Tame Your Brain
“I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. I’m too short. I’m too tall. I’m not experienced enough. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m not smart enough. I’m not rich enough. I’m not educated enough. I’m not fit enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m not tough enough. My car sucks. I can’t do it.” Have you ever thought any of the preceding comments? Come on, admit it, you’re in there somewhere. Don’t sweat it, you need not be. I’m going to show you how to free yourself from a self imposed prison.
So often we all allow an overactive, irrational part of our brains to think thoughts that incapacitate us. It’s truly tragic. These thoughts hold us back, give us anxiety, depress, and imprison us. Our thoughts should never hold us back; rather, they should encourage, inspire, and elevate us. You’re thinking, “But John, I can’t control my thoughts. They just are. Nobody can control them.” Nonsense! There is a way to overcome them that is free, easy (once you get the hang of it), can be done anywhere, and is supremely effective, whatever your goal. Meditation! Stop going to the doctor for drugs that don’t really work, don’t address the source of the problem, and that you’ll likely be taking for the rest of your life. According to Time Magazine, 13% of Americans over the age of 12 took an antidepressant within the last month and 68% of those taking the medication report being on it for two or more years.1 Clearly, antidepressants aren’t working for anyone but big pharma. Remember a recurring theme here at ReversingMyAge.com: Don’t be a sucker! Meditation has been proven to work for thousands of years.
Thoughts may appear vivid and real, but when we scrutinize them, we often see there’s actually nothing to hold onto. Dwelling on the past often results in depression. Worrying about the future results in anxiety. Effective meditation brings you back into the present. “But John, I’m busy. I don’t have time to meditate!” Really? If you have time to breath, you have time to meditate. Start with a few minutes to begin each and every day. You’ll thank me. Like most things in life, the more you do it and the better you get at it, the more you will want to do it. Professional athletes, government, and business leaders are meditating because it really works. You should too.
Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”
He replied, “Nothing! However, let
me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression,
insecurity, fear of old age and death.”
Purpose of Meditation
We create our own reality. The world is all an illusion of sorts. How we interpret events and “facts” dictates how we experience reality. Some of this is also biochemical (hormonal), which is why eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, and plenty of exercise are all important parts of truly getting physically and mentally healthy. Meditation is one important piece of the puzzle. I know, I know, many of you are rolling your eyes. But that’s because you can’t wrap your head around what I’m writing just yet. If you give meditation a shot and keep trying until it clicks, eventually you’ll understand what I am saying and it may blow your mind.
If you’ve never meditated, in all likelihood, you don’t have much control over your head, thoughts, or emotions. Your mind will wander and race around in all directions. That’s normal, but it’s not good because your mind might be predisposed to ruminate or dwell on the past (depression) or stress about the future (anxiety). Meditation will correct this.
Stress cognitions are important for survival, but if they are based on distorted perceptions, as they so often are, they may promote excessive and near constant stress arousal, creating harmful conditions for cellular longevity.2 Stress is a killer that’s become an all too common part of 21st century life. This isn’t conjecture. It’s an undisputed fact. Now, the question is, “What is the best way to manage it?” If you have a stressful job, or relationship, are going through financial difficulties, or are a caretaker and you’re NOT meditating, you are making a difficult situation even harder. Why handicap yourself? Meditation can help you get through just about anything. If you’ve got stress of any kind, try it. Keep doing it. Given enough time and effort, it will work. Here’s the bottom line: You wanna be healthy, happy, and strong? Then meditate. You’ll get control of your thoughts and emotions resulting in a cascading series of effects that will improve your quality of life beginning with better decision making.
My Meditation Technique – The Muse
About four months ago, I began using the Muse, a meditation aid. I now use it every single day. It is genuinely changing my life. You may be thinking that meditation sounds like a new age fad. I was a skeptic too. I actually tried an app called headspace a few years ago and felt ridiculous, so I stopped. I remember thinking, “This is so stupid! This will never work! What a waste of time! How do I know I am doing it correctly?”
