Mindfulness and Mediation Benefits

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You feed your mind by learning. You train your mind by meditating.

I have spent a lot of time in the past, meditating. It helped me learn to stay focused. It helped me to stay motivated. I “found myself” with regular meditation. It allowed me to become comfortable being inside my head, which is something many people have trouble with. It helped me become comfortable with doing… nothing. I didn’t need to bury my nose in my phone whenever I was doing house chores or just sitting around. I could just sit and enjoy my own company. Lots of ideas were coming to me. I didn’t feel so lonely.

But now, it’s been months since I’ve meditated, and I can tell the difference. I am scatter minded. I find it hard to concentrate on one thing. Heck, as I type this post, my attention is getting pulled in 1,000 directions. I keep looking up as the cars go by. I keep checking my phone. I keep thinking of everything else I have to do. I just can’t focus.

I have lost the ability to be creative. Well, not entirely, but the skill has dulled. I remember months ago I could come up with 10 ideas about anything right off the bat. I know this, because I was also practicing that, daily. As a matter of fact, I came up with the topic for this podcast way back then, and am still piggy backing on my meditation days to keep bringing content today. But today I am having trouble thinking of anything creative. I am creating mental blocks for myself, now. Instead of coming up with stuff, I’m just drawing blanks and asking myself, “What’s the point?” Which leads my head on a whole other trail far away from what I’m trying to accomplish and even causing some depression (podcast / blog).

I can’t resist my phone, anymore. This is a particularly disappointing loss. I’ve done a podcast in the past on how your phone ruins your life, and I highly recommend checking it out, it is appropriately titled, “Your cell phones are ruining your life.” (podcast / blog) Back then I had put forth a great deal of effort before that blog to not be so dependent on my phone. But I’m back to using it to try and wrangle my scatter brain. Which, by the way, is an awful tool to use. It is a scatter minded device. Checking all of your social media, emailing, texting, playing games, snapchatting, and of these things at once, no less.

You’d think we’d all be master multi-taskers by now with the way our phones have conditioned us, but the truth is, multi-tasking is a huge weakness. It’s better referred to as “Monkey Mind”, since the term “multi-tasking” was originally developed as an explanation for the ability of computers to seemingly do several tasks at once. However, even computers can’t do things simultaneously, they are just able to make the switch between processes so quick that it only seems simultaneous. However, the human brain cannot accomplish this task. Not even close. That’s why we have computers.

Now, obviously, the brain actually can do more than one thing at a time. You don’t have to think about breathing. Otherwise we would have all died driving to work this morning. And fortunately our legs don’t stop working when we are thinking about what’s for dinner tonight when we are walking down a flight of stairs. But the part of our brain used for thinking, the frontal lobe, it is inefficient at concentrating on more than one thing at a time.

Depending on the complexity of tasks you are juggling, you could increase the time it takes to complete something from 25% up to over 100%. When you are folding clothes and watching a movie, it might not take too much time to switch between those tasks, but if you are trying to write a blog, while watching the cars go by, texting and planning breakfast with a mentor later in the week, and answering phone calls for gym price inquiries… well… You can imagine how much I am getting done in a typical day.

Imagine if you were walking on a sidewalk and someone texted you and told you that they needed to know what medication to give a friend because they are having a seizure and foaming at the mouth. You would probably step to the side of the sidewalk or find a bench to sit down and think this through. What are they allergic to? What medications are the currently taking? What were they doing before the seizure? WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME?!

You’d have a lot of focus, so walking would actually become a challenge because of the amount of focus you have to put into this situation. Alternatively, if you were walking on a tight rope across the grand canyon, you probably wouldn’t even be able to spare the focus of answering the phone to begin with. To provide a more real example you’ve probably personally faced, do you remember the last time you were thinking while driving and suddenly you realize you were not paying attention to the last 5 miles you drove? Your brain began focusing on what you were thinking, so much so that you weren’t even seeing the road, but rather you were seeing what you were thinking about. Fortunately, nothing jumped out in front of you during that time.

Every time you get distracted from an important task, not only do you spend that time distracted, but you actually have to take time disengaging from the distraction and re-engaging to the important task. So, how many times are you allowing yourself to get distracted in a single day? Probably a lot. Just imagine the last time you had to study for something. I bet you were listening to music and texting and probably engaging in some social media activity. So how much time do you think you have wasted? Studies show about 28% of a work day is lost to multitasking distractions. That’s over 2 hours a day! 10 hours a week! 520 hours a year! What could you do with 520 hours? My guess is you could probably change your life.

