Leaving the Mind Blank Is Scientifically Impossible and ‘Mindfulness’ Isn’t ‘Freckled’: The Big Lies About Relaxation | The well-being

It’s impossible to leave an empty mind

The effort to leave the mind empty during meditation is the cause of many abandonments of the technique. If it depended on it, no one would succeed; In contrast, 49% of Spaniards say they have meditated at some point, according to market data portal Statista. The truth is that putting an empty mind is scientifically impossible, says Myriam Campelo, director in Spain of the meditation app Petit BamBou. “It has led many people to give up due to their inability to achieve this state. We are currently living with a great mental load, thoughts are racing through our minds. When someone says they want to ignore it, what they’re really looking for is to calm them down, to get rid of those thoughts and feelings that are causing stress, anxiety, or fear. Therefore, meditation is one of the most used tools today to try to manage this runaway horse in which the head can spin. “It is a form of training through which we can achieve a state of stillness, by focusing and maintaining our attention on one thing. For those who are beginning to meditate, the simplest thing is to pay attention to the breath, to the physical sensations when inhaling and exhaling”, adds the director of Petit BamBou.

Meditation and relaxation are not the same

It’s a common misconception: thinking that meditation and relaxation are synonymous. “What differentiates them is above all the intention: whereas in relaxation the aim is to relax the body and the mind, in meditation the objective is to educate the mind by training the attention; in the first one can let the mind wander, in the second it is active”, adds Myriam Campelo. The benefits are also different: science has shown that the continuous practice of meditation leads to significant changes in the structure of the brain, which leads to reduced stress or better management of emotions as well as strengthening the immune system or lower heart rate.

The mindfulness It’s not “crazy”

It is worth that at its beginnings, 2,500 years ago, the meditation of the mindfulness had a religious origin, as it was adopted from the Buddhist tradition, but today the practice of this technique which seeks to focus on the present moment and connect with reality, without judgment or prejudice, has little spirituality , let alone esotericism. It is a tool capable of improving the quality of life, as shown by research from Tulane University in Louisiana: it increases social skills and reduces stress.

If I unplug, I don’t unplug

When you want someone to “log off for the weekend”, for example, what you want is not for their brain to stay in flat brainwave mode without any kind of activity, but for his stress disappears and his pleasure. Well, the phrase lacks rigor. The truth is that the mind is never disconnected; what we can do is choose what to focus our attention on. As Myriam Campelo explains, “we live on automatic pilot and while the mind jumps from thought to thought, without these being linked to what is happening at that moment; this disconnection is what causes us stress, anxiety and insomnia. When we get out of the routine and do an activity with our full attention, be it a sport, painting or a walk in nature, the mind stops wandering, and therefore this stress improves.” In conclusion: you disconnect from stress, but not from your mind: you unload it. What happens is that when the level of exhaustion is alarming, the brain takes over and takes vacations “in parts”: not being able to concentrating, it forces us to resort to other tasks that consume fewer cognitive resources.Indeed, research from the University of Wisconsin confirms that at this level of saturation, certain nerve cells “fall asleep” or are inactive for short periods, only when the activity does not require their action.

Breathing improves anxiety

Science has proven its relationship with brain activity. This is so because the breath connects to different parts of the cerebral cortex where thought, perception and imagination originate. According to the Journal Neurophysiology, the brain reacts differently when we voluntarily change the way we breathe. It also calms anxiety, as psychologist and neuroscientist Patricia Nafría points out. He explains that there are five techniques: abdominal breathing, inflating the diaphragm with air to expand the lungs; the progressive, linked to the tension and relaxation of each muscle group, the equitable, which starts from inspirations and expirations counting up to four; that of yoga or alternated by the nostrils (first one then the other); and energizing it, with slow inhales and fast exhales, both through the nose.

Practicing yoga is not a superfluous fad

Beyond being a favorite practice of influencers and providing greater flexibility and fitness, there is scientific evidence that yoga has benefits for the brain, and they are very similar to those produced by the cardiovascular sport: a study published in the journal Brain Plasticity indicates that it influences regions related to memory, emotion regulation and learning. Doing yoga for eight weeks has also been shown to reduce the cortisol response to stress and decrease anxiety and depression.

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