Meditate for Five Minutes

photo (1)What’s today’s suggestion?
When you get up this morning or tomorrow, or when you get home this afternoon, pick up your pillow and a timer, head to a quiet part of the house where you won’t be interrupted, and get comfortable. Cop a squat on your pillow, however you’re comfortable, relax your gaze, and just be quiet and still for five minutes. If you are distracted, or your mind is racing with the details of your day ahead, try focusing on your breath:  breathing in and out, feeling the sensation of the air in your nostrils. If you still can’t calm the thoughts in your head, try seeing them as thought bubbles, and then visualize imaginary fingers plucking them out of your thoughts, setting them aside for now, until everything is still, again. When your timer rings that the five minutes is up, take a moment to yourself, then move about your day.

Why try it?
For many of us, five minutes of uninterrupted “me” time in the average day may seem like an impossible feat to achieve. It’s not impossible. You can make five minutes for yourself, even if you choose to spend the time sitting still and quietly alone. If you are able to quiet your mind even once during your five minute session, then you just might be able to do so the next time you need to, to focus on work, or a conversation with a loved one, or a creative pursuit.

What’s the risk?
There’s no known risk of short periods of meditation, among healthy people, so meditate away!

What’s the benefit of making it a habit?
Over time, meditation has a host of benefits.

In 2011, researchers from the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.

The Power of Concentration, by Maria Konnikova in the New York Times

In that study, changes in the brain were observed even when meditation averaged only five to 16 minutes per day.  Regular meditation may affect parts of the brain that are important for learning and memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. Meditation may lower blood pressure, boost your immune system, and improve your ability to concentrate.

From a more behavioral perspective, I find that regular meditation (even if the periods are short) helps me be more present — to focus more on the here and now, and worry less about the future or past. Meditation helps me develop the ability to quiet the cacophony of thoughts in my head when I need to; fine tuning my ability to pay attention to what I want and need to pay attention to, and to let the rest go.

So this morning, start by meditating for five minutes, and then tell me about it!  Please chime in, in the comments!

Lemon Water

Start your day with lemon water

Lemon WaterWhat’s today’s suggestion?
When you get up this morning, instead of flipping the switch on your coffee pot, try squeezing a lemon into a quart-sized glass jar and filling it with water.  The temperature’s up to you — choose cold, warm or hot depending on what sounds best.  If you don’t finish it before you have to leave for your day, or, after a good few drinks you’ve got breakfast on your mind, screw on a lid and take it with you to finish later in the day.

Why try it?
While most of us have been told by our family doc and other sources of nutritional advice to aim for eight to ten glasses of water a day, the average American only actually consumes about four cups of plain water a day, according to data from data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, quoted here.  If nothing else, setting out to drink a quart-sized mason jar of water will give you a solid head start on healthy hydration for the day, which helps stave off fatigue and encourage good digestion (among other benefits).  Starting your morning with water may also help stave off cravings for other, less wholesome beverages.

Whatever health claims are associated with the lemon part of lemon water, here’s one that won’t be debunked anytime soon:  lemons are refreshing, and a squeeze of lemon juice in my morning water makes me more likely to finish it.  If lemons aren’t your thing, then try a squeeze of lime, orange, or a slice of cucumber.

What’s the risk?
Personally, I’m a plain old tap water girl, but some experts recommend only drinking purified water because of concerns about contaminants in drinking water.  Also, just because your belly is full of water, don’t skip breakfast.  And while drinking enough water is important, drinking too much too fast can be dangerous, so keep your intake reasonable.

What’s the benefit of making it a habit?
If you make starting your day with lemon water a habit, you’ll be treating yourself to nearly half of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C each day.  Although the research isn’t yet conclusive, many believe Vitamin C intake (especially from fresh food sources) enhances immune function, and (whether it’s Vitamin C, or fruit and vegetables that provide Vitamin C doing the good work) lower risk of cancer.  Research hasn’t verified claims with regard to alkaline diets so I won’t go there, but lemon water can be alkaline if that matters to you.

The most important reason to drink adequate amounts of water over time is to stave off dehydration.  According to a review titled Water, Hydration and Health by Dr. Barry M. Popkin et al:

  1. Being even a small amount dehydrated (2%, for example, can cause a decrease in physical performance of athletes;
  2. Mild dehydration can cause disruptions in mood and cognitive function and can contribute to poor digestion;
  3. Maintaining a healthy water intake is important for kidney function;

and the list goes on.

So this morning, start by enjoying a big glass of water, and then tell me about it!  Please chime in, in the comments!