Meditation and Creativity – How One Helps the Other
Meditation is heralded by many as being a ‘cure all’ – a panacea that can prevent all of your woes and help you to find peace and enlightenment.
They’re not wrong per say. Compared with many other strategies, meditation is certainly one of the most effective when it comes to overcoming anxiety and getting a better perspective on things. But unfortunately, nothing is perfect. That includes meditation.
Meditation is all about getting ‘out of your own head’ and focussing. It’s about being in the moment and not reflecting on problems.
But here’s the thing: reflecting on problems is useful. Even a little bit of stress is useful – it’s called eustress.
And the biggest potential casualty when it comes to meditation is creativity and the default mode network. The default mode network is the selection of brain areas that light up when you daydream, or think about your own future. People associate this part of the brain with a) being distracted from what’s happening, and b) being negative.
But the truth? The default mode network is also where many of us come up with our very best ideas – including Albert Einstein. Daydreaming about the future is how we learn more about who we are, and what we want to accomplish.
So, the risk is that we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The good news is that meditation isn’t to blame. The problem is with the way it is sometimes pedalled – by people who claim we should always be in the moment.
The truth is that the brain has many different states and we perform best when we’re able to choose those states and jump between them as needed.
So we need to be ‘in the moment’ when delivering a speech or spending time with friends, but there’s no harm in letting our mind wander when we’re going for a stroll and thinking about writing a great story.
This is where something called ‘productive meditation’ comes in. Suggested by author Cal Newport in his book ‘Deep Work’, this form of meditation means you are focussing on a problem or a creative endavor. Instead of thinking about nothing, you are thinking about something you want to work on.
And in fact, this kind of meditation agrees with what some new research suggests: that we are most creative when we active both the ‘daydreamy’ default mode network and the focussed ‘executive control network’. When you focus on being unfocussed, amazing things happen.
How to Meditate ALL Day for Amazing Results
When we think of meditation, we tend to think of the most common form of the practice – or at least the one we see most commonly depicted. That is of course, the kind synonymous with the image of a sage guru sitting cross legged, hands perched on their knees, with their minds calm, chanting ‘OM’.
While this is one example of a form of meditation, it is far from the only one. Just as beneficial in fact – if not moreso – is practicing focussing the mind during your daily activities.
Because what meditation is really, is nothing more than focus. Meditation is what happens when you choose to focus your mind on something, rather than letting it bounce from one thing to the next. And the result is that you stop feeling so panicked and forget all those unhelpful thoughts that may have been racing through your mind before.
Many of the activities we engage in daily can already be considered as ‘meditative’. A good example is reading a book, or even watching a good film. Have you ever been to an amazing film at the theatre, then been completely disoriented when you exit? Because you aren’t sure what time it should be, or how long you’ve been in there? That’s because you’ve been so transfixed on what you were doing, that everything else fell aside.
The same thing happens when you read a good book. Put it this way: you can’t be engaged in an enthralling read and worrying about what tomorrow might bring. These two activities are mutually exclusive.
Now your objective is to bring that same sense of calm focus into other parts of your life.
Take ironing for example. While you might be ironing while you watch TV, you may also find that at times, you iron as you allow your mind to go blank. You focus purely on the activity itself – the ironing – and everything else seems to fall away.
There’s something about the repetitive motion of moving an iron back and forth that can be perfectly meditative. You just have to let it! So calm your mind and choose to think about nothing else. If you can do this, then you will be able to turn ironing into meditation.
From there, the next step is to try becoming meditative while you’re washing the dishes. Then maybe while you’re walking.
Top Types of Meditation
Did you know there is more than one type of meditation? In fact, there are countless forms of meditation – each of which has different goals and methods.
The question then, is which type of meditation is right for you – and how do you get started with the one you choose? This guide will help you to understand more and decide.
We’ll start with this one, only because it has become so popular recently that it’s the type many people may be familiar with.
Mindfulness meditation comes from cognitive behavioural therapy – a psychotherapeutic approach in psychology. The idea here is not to empty your mind of thoughts – as it is in many other forms – but rather to try and detach yourself from those thoughts and not be affected by them. Note which thoughts float by, but don’t try to change them.
Body Scan Meditation
Closely linked to mindfulness meditation is body scan meditation – this is a form of meditation that involves focussing on each part of your body and progressively relaxing. It’s great for refreshing the brain and chilling after a hard day.