Meditation teaches us to be mindful of these distractions. It doesn’t make us invulnerable to distractions, but it does help us to recognize distractions and allows us to let them go and maintain focus, rather than being dragged along on a wild goose chase. Andi Puddicombe, the creator of head space puts it like this: Imagine you are standing on the side of a busy highway. All the cars going by are different thoughts and distractions. Now imagine that you are trying to focus on each distraction as it drives past, so you leap out onto the road and try to stop some traffic, and catch other traffic. You can probably visualize the chaos that ensues when this occurs. What you do when you meditate is not try to stop the traffic, and not to chase after every drifting thought. You learn to be a bystander. You acknowledge all of these thoughts and then you let them go.

Still not convinced? Yeah, meditation sounds lame. Who wants to sit there and think about nothing for hours while standing in some weird ancient pose, burning incense and sweating for some reason? But the thing is, it doesn’t take nearly that long and only a fraction of that effort. 10 minutes a day. You have 10 minutes a day to spare. Heck, you’re probably wasting 2 hours a day, so what’s 10 minutes? Especially if it helps you get at least 1 of those hours back. That’s still 260 hours a year, and that is a lot of time.

And to my last couple of points. It wouldn’t be “Life AND Fitness” if I didn’t mention how this relates to fitness.

What if I told you that the best diet you could go on didn’t require any dieting at all? What if I told you that this 10 minutes a day could not only allow you to get all of that wasted time back, but it will also help you lose weight? I expect now I have caught some interest. Or maybe lost some readers because now you think I’m crazy, but hang with me.

Many people use food as a way to deal with stress, and stress can be caused by all of the constant distraction and consistent bombardment of our sensory systems. The impulse to eat when we aren’t hungry is also a car on the busy highway. The need to eat more even though we are full is a lack of self-control. So, then, by training our minds to not pursue all thoughts, distractions, impulses, and develop self-control doesn’t it seem like you could control your diet much better? That you could exterminate overeating by being in control of your focus? That you could resist that clever advertisement that is created to take advantage of your overactive sensory system? A disciplined mind can build the right habits, and the right habits build the right life.

It’s known as mindful eating, and to a lesser extent, mindful exercise. Let’s focus on the eating aspect first.

Mindful eating is paying attention when you eat. It’s not multitasking while you eat. You aren’t watching TV, or playing video games, scrolling through your social media, driving to work. It is just…. Eating. You could even go as far as noticing the textures and colors and blah blah hippie stuff, but in truth, just setting aside time to eat and only eat is innately going to cut back on the amount of calories you consume. You won’t accidentally overeat because you are actually paying attention to what you’re eating. I mean, how many times have you sat down on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream and before you knew it, you’d eaten the whole thing? My guess is you’ve done it more times than you’d like to admit. In my case, I did it while playing video games. My game controllers have been lathered in Cheeto-dust a time or two. Eating only when you’re hungry and stopping before you’re full is a better way to control eating than a diet.

Another reason why is that when you are on a diet, most of what you are thinking about is food. If you are trying a fasting program, the entire time you are not eating is time spent thinking about the meal you’re going to have, and that can cause you to overeat. If food is on your mind all of the time, then you are automatically more susceptible to binge eating and succumbing to food advertisements and the like. Start eating when you are hungry and stopping before you are full.

As for mindful exercise, this is one that is actually extremely challenging for some people, because it requires some level of body awareness. Being mindful of what the crap you are trying to accomplish in the gym is going to help you get a better workout. If you are trying a new exercise and you really focus on the muscles that are supposed to be contracted rather than just where the dumb bells are in space is a big deal. Everyone’s body is different, so just because the guy on youtube’s kettlebell swing is going over his head does not mean that your kettlebell swing should go over your head. You might not be as flexible and your body just isn’t prepared for that level of range of motion. I have mentioned before that you should have a goal when you go into the gym and by “mindfully exercising” you will be forced to have a goal, lest you just go move stuff around in the gym and then leave.

So, as you can see, you don’t have to be a hippie to start taking advantage of this whole mindful thing. You don’t have to be into yoga, and you don’t have to give up eating meat and start living in tree houses. You just have to live with a little more intent. Don’t just go through the motions, but live with a purpose. You’ll notice how many more goals you are able to crush, and that’s why you are on my website right? To crush goals?

So to throw back to my older stuff when I used to say, “Get out there and get after it!”

If you learned anything from this blog post, or think someone else could learn something, please share it in the place that you share things, please check me out on the social medias (instagram / facebook) and while you’re at it, give me some love on Sarahah, that stuff always helps boost my mood, and last but not least, thanks for reading!

This is D. Banks signing off now… see you later!

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