Stress is at the root of so many physical and mental health struggles Americans deal with; and comes at a major cost to not only ourselves, but our families, communities, jobs, the health care system, and beyond.
From the obvious of anxiety, depression, and PTSD – to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and dementia; the reduction or elimination of psychological stressors in our life can pay huge dividends both personally and financially.
I had the great pleasure recently of interviewing a well-known mindfulness expert who has been featured on Dr. Oz and other popular programs. Cory Muscara shared with me, and my listeners, a simple, yet highly effective technique to break the cycle of damaging stress responses in just a few short breaths.
How it’s done
- Hold your hand in front of you, palm side up, with elbow bent at 90°
- Take the index (pointer) finger of the opposite hand and place it in the palm facing you just in front of the wrist crease
- As you begin to inhale slowly and deeply, slide your finger along the course of your thumb to the tip
- Follow the course of the thumb with your finger back to the wrist as you slowly exhale
- Proceed as such for the pointer, middle, ring, and pinky fingers for a total of 5 breaths
- Initially perform with eyes open, then try with eyes closed
What it does
Pausing to breath like this, while bringing your attention to the tactile sensation of your finger sliding on your hand, creates a few moments of mindfulness that can interrupt most any stressor and get your brain back on track. This technique creates a parasympathetic (relaxation) response that will lower your heart rate, normalize breathing patterns, and simply make you feel better!
Practice often and you will find that even thinking about it will evoke the same responses.
To listen to the full podcast with Cory, please visit www.TrainYourBrainPodcast.com – Episode #339.
For other posts on stress and stress management, click here.
Whether they are running, cycling, swimming, auto racing, playing ball sports, or participating in weekend warrior contests; athletes of all shapes, sizes, and abilities have one thing in common. They all want to WIN!
The road to excellence in sports has changed quite a bit over the past several decades. The vehicles that bring athletes to their peak today look nothing like the horse and buggies that used to get them there. Sports performance is a high-tech, fast-paced, ultra-competitive industry where new advances in training the human body are popping up around every corner, in every discipline.
Today you may commonly choose to enhance your athletic performance through strength, agility, and endurance training specific to your sport, metabolic therapies, and possibly indulge in cross training and sports psychology therapy. But something is missing from this list. Something BIG. Something that could make all the difference in the world. Brain Training can help you achieve peak athletic performance. Training your brain to perform at a peak level is shaping up to be the biggest, and likely most important, aspect of training for ANY athlete. Brain Training can also amplify the effects of other training methods.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then you are ready to take the next step in your athletic training program:
1) Do I want to be faster?
Most sports require speed and endurance, and training your brain to be faster can be a game changer. Balance, coordination of movement, core stabilization (shunt muscles) and voluntary movement (spurt muscles), all controlled by your brain, are key factors in determining how fast your muscles will move your body. The more “tuned-up” these systems are, the faster you will be.
2) Do I want to increase my reaction time?
Advanced applications like the Interactive Metronome were designed to improve timing abilities in key areas of the frontal lobes of your brain that govern your ability to react appropriately to stimulation coming from your environment (i.e. sight, sound, etc.). Training your brain’s ability to react to various types of stimulation, and to block other types out, can significantly speed up your reaction time and overall accuracy of thought and movement.
3) Do I want to improve my focus?
Focus, Flow, Concentration, The Zone… whatever you prefer to call it… is one of the most complicated of all brain abilities, and very likely the most crucial brain function when it comes to success at sports. Many abilities come together to create focus, most notably vision combined with your brain’s attention network. These abilities CAN be trained to achieve higher levels of concentration and attention. This is what creates the effortless focus on the task at hand – The Zone – that most athletes crave.
4) Do I want to outsmart my competition?
Training various aspects of memory, essentially increasing your intelligence, will provide invaluable assistance when stacking up against your competition. Working and procedural memory can be improved through intensive Brain Training programs that combine “brain games” and metal tasks with physical exercises and various types of sensory input shown to improve cognitive abilities.
5) Do I want to decrease my risk of injury?
The brain controls your muscles as well as the tone of your tendons and ligaments. Muscles, tendons and ligaments that are controlled by a well-functioning brain are more resilient, faster to respond, and less likely to be injured. In turn, if something has been injured it tends to send “faulty” feedback to the brain, further increasing risk of injury. Training brain-body connections is critical for any high performance athlete that wants to stay off the sidelines.