Brain Training

How Shortening Your Meditation Can = Bigger Results

 How Shortening Your #Meditation Can = Bigger #Results | #Brain #Lifehacking #Mindfulness

It’s no secret that meditation and mindfulness are amazing practices for your brain. They make you healthier, smarter, and more fulfilled. Yet, despite best intentions, many struggle to find the time to engage in these life-changing practices.

Here’s good news: when it comes to meditation and mindfulness sessions, length doesn’t appear to matter. (And, of course, by “length”, I mean the length of time engaged in a given mindfulness exercise or meditation.) In fact, you may experience even more benefit by shortening your sessions.

Researchers in the 1990s believed it took 50-60 minutes of meditation practice a day to achieve brain benefits. Today, many people assume that you need to engage for some duration between 10 minutes to over 2 hours. But the latest research tells a different story: even 60 seconds of practice changes the brain in powerful ways.


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The research suggests that it’s the accumulated time that matters, not the session length. In fact, the data shows that shorter sessions, spread throughout the day, are much more effective in many ways.

With frequent, spread out, shorter sessions, mindfulness is more fully woven into the fabric of your life. This gives you a greater opportunity to more acutely leverage the brain-boosting effects to address everyday challenges at work or at home.

With this approach, the biggest obstacle can be remembering to engage with these states as the chaos of the day unfolds. That’s why we recommend you set some kind of timer to go off 1-4 times an hour. When it goes off, enjoy 60 seconds (give or take) to relax and engage in your choice of mindfulness practice.

 

One of my favorite tools for this is Awakeningbell.org. This site triggers Tibetan bell sounds at whatever time interval you choose. A recent study confirmed that focusing on the sound of a resonant bell helps the mind become more focused and attentive. A simple Google search will reveal several alternatives. And yes, there’s an app for that (actually several). After 60-90 days, mindful states will become your habit.

Once you set up a system, and make it a habit to engage in short mindfulness exercises throughout the day, you’ll develop a zen-like focus. You’ll be less stressed, more productive, more aware, and more socially intelligent. All it takes is seconds.


SOURCES:

Effects of brief and sham mindfulness meditation on mood and cardiovascular variables. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Gordon NS, Goolkasian P. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Aug; 16( 8): 867-73.

Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Diamond BJ, David Z, Goolkasian P. Conscious Cogn. 2010 Jun; 19( 2): 597-605.

The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. Zeidan F, Gordon NS, Merchant J, Goolkasian P. J Pain. 2010 Mar; 11( 3): 199-209.


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This post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren. He is Founder/CEO of MindFullyAlive, a Senior Lecturer at California Lutheran University, a cognitive coach, and a practical neuroscience expert. He produces and curates mindfulness content designed to improve structure and functioning of the brain.

How to Enhance Your Memory with Simple Learning Hacks

 How to Enhance Your Mind with Simple #Learning Hacks

Admission: Memory is not my natural strong suit. Fortunately, brain-research has validated some simple practices that measurably enhance anyone's memory.

The truth is, most humans have poor memory. Why? A big reason is that our normal awareness is extremely limited. Most people can only hold 4-7 tiny bits of information in working memory at a time.

Want to see if you can do better?
Take a glance at this set of numbers:

 

 1 – 8 – 6 – 2 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 6 – 3 – 5 - 7

 


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Now close your eyes and try to recall the numbers. If you can, congratulations! Only 1% of people can do this. This is because the brain is trying to take in 11 chunks of information instead of 4-7.

Let’s look at the number a different way: 800-555-6357. When we look at it as a phone number, it becomes much easier to remember. When we chunk information effectively, our memory expands.

That said, our brain’s frontal lobes only keep that information for a few seconds. Then, another set of “chunks” will catch our attention. Worse, the learning centers of our brains can only deal with one or two ideas at a time.

So to efficiently learn anything, key information must get absorbed with precision. Then, your brain needs time to absorb it and encode it into long-term memory. 

Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel explains in his book In Search of Memory that your brain needs rest to form long-term memories. This is why top athletes and other performers divide their practice into time-limited sessions with breaks.

During these breaks, it’s best to spend time daydreaming. Many consider mind-wandering a bad habit, but when you daydream your awareness expands throughout your brain. Meanwhile, hundreds of thoughts get processed and stored in your deeper memory.

You can improve your recall by taking just 60 seconds to let your mind wander after you learn something new. Just sit back, relax, and let your mind go anywhere it wants. The same holds true if you’ve been focusing on a task for a while. If you set alarms to give yourself micro-vacations, your performance will improve.

