Anxiety, Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Quiet Time

Meditation is the practice of quieting your mind. This is no easy task. So I’m reading “The Meditation Transformation” by Jennifer Brooks.

The book begins with a spiel on what meditation is and several pages explaining the benefits of a daily meditation practice. I’m not going to lie, I skipped this part. Having already read a plethora of articles and enduring various conversations with my therapist, doctor and naturopath about the benefits of meditation, I felt I had a thorough grip of the material.

Following this was a list of excuses commonly used by individuals who are beginning a meditation practice, to condone their defection. This part was actually useful in describing the ideal environment for meditation: Quiet, private and comfortable. It should be noted that thus far the book wasn’t particularly exciting…

That was until I arrived at chapter 5: Alternatives to Meditation. This chapter looked at visualization, guided imagery and relaxation, all of which can be classified as forms of meditation that seem to be more accommodating to the over active brain. For example when utilising visualisation, instead of simply focusing on your breathing you will instead dedicate your meditation time to painting an object in acute detail in your mind.

Chapter 6: Not All Meditation is Created Equal also explores alternatives to typical meditation practices. It covers exercises such as movement, body scan, mindfulness, walking, concept, gap, empty mind, mantra, vibrational and transcendental meditation. Each of these exercises is explained in detail and is easy to comprehend through its step by step layout. I should mention at this juncture that currently this e-book is free to download at the amazon/kindle store, so I would highly recommend picking it up.

Overall this was an extremely informative book, full of great techniques and exercises to bring to your meditation practice. Perfect for beginners like myself.

Adulting, Anxiety, Books, Mindfulness, Motivation

Journaling

I recently picked up a self help guide titled: “100 Days of Gratefulness: A Gratitude Journal” by Amy J. Blake. Although I’m not entirely sure if you could call it a guide per se, it’s more like a journal with prompts. Each page is titled with a question, such as “How am I fortunate?” and then it gives you space to provide an answer. Ideally you would tackle one question each day, spending approximately ten minutes on your response. There are one hundred questions in total, all of which ask you in one way or another what you are grateful for.

I’ve read books on the power of gratefulness before, and I am quite aware of the positive effects this practice can have in your life. However it can be difficult to get started. That’s why having a journal with pre-designed prompts can help. It makes the entire process a lot easier by incorporating more structure to the practice and through it’s one question a day set up it can assist in making gratefulness a habit.

You don’t necessarily need to buy a journal like this one either. Any notebook will do, just google gratitude prompts to obtain the questions. Then take some time each day to answer one, I personally like to write a response with my morning cup of coffee. There is just something substantial about writing your responses down, about taking the time to really collect your thoughts, which makes journaling a great medium for practicing gratefulness. In the past I’ve simply spouted lists of things I’m grateful for at random times throughout the day, but the intention behind writing makes it more meaningful.

Anxiety

Don’t Panic

Guess what? I found a self-help book about anxiety!

This one is titled: “Don’t Panic: You can overcome anxiety without drugs” and it’s written by Dr Sallee McLaren.

The central thesis is that anxiety is more often the result of ineffective coping strategies acquired through childhood, than from a serotonin imbalance in the brain. Therefore drugs are not a viable treatment and could indeed cause more harm than good. Instead therapy should be used to address and assess the faulty assumptions and negative coping strategies, which lie at the heart of our anxiety.

The book is divided into seven chapters, each one based on a faulty assumption. This list includes:

  1. The world looks dangerous.
  2. Other people are hostile.
  3. I can’t trust myself.
  4. I feel out of control.
  5. I need to stop the pain, now!
  6. I feel powerless.
  7. Deep down, I’m bad.

Most of these assumptions are the result of what Dr McLaren often refers to as difficult backgrounds. Basically it’s your parents fault, you learnt it from them. The cases she employs as examples confirm this pattern of bad parenting, in the evolution of each individuals anxiety and depression. They also explore the steps taken to challenge and conquer them.

I found many of the cases to be quite extreme and therefore unrelatable, the backgrounds sounded truly terrifying and when compared to my own childhood made me feel inadequate. This was in all likelihood not the authors intent, but rather my own biased reading of the text. Yet as she points out, anxiety often makes you biased and resistant to any opinion that requires you to open up and change.

One concept or remedy that did strike a chord with me however, was the link between confidence and skill. That you can increase your confidence by learning and preserving a new skill set. In other words, get out of your comfort zone and take a class. Borrow a library book and teach yourself something. Watch instructional YouTube videos or online tutorials. The more you learn and develop these skills, the more value you will feel you have. Self assurance and confidence occur as a bi-product of a diversified skill set.