Finally, smiles and laughter throughout the day are what the doctors ordered!
Keep this list handy to incorporate healthful new habits into your life.
Aries (March 21-April 19) You don’t have to seek outside validation. Once you decide that you are good enough, that will do. Weekly mantra: I am perfect exactly as I am.
Taurus (April 20-May 20) A situation hangs in the balance. Still, take your time before making any important decisions. Weekly mantra: I am patient.
Gemini (May 21-June 20) Be the mature one in your family. Uphold the law with sternness and love. Weekly mantra: My home is a peaceful environment.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) You find life’s complexities exciting rather than tedious. Attend to routine tasks so you will have time to play. Weekly mantra: I know what my priorities are.
Leo (July 23-August 22) Relationships take some effort to untangle. Be up to the challenge to earn your reward. Weekly mantra: My relationships are harmonious.
Virgo (August 23-September 22) Hard work pays off, but you’d better key in some relaxation as well. Tell yourself that you deserve it. Weekly mantra: Some work and some play make me happy each day.
Libra (September 23-October 22) Lead in such a way as to get things done. Your followers will admire both your style and substance. Weekly mantra: I am an inspiration to others.
Scorpio (October 23-November 21) Find your challenge this way: Ask yourself if it is enjoyable and worth the risk. Conserve your energy. Weekly mantra: My challenges are worthy of me.
Sagittarius (November 22-December 21) Be aware of the consequences of your actions. It’s a slower process but with less repercussions. Weekly mantra: I think before I act.
Capricorn (December 22-January 19) There is no shame in asking for help. You also make your helpers feel good and needed. Weekly mantra: I am aware of the give-and-take of life.
Aquarius (January 20-February 18) Take bite-size pieces of the work before you. No use getting overwhelmed when you could be enjoying the process. Weekly mantra: I am systematic.
Pisces (February 19-March 20) You are aware of the power of your moods and words on others. Wield your sword with care. Weekly mantra: I am a careful steward of emotions.
Thank you, Salamat, Mabuhay, Namaste, and Blessed be!