And that’s precisely why I purchased the Muse. You see, the Muse is a headband you wear that reads your brain waves as it simultaneously plays sounds that get louder or softer depending on how active your brain is at a given moment. You have options with respect to what is played in the background including sounds that reflect a rainforest, beach, desert, city park, and techno like ambient music. For months I used a rainstorm. If my mind was wondering (thinking about things it shouldn’t be) the volume and intensity of the rain I heard in my earbuds steadily increased. If my mind was really wandering, I would hear a loud storm. When my mind is calm, the volume of the rain is very soft and birds chirp. The noise forces me to center myself; to focus on nothing but my breathing. That is the essential aim of the type of meditation I practice; to clear my mind and think about nothing. Therein lies the benefit. I know it sounds strange, but trust me, it works.
Meditation, Age Reversal, and Telomeres
According to an article written in Mindfulness in 2016, “Thus, it seems that mindfulness is a protective factor for telomere length regardless of the type of meditation practiced. These results might also be expected because Zen meditation has already been related not only to improvements in quality of life, better mental health (Shaku et al. 2014), and alpha and theta activity in many brain regions (generally related to relaxation) (Chiesa 2009) but also to decreases in oxidative stress (Mahagita 2010) and the resiliency of mitochondria (Bhasin et al. 2013), which may help prevent the process of ageing.”3 Another article published in Frontiers in Psychology concludes, “Interestingly, recent studies have indicated that meditation may increase telomerase activity (Jacobs et al., 2011; Lavretsky et al., 2013; Schutte and Malouff, 2014) and telomere length (Hoge et al., 2013; Alda et al., 2016). Altogether, these studies’ outcomes are consistent with the notion that meditation is protective against cellular aging. It should also be noted that while the critical role of telomere attrition is well-established in cell aging.”4 Meditation has repeatedly been proven to improve mental health, quality of life, and slow cellular aging. The data is compelling. Consequently, if you are interested in biological age reversal, meditation must be a part of your protocol.
Meditation does not just benefit telomeres by activating the production of telomerase. It also reduces inflammation. “Overall, these results point to a reduced proinflammatory state in active meditation practitioners. So, altogether, the observed effects of meditation on inflammation processes may have beneficial effects on brain aging.”5 “Inflammaging” is a concept previously examined here at ReversingMyAge.com. Inflammation likely has something to do with aging, thus we want to monitor systemic inflammation levels and keep them as low as possible.
Aging is complicated. We know that there are many, many factors that influence the rate of aging. It seems conclusive that meditation is one such therapy that has the ability to positively influence how one ages. The science related to meditation keeps getting more compelling, which is particularly exciting because anyone can do it, it costs nothing, needn’t take up much time, and is relatively easy.
Meditation and Success – Flow State
A very active runner recently asked me what the key training component that enabled me to complete an ultramarathon was. I replied, “Oh, that’s easy. Meditation.”
She rolled her eyes and pressed, “No, I’m serious. How did you train for this? What was the most important thing you did? High intensity interval training? Very long runs? Overspeed training? Underspeed training? What was it? I’m very interested because I may want to tackle one myself.”
I replied, “I am being very serious. Meditation is the most important thing I did in my efforts to complete an ultramarathon. They say the first fifty miles of an ultra is all in your legs and the last fifty miles is all in your head. I passionately agree with that statement. Ultrarunning is first and foremost a psychological and emotional endeavor and secondly a physical one. If you can’t get control of your head, you will not complete one. Furthermore, meditation facilitates entry into what is known as a ‘flow state’ in which one becomes so focused on a task that the ego disappears and time becomes extremely distorted. Most people have experienced ‘flow’ at some point in their life. It’s something we should all strive to experience more of.”
Actually, ultrarunning is a great metaphor for life. Being able to push through the dark times in the middle of the night when you are alone and cold and shivering and in serious pain and having the ability to silence the part of your brain that keeps urging you to quit is essential for anyone to successfully get through not only an ultra, but through all the hard things we inevitably face in our lives. I don’t know how anyone can do that without meditation, even if they don’t call it meditation. In my view, if you want to accomplish anything truly difficult and be successful in just about any endeavor, you’ve gotta learn to get through those dark times by taming your brain. Meditation is the best way of doing just that.
1 Sifferlin, A. (2017, August 15). 13% of Americans Take Antidepressants. Retrieved from http://time.com/4900248/antidepressants-depression-more-common/
2 Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J. T., Folkman, S., & Blackburn, E. (2009, August). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057175/
3 Alda, M., Puebla-Guedea, M., Rodero, B., Demarzo, M., Montero-Marin, J., Roca, M., & Garcia-Campayo, J. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859856/
4 Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N., & Luders, E. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/
5 Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N., & Luders, E. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/