By learning in small chunks and giving yourself seconds to daydream, your performance can skyrocket.


SOURCES:

Brain connectivity during resting state and subsequent working memory task predicts behavioural performance. Sala-Llonch R, Peña-Gómez C, Arenaza-Urquijo EM, Vidal-Piñeiro D, Bargalló N, Junqué C, Bartrés-Faz D. Cortex. 2012 Oct; 48( 9): 1187-96.

Brief wakeful resting boosts new memories over the long term. Dewar M, Alber J, Butler C, Cowan N, Della Sala S. Psychol Sci. 2012 Sep 1;23( 9): 955-60.

Words Can Change Your Brain. Newberg A, M.D., Waldman, M. R., Penguin Group, 2012.

Nondirective meditation activates default mode network and areas associated with memory retrieval and emotional processing. Xu J, Vik A, Groote IR, Lagopoulos J, Holen A, Ellingsen O, Håberg AK, Davanger S. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Feb 26;8: 86.

Kandel, E. In Search of Memory. Norton, 2006.


This post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren. He is Founder/CEO of MindFullyAlive, a Senior Lecturer at California Lutheran University, a cognitive coach, and a practical neuroscience expert. He produces and curates mindfulness content designed to improve structure and functioning of the brain.

How You Can Practice More Effectively

 How You Can Practice More Effectively

TEDEd published a video exploring research-backed ways you can more quickly upgrade your skill levels.

"Mastering any physical skill, be it performing a pirouette, playing an instrument, or throwing a baseball, takes practice. Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence. So what does practice do in our brains to make us better at things?

Our brains have two kinds of neural tissue: grey matter and white matter. The grey matter processes information in the brain, directing signals and sensory stimuli to nerve cells, while white matter is mostly made up of fatty tissue and nerve fibers. In order for our bodies to move, information needs to travel from the brain's grey matter, down the spinal cord, through a chain of nerve fibers called axons to our muscles.

So how does practice or repetition affect the inner workings of our brains? The axons that exist in the white matter are wrapped with a fatty substance called myelin. And it's this myelin covering, or sheath, that seems to change with practice. Myelin is similar to insulation on electrical cables. It prevents energy loss from electrical signals that the brain uses, moving them more efficiently along neural pathways.

Some recent studies in mice suggest that the repetition of a physical motion increases the layers of myelin sheath that insulates the axons. And the more layers, the greater the insulation around the axon chains; forming a sort of superhighway for information connecting your brain to your muscles.

So while many athletes and performers attribute their successes to muscle memory, muscles themselves don't really have memory. Rather, it may be the myelination of neural pathways that gives these athletes and performers their edge with faster and more efficient neural pathways.

There are many theories that attempt to quantify the number of hours, days, and even years of practice that it takes to master a skill.

So if effective practice is the key, how can we get the most out of our practice time?"

Try these tips

 How You Can Practice More Effectively

1. Focus on the Task at Hand

"Minimize potential distractions by turning off the computer or TV and putting your cell phone on airplane mode. In one study, researchers observed 260 students studying. On average, those students were able to stay on task for only six minutes at a time. Laptops, smartphones, and particularly Facebook were the root of most distractions."

 How You Can Practice More Effectively

2. Go SLOW

"Coordination is built with repetitions, whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the speed of the quality repetitions, you have a better chance of doing them correctly."


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 How You Can Practice More Effectively

3. Frequent Repetitions with Allotted Breaks

"Studies have shown that many top athletes, musicians, and dancers spend 50-60 hours per week on activities related to their craft. Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration."

 How You Can Practice More Effectively

4. Practice in Your Imagination

"It's a bit surprising, but a number of studies suggest that once a physical motion has been established, it can be reinforced just by imagining it.

In one study, 144 basketball players were divided into two groups. Group A physically practiced one-handed free throws while Group B only mentally practiced them. When they were tested at the end of the two week experiment, the intermediate and experienced players in both groups had improved by nearly the same amount."


You can drive deeper into the content of this video and the research behind it here.


The above post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren. Josiah Hultgren is Founder/CEO of MindFullyAlive, a Senior Lecturer at California Lutheran University, a NeuroCoach, and a practical neuroscience expert. He produces and curates mindfulness content designed to improve structure and functioning of the brain. His mission is to help create a more vibrant world and apply neuroscience in ways that help people reach their highest potential.