This is another of the more popular and well known forms of meditation. The goal here is to clear your mind and to do so usually by focussing on a mantra or perhaps an imaginary point in space. Doing this can help you to eventually close down areas of your brain while retaining consciousness.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness meditation is a form of meditation that involves focussing your mind on a specific feeling – in this case love and kindness! By doing this, you will feel happier and you will become better at forgiving people. It also feels fantastic in the moment.
Kundalini Yoga Meditation
Kundalini yoga meditation is a form of moving meditation. The idea here is to move gently into different positions while focussing on controlling your breathing and staying calm and focussed. The result can be highly relaxing while also improving your overall health and wellness.
Religious practitioners can engage in meditation by focussing deeply on a passage of text from their scripture, or on a prayer.
Zazen is a form of meditation associated with Zen Buddhism. It must be taught under the leadership of an instructor and involves a number of specific steps. However, the objective is once again to focus primarily on detaching yourself from your thoughts and letting go of judgement.
How to Start Meditation in 3 Easy Steps
More and more people are now beginning to appreciate the amazing power of meditation. No longer does the average Joe or Josephine view meditation as being some kind of black magic – it’s now understood as a highly scientific and practical tool that anyone can and should use for better brain health.
But how do you start? It’s still a daunting and somewhat abstract concept. So to help you overcome that notion, here’s how to start meditation in 3 easy steps.
Find a Quiet Place
Meditation can be done anywhere, but it’s certainly easier when you are free from distractions. And that’s especially true for beginners. So find a quiet spot, and if you want to make this a regular practice, try to make it somewhere that you will be able to come to often.
Now sit down however is comfortable. Don’t lie down though – only because you risk falling asleep if you do!
Set Some Time
The next step is to set yourself some time out. You can do this by setting a timer – which means you won’t need to keep checking your watch, or worry about overshooting and missing some appointment.
If you’re starting out for the first time, then ten minutes is more than enough. But in all honesty, you can even get benefit from just five minutes. This is what many people don’t realize when they make excuses for not starting. We all should be able to find five minutes of quiet in our day. If you cannot, then the issue is more deep routed than perhaps you realized!
Finally, the next step is to focus. That means focussing on something like breathing or perhaps repeating a word or phrase. You can also try focussing on something in the environment around you. A popular practice for instance is to focus on a single flame.
Then there’s the option to focus on emptying your thoughts, or perhaps to focus on reflecting on those thoughts in a dispassionate manner.
Whatever the case, all you are trying to do is to take conscious control over your attention and to direct it towards something that is non-stressful, and that will help you to recover a little energy and mood. That’s all there is to meditation and it’s really rather simple.
If you’re still struggling, then at this point you may wish to consider using a guided meditation – like something from Headspace. These guided meditations talk you through a script that will help to direct your attention for you.
How to Overcome Social Anxiety With Mindfulness
Social anxiety is something that can be crippling for some people. This prevents us from being able to talk in public, meet new people, or in some cases even go to the shops. It’s also one of the most common forms of anxiety there is.
In fact, almost all of us will experience it to some degree.
But while there’s no simple cure to this complex problem, using mindfulness can certainly make a huge difference.
What is Mindfulness and How Can it Help?
When we think of mindfulness, we might think of mindful meditation. In fact though, this is only one facet of a larger topic.
Really, mindfulness just means being more mindful and aware of your own thoughts. It means being a little ‘self-reflective’.
In the case of a phobia or an anxiety like social anxiety, that effectively means learning to better recognize the stress-inducing thoughts that are causing your anxiety.
An example might be that you think:
“I’m going to stutter, and everyone will laugh.”
“What if what I say is stupid?”
The first step is in identifying precisely what it is that you’re afraid of. And from there, you can go about tackling it head-on.
That then, is when the next part comes in: cognitive restructuring. This is the process of understanding your negative thoughts, and so deciding that you’re going to get rid of them.
How do you do this? One way is by disproving them.
So for instance, if you’re afraid that if you stutter everyone will laugh, then you should try testing that theory. This is called ‘hypothesis testing’. Build up the courage to allow yourself to stutter, or just observe the next time it happens naturally. Do people laugh? Or are they kind?
You can also try something called ‘thought challenging’ to just pick apart the statement and see how accurate it’s likely to be.
Are your friends the sort of people to laugh at you?
Do you normally say stupid things?
