We all want to think we are mentally sharp, but when the afternoon brain fog rolls in, it’s clear where we stand. Whether you are having trouble focusing or simply want to slow down and take a moment for yourself, meditation is the answer. A simple, age-old practice once per day may be just what you need for enhanced productivity, mental sharpness and improved mental acuity.
Meditation: Not Always What You Think
What do you think of when you hear the word “meditation”? A monk in a robe sitting up tall and humming “om”? Chances are, your first image is a very particular type of meditation practiced by Buddhists and Hindus. While this is one of the most traditional meditation methods, it is not the only one.
You may be surprised to know that there are multiple ways to meditate with different styles to match almost any personality.
Modern Ways of Meditating
Mindfulness Meditation: Sit in a quiet, distraction-free area and monitor your breathing. Don’t try to control your breath. Instead, simply notice it. Keep your mind on your breath. When other thoughts roll into your mind, take notice, but do not let the thoughts take you away. If you notice that you’ve been following a thought, simply let it go, and go back to focusing on your breath.
Guided Meditation: There are countless guided meditations available online. These meditations include music and a gentle speaker who will guide you through a visualization exercise. For example, they may have you count your breaths or visualize a specific image. Guided meditations can be tailored to fit specific goals such as stress relief, starting your morning or preparing for bed.
Mantra Chanting: Chanting a mantra is a form of concentration meditation. You can either make up your own mantra or use one that has been used for centuries. Chant the mantra over and over in your head or aloud. Often, mantras are a positive affirmation that you would like to carry with you during your day. Some popular ones are: I am enough; I am wealthy; I am capable, etc.
Movement Meditation: This type of meditation incorporates movement into the practice. Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are all forms of movement meditation that can help you slow down and focus. However, dancing, walking or even exercising with intention can also count as movement meditation.
How Meditation Can Lead to Mental Acuity
When you practice meditation, you are learning how to react. You’re learning how to focus on one thing and let everything else go. This is a skill that can be used during any situation in life, not just when you are sitting cross-legged on the floor.
In fact, meditation has been shown to increase gray matter in some regions of the brain. This increased density may lead to better information processing, memory and emotional control.
Meditation has also been linked to lower levels of stress and anxiety. This is likely due to the fact that meditation allows you to take a step back from your thoughts and see them for what they are – just thoughts. When you’re able to do this, it’s a lot harder to get wrapped up in anxious or depressive loops.
How Often Should I Meditate?
The benefits of meditation are wide-reaching, but if you want to see the impact it can have on your mental acuity, start small by dedicating five minutes per day to this practice. Beginning with a guided meditation may be best for beginners since it sees you through the entire length of the meditation without leaving room for your thoughts to wander.
Gradually increase the amount of time you meditate each session until you reach anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. You will find that in addition to giving you peace of mind, this time for yourself may help make you more productive at work and more focused during your daily tasks.
Mental Acuity Through Hormone Balance
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how often you meditate, your hormones simply will not allow the brain fog to clear. This is where Outset Health comes in. Our dedicated team works with physicians to help integrate bioidentical hormone replacement (BHRT) into their practice.
Through our partnership, patients may receive BHRT and the added benefits of mental acuity, improved libido, increased muscle mass and more.