Most of us consider the New Year a time to slough off the effects of all that extra sugar, bubbles and, well, festive season indulgence. And it is. But there’s an oft-forgotten organ that usually misses out on the clean sweep. Your brain.
Think about it. Your mind is buzzing almost every second you’re awake. Your mental commentary barely takes a break. Perhaps that’s one reason that Christmas and the New Year are such emotional occasions. We actually stop a little – allowing our more deeply-buried emotions and thoughts to rise to the surface.
Experts believe we should take this ‘stopping’ one step further by doing a mental detox. I suggest there’s three ways to tackle this.
Try one or all three. Either way, you’re certain to feel the results: clearer thinking, more calm, and a greater awareness of your mind and its healthfulness.
1. Do a meditation retreat or meditate regularly at home
As Dr Robert Puff writes in Psychology Today, “We need to give our mind[s] the opportunity to work through things, to heal, to get better… We need time to check in and find out what’s taking place within. That’s the beautiful thing about meditating regularly; it allows us to witness how we are.”
Dr Puff advises one regular morning meditation and evening meditation, each of about 30 mins duration.
One of the best things you can do for your brain, he says, is to book in for a five to seven-day meditation retreat once a year. These provide the long stretches of silence that allow you to process dormant thoughts and emerge with clearer, stronger patterns of thought.
As the Better Health Channel reports: “Scientific studies show that the regular practice of meditation can be a powerful healing tool. In fact, there is now clear evidence from studies of long-term meditators that meditation produces profound changes in the brain, and… recovery from some physical and emotional illnesses.”
New to mediataion? Try a guided mediatation to get you started.
2. Take a vow of healthy snacking
If your mental clarity often clouds over, commit to snacking on nutritious foods that helps you concentrate, rather than the quick-fix kind that ultimately perks you up quickly, and then just as quickly, sends your brain’s energy spiraling downward.
As nutritionist Catherine Saxelby (foodwatch.com.au) says: “Your brain needs water and a steady supply of glucose (blood sugar) for fuel. Take a healthy snack to work based on low GI carbs (such as yoghurt, baked beans, pears, apples, nuts) to keep your focus.”
One tip: before you leave home, fill your satchel or handbag with two healthy snacks – a great way to combat unhealthy snack temptation.
3. Find your exercise groove
You know this: exercise boosts your energy . But were you aware exercise aids your thinking? As Personal trainer David Atkinson told Web MD:
“Exercise increases energy levels and increases serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved mental clarity.”
This year, add exercise into your diary like you would a regular appointment. Find a style that’s enjoyable, not a chore, like cycling or rollerblading – a form that allows your mind to wander.
Then sit back, and watch your mind reap the benefits.