Of course, this still takes a lot of time and practice. Actually, changing your beliefs is extremely hard. But using these tools it is possible to overcome your fear.
And one last tip: try adding in new beliefs. For example: what does it matter if people laugh at you anyway? Are you that wrapped up in your own ability to speak? If you’re training to get better, then let a few idiots laugh!
5 Way to Feel Calmer Instantly
Feeling panicked and overeworked? Stressed out all the time and struggling to focus? You just described pretty much the majority of the population.
Unfortunately, being stressed and burned-out is rapidly becoming the ‘new normal’ in a world where we have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. The good news is that with the ubiquity of this issue, there is also a large array of options when it comes to treating and solving it. Here are five ways you can feel better almost instantly.
You can go Marie Kondo on your home, or you can just do a little spring clean. Whichever you choose, you’ll find that having a more organized space can instantly help you to feel better about your current predicament.
If you only have five minutes, then just clear your immediate area. It’s often enough!
If you’re feeling very anxious, it might well be because you have allowed your blood sugar to drop. Something as simply as eating a meal can help to boost it back up and significantly improve your mood again. Our moods are tied extremely closely to what we eat, due to the link between our blood sugar and the release of cortisol and serotonin (the stress and feel good hormones respectively!).
Go for Walk
Walking helps to engage the ‘default mode network’ – the network of brain regions that spring into action whenever we’re not doing something highly active. The result is that your mind wanders and you feel calm and creative. Fresh air and scenic views will do the rest. A five minute spin around the block is all it takes!
Just five minutes of meditation can be more than enough to help boost your mood and help you to feel better. The aim of meditation is to calm your brain by focussing on something other than the negative thoughts you’re currently experiencing – even if that ‘something else’ happens to be nothing at all!
Just set a timer for five minutes, and make an effort to push all concerns out your brain. It’s that easy!
Another way that you can overcome stress and anxiety is to exercise. This stimulates the release of serotonin, not to mention being extremely good for distracting yourself!
Again, five minutes might well be enough. Just take a moment out and do 30 push ups. You’ll get the blood circulating and feel better in no time.
5 Reasons You Need to Stop Stressing NOW
If you’re currently feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and burned out, then you are certainly not alone. This is pretty much the status quo for countless millions of people around the globe.
But that doesn’t make it okay! In fact, it makes it even more important that we explore the reasons for this stress and work out ways to stop it.
Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t just ‘put up’ with serious stress.
It Makes You Unhappy
Not only does stress make you extremely unhappy in the moment – kind of by definition – but it can also lead to longer term issues with your mental health such as depression, anxiety, and mental fatigue.
When you feel low, anxious, and depressed, the world will feel as though it has no color. In order to really enjoy the things you’re doing – you need to allow yourself to.
It Damages Your Immune System
Stress forces the body to redirect blood and oxygen away from the organs and toward the muscles. Your body assumes that if you’re very stressed, you must be in danger. Hence you are more likely to need your biceps than your spleen!
Problem is, that this then means that your immune system stops working as well as it should – leaving you open to attacks from harmful bacteria and germs. The result is that you’ll get sick more often, the longer you are highly stressed.
In the long term, stress can actually be dangerous and even cause fatal illnesses.
It Prevents Nutrient Absorption
Likewise, stress causes blood to be directed away from your digestive system (hence the feeling of getting ‘butterflies’). That then means you absorb nutrients less effectively.
Over time, this can result in serious malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, resulting in a host of other issues.
It Causes You to Make Mistakes
When you are stressed, you will struggle to focus on the task in hand. Simply, whatever it is you’re worried about is going to seem more important.
The more you stress, the more mistakes you’re likely to make and this can lead to all kinds of complications and issues.
It Damages Relationships
Stress can make you short tempered, it can rob you of the energy you need for socializing, and it can result in you being less pleasant to be around. This has knock on effects and can place strain on your relationships.
If you don’t fix your stress for yourself, think about the impact it’s having on your children or other loved ones.
The Essential Elements of Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is an ancient practice that is ideally an effortless state of being. It involves attending to the present with non-judgmental acceptance. Practice your meditation using these five essential elements to help you to regulate your emotions better, bring about positive changes in your body and mind, and reach a state of relaxation. These essential elements will help to ensure that you get to realize the most significant impact from your meditation practice.
