Monday, August 18, 2008

News You Can Use: Increasing Resilience through Relaxation and Meditation

One of the ways you can train resilience and increase performance is through learning and practicing relaxation or meditation techniques.

There are four different brainwave states that we experience. The beta brainwave state is our cognitive, thinking state. Alpha waves are the daydream like state. We are most likely in the alpha state when we are relaxing, staring out the window, visualizing or participating in a more active kind of meditation. The theta brainwave state is that place in between sleep and awake. It is that spontaneous, dreamlike state, also called the reverie state. It is the state that meditators are looking for. And, the delta brainwave state is when we are asleep.

If you watched Jill Bolte-Taylor’s video (mentioned in my last blog), she describes the right brain state. We access the right brain when we are in the reverie state. We are also accessing the limbic system, or emotional brain which only speaks to us in the form of images. This is where our dream images come from. This is also why we experience dreamlike images when we are meditating. It is a state of “knowing” not thinking (the left brain thinks, the right brain knows). Complex understandings can be grasped, worries are relieved and healing messages are sent to the body. We lose our “ego” and the true self is revealed. This is the state that keeps meditators coming back for more. You are accessing the emotional part of the brain (the limbic system) where you may experience feelings of bliss or have powerful, emotional experiences.

This deep meditative state is a very powerful, restorative state. Endorphins are found in high concentration in the limbic system (emotional brain). When endorphins are released they kill pain and cause euphoria. Accessing the limbic system also releases polypeptides (stored energy) which energizes the immune cells and helps them replicate to attack invaders.

This deep meditative state also connects us to our higher self. Have you ever been working on a difficult problem or situation only to find the answer in a dream? Or as you are waking up or falling asleep? Complex understandings are brought to consciousness, things we don’t realize we know come to mind. These messages come from our deep unconscious mind. We access this state to create art, music, any right brain activity.

If we stop and listen and allow the “self” to speak, we learn so much about ourselves and others. Our intuition is heightened and we become more in tuned with what is going on inside of us and around us. If someone is searching for their life purpose, fulfillment, or new and different ways to view their world, this is the state to strive for.

The following exercises are first steps to deeper meditation. For many people who are just starting, it is difficult to practice the longer, deeper relaxation exercises. Try these exercises for a few weeks and next time I will talk about deeper relaxation exercises.

Brief Relaxation Technique
· Take a deep breath and exhale while mentally saying “reeeelaaax”. Do this several times. You can do this while you are talking with someone, walking, waiting in line.
· Say to yourself, “A wave of relaxation is passing from the top of my head to the tips of my toes”. Picture the wave of relaxation as it progresses.
· Check for bodily tension and tell tense body parts to “reeelaaax” as you exhale.

Brief Relaxation Technique
· As you breathe deeply, imagine that you are breathing in and out from your heart
· Now imagine someone or something that you really appreciate, picturing all the details, who/what, where you are, etc.
· Then go back to breathing in and out through your heart

Using Brief Relaxations
· Identify cues that remind you to do brief relaxations. Examples of cues could include a ringing phone, when you have to stop for a red light or when something distressing occurs. Or, put a sticker or dot on your mirror, refrigerator, etc. to remind you to take deep breaths or do a quick visualization.
· Remember to think something like “That’s my cue to do a brief relaxation” whenever the cues occur.
· Practice many brief relaxations each day.