By Jennifer McCartney
Did you know it takes less than 60 seconds to improve your mood, lower stress, reduce anxiety and increase work productivity?
Mark Waldman, bestselling author of “How God Changes Your Brain,” and one of the world’s leading experts on spirituality, consciousness and the brain, shared some of the most powerful brain-changing strategies — those he teaches to MBA students at Loyola Marymount University and to organizations around the world, during the “Living an Elevated Existence Mind, Body & Soul Summit Season 2,” to help listeners reduce stress, and live a better, more relaxed life.
- The three fastest ways to relax
- The most dangerous word in the world
- A single word that will turn on 1200 stress-reducing genes
- Why meditating LESS is better for your brain
“If you have too much stress, you are eight times more likely to come down with cardiovascular disease. Stress is the No. 1 enemy of the world health organization,” he told listeners. The key to reducing that stress — backed by enormous amounts of scientific research, is mindfulness. “This is the only strategy that is the most effective for dealing with virtually every kind of form of stress,” said Waldman, noting it can even act as a cancer preventive and help in the treatment of cancer. “That’s how powerful mindfulness is,” he said.
The problem is even though we know the benefits of mindfulness, “most of us in the business world will not spend even five minutes on meditation,” he said. Most of us just can’t find the time in our day to meditate regularly. But luckily, studies have shown that just 20 minutes of meditation are as effective as 40 minutes of meditation—and Waldman discovered that even just 12 minutes has the same positive results!
“We are talking about meditating for one minute every hour throughout the workday,” he said.
During that one minute, we can do simple mindfulness exercises to center and reconnect, including taking a full 60 seconds to slowly roll our neck in a circle. This alerts us to all the areas of tension we are carrying, and helps to dissolve them. Even yawning — starting with a forced yawn, and then yawning 10 times in a row — can bring us to a very relaxed state, Walman explained.
He also shared how to find one word that will turn on stress-reducing genes in our body — and this can be different for everyone. After getting into a more relaxed state, whether yawning, meditating or doing a mindfulness exercise — Waldman teaches many — we can ask ourselves: “What is your deepest value?” Write down the first word that comes to mind on a piece of paper. This one word that you discover after your minute of yawning, stretching, etc. can help you focus in your meditation, relax quickly and reduce stress.
“We now have evidence that the word you come up with…will turn on 1,200 stress reducing genes,” said Waldman
Additionally, 90 percent of Waldman’s students reported their stress levels went down and their work productivity went up after performing one of the mindfulness exercises Waldman shared on the call. These include:
1. Yawning: One of the quickest ways to relax is to yawn—so if you can “fake” 10 yawns you might feel awkward for the first few, but after that you’ll feel relaxed. With each yawn, notice how your awareness changes. “With each yawn that you take…you’ll notice that all of your worries and fears and concerns about yesterday or about tomorrow begin to fade away. As your brain and your mind relaxes, you end up coming into the present moment more and more. And it’s very pleasant. Yawning actually wakes you up,” said Waldman.
2. Stretch slowly: Take time to roll your neck, or your shoulders, and feel how your body reacts as you slowly bring the blood flow back to your body and release areas of tension. By engaging your muscles and focusing on how your body feels, you’ll be increasing awareness of your physical body and getting closer to that self-awareness.
3. Self-nurturing: Take a moment and be kind to yourself. “Touch your fingers and the palms of your hands, tickle and stroke them with your other fingers the way that gives you the most amount of pleasure,” advised Waldman. Your skin is part of the nervous system and all systems in your body are interconnected. So if you can do this one minute per day, or a few times per day, you can help make yourself feel better.
Waldman explained the science behind the yawn, stretch, self-nurture meditation: The more pleasure you feel, the more dopamine is released by your brain. It’s the feel good hormone—so if you want to raise your consciousness or increase your spiritual awareness, “take a few seconds to slowly stretch, take a few more seconds to yawn…and add self-touch. You will find you enter these blissful states.”
The application of this one-minute meditation isn’t just limited to a quick way to relax at your work desk. He advised it can be practiced before a big meeting, or before you have to give a speech or appear on stage, and it can also be used in interpersonal relationships—if you’re having relationship issues just take a moment to stretch and yawn and reground your awareness.
He also recommended downloading a mindfulness bell app, and setting it to ring every hour. The one-minute break you take is the perfect opportunity to do a mindfulness exercises.
“And once an hour, ask yourself this question: what is your deepest most innermost value,” he said.
For more from Mark and the other 25 experts in mind, body and spirit topics, sign up FREE to Season 2 of the Living an Elevated Existence Summit.