Engaging in meditation entails focusing on various things. However, it is your underlying motivation that will determine whether the actions you take will bring about positive or negative results. Taking the time to cultivate your desire that everyone deserves true happiness and allow those intention to guide your efforts. When you combine your meditation with deep motivation, even the simple act of breathing can bring powerful transformations.
When you begin your meditation practice, the major step that you have to take is letting go of any expectations about what should or should not happen. Experiences continue to change, so being hopeful of a specific expectation isn’t important. The most important thing that you need to do is be aware of the present moment.
The approach of meditation is how you get to view the process of meditation by viewing the contents of your mind and the specific meditation technique. When you have a clear view of both, the process of meditation will be effortless and smooth. The practice of meditation requires a certain level of commitment to be successful.
This involves making the actual move of doing meditation. Once you have chosen the meditation technique that best fits your needs, you need to begin your practice. This means sitting in a comfortable position and space and engaging in the process by observing your breath, body sensations, and other objects.
This entails incorporating the clarity and calm that you’ve developed during your meditation practice into other parts of your life. Integrating the process of meditation enables you to be in a meditative state wherever you are. This means that you can be in a meditative state when you are walking, sitting on the bus, or traveling in the car.
Mindfulness can be practiced during your meditation sessions, as well as in everyday situations. Engaging in regular meditation can help to improve your emotional, mental, and physical health.
The Basic Elements of Meditation
Life can get a little crazy. The hectic pace and demands that we often face on a daily basis tend to leave us feeling stressed, tired, overworked, and unhappy. Mindfulness meditation is an easy and effective way to relax your body, calm your mind, and become grounded, finding inner peace amidst the chaos. The basic elements that are involved in the practice of meditation include finding a quiet place to practice, having a poised posture that is comfortable, getting an object to focus on, and being able to develop a passive attitude without any attachments.
If you are just starting your meditation practice, it is important to start the process off right by finding a place that is comfortable. You need a space that will allow you to feel completely relaxed and free of distractions. Before you begin your practice, you need to turn things off, like your cell phone or any form of device that would be distracting.
Another basic element that you need to work on is maintaining a good body posture as you meditate. The posture that you take can impact how your practice goes. While the most natural posture you can take is the sitting position, you need to choose a pose that makes you feel comfortable and focused. Try to avoid using postures that can lead to falling asleep, like lying down or reclining.
When you begin a practice of meditation, you need to have an object that you can focus on. The object can either be a repeated mantra, focusing on the breathing process, bodily sensations, or any other object like the flame from a candle. Engaging in meditation that will enhance your level of concentration requires that you have an object to focus on.
The final basic element that you need for successful meditation practice is a positive attitude. When you have a positive attitude, you can look at the external distractions and your internal thoughts in a different way. Having a passive attitude allows you to watch the thoughts as they come and go in your mind, without having any attachments to them.
During the process of meditation, it is important to stay focused. If you notice that your mind has started wandering, bring your attention back to the object of focus. These basic elements of meditation can help you get started on the path to clarity and awareness.
The 5 Best Meditation Techniques for Beginners
This is one of the best techniques if you are just starting out in your meditation practice. It is an ancient and powerful technique that is extremely effective. By just paying attention to your breathing, you give your mind a point of focus in a relaxed way. To start this technique, get yourself in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and slowly begin to observe your breathing. Pay attention to how it feels as you breathe in and out. If you find your mind starting to wander, just bring your focus back to your breathing.
In mindfulness meditation you become fully present in the moment by paying attention to the sensations in your body. Start the practice by focusing on your breathing, then allow yourself to become aware of the other sensations running throughout your body. You don't want to analyze or judge the experience; you simply want to observe.
By repeating a sacred word, like "aum" or a meaningful phrase, you can bring your mind into a state of tranquility. With this technique, you can either repeat the mantra out loud or repeat it to yourself silently.
If you don’t think that you can sit still for an extended period, you can try the walking meditation technique. This can be done anywhere. You simply have to focus on your body as it moves. Focus on how your arms swing, how your legs are lifted and extended, and how your feet rise and touch back down on the ground. If your mind starts to wander, bring your focus back to the movement of your body.
Empty minded meditation, allows you to be aware without having to have a specific focus. To practice this technique, sit quietly in a comfortable place. Close your eyes and let your thoughts freely float in and out of your mind. Observe each thought as they enter your mind without any attachment or judgment.
These five meditation techniques are simple enough that you can start your practice today, or enhance an existing one.