Science says Buddha was right about your brain

Science says Buddha was right about your brain

The mind is everything. What you think you become.
— Buddha

This is one of my favorite Buddha quotes, though the internet says there’s some speculation on whether or not that quote is accurate. It might be a paraphrase. But it’s cool. Regardless, I dig it.

It’s a great notion to think we can become what we think; that we have the power to manifest our desires simply by thinking about them and believing them. It's the premise of the popular movie and book The Secret.

But some of us need more validation. We like science to back up these “woo-woo” beliefs and flowery Buddha quotes. Fortunately for you, science agrees with Buddha.

Your brain structurally changes based on your thoughts. Just like your biceps change based on your bicep curls.

People who are constantly stressed have larger amygdala — two little almond-shaped guys in your brain that are responsible for your emotional responses. They’re over-active. Each time you stress out about something, it’s like doing a bicep curl for your brain. The more reps you do, the more your biceps (or in this case, your amygdala) grow. It becomes a natural, normal response over time.
 

CC photo via Wikipedia 

CC photo via Wikipedia 

When I had an eating disorder, my brain was literally wonky. In fact, I did brain training as part of my treatment and watched as my brain scans changed over time. I was working with a professional to restructure my brain and create new, healthy thought patterns.

Many of us are doing too many reps of stress. And the more we stress, the more we stress. It’s a downward spiral. We start to sweat the small stuff. We feel overwhelmed just by being stuck in traffic. Anxiety sets in when we realize we are going to be late. Even though in the grand scheme of things, it’s OK. (I don’t think any of us will be on our death bed and think: “I wish I wouldn’t have been late to work that day.”)

CC image via Porsche Brosseau on Flickr

CC image via Porsche Brosseau on Flickr

The good news is we can fix this.

How?

Like any workout program. We train. I did brain training which is kind of like going to a seriously ass-kicking bootcamp. If you feel like you need that and have questions, give me a shout on Facebook. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

For the rest of us, regular gym sessions are cool. But for the brain, our gym sessions are meditations. Meditations calm the mind. They help restructure our brains so that by default we revert to peace and calm rather than anxiety and stress.

CC photo via Alice Popkorn on Flickr

CC photo via Alice Popkorn on Flickr

Rad, right?

And you don't have to sit in front of a fancy rock in the wilderness at sunrise to meditate (though that image above looks lovely). You can take a five minute break at work. You can step outside in the parking lot for a moment. You can take two extra minutes in the shower. You can meditate anywhere and any time. (I have some free meditations here.) It's only intimidating because we have this false idea that it needs to be something ethereal. It doesn't. 

And if you want something more prolific sometimes, that's cool too. You don't have to live in the Himalayas to find beauty. I live in Kansas and it's all around.

I didn’t get into meditation until I got into yoga. And even then I didn’t get into it for a while because I was doing yoga for a better bod, not a better brain. Our society seems to place a large value on physical appearance and not so much on the brain. But let me tell you — I had that body. I was really thin and really miserable. I trained for hours in the gym but my brain didn’t even get two minutes of that time. Once I started focusing on my brain — everything changed. I may not have that bod anymore, but I’m 1000000000 times happier.

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It takes time. It takes commitment. It takes training. But it’s worth it.

Would you rather commit to your meditation practice or continue to be stressed all the time? The choice is yours. The power is always yours.

What you think, you become. Says Buddha. Says science. Says me.

Namaste.

This type of yoga will help you sleep

This type of yoga will help you sleep

The two best asanas I learned at the Yoga Journal conferences

The two best asanas I learned at the Yoga Journal conferences