Health Tips: To Find New Energy

Experience the therapeutic effects of meditation.
By Dr. Matthew B. James, PhD

A new brain study by researchers at Yale University shows that people who meditate regularly are able to switch off parts of the brain associated with anxiety, schizophrenia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and other problems.

Meditation is part of many ancient traditions, and the benefits—a greater sense of peace, less anxiety, and clear thinking—are well known. While dramatic new findings such as the Yale study point to therapeutic benefits, meditation is also extremely useful in everyday life to boost energy.

Taking short breaks to meditate can help refresh, recharge, and “reboot” the brain. It’s a great way to shake off the “blahs.” Here are some ideas to consider:

Take an Air Break: Every 90 minutes take the time to step outside and take a real break for 10 or 15 minutes. If you can’t go outside because of the weather (it may not be as nice where you are this time of year as it is here in Hawaii!), try staring out the window or at a calming picture. Take long breaths through your nose and out your mouth with a gentle “ha” sound. It does not have to be perfectly timed—you can do it at any time—but there is a scientific reason for aiming for every 90 minutes.

Pay Attention to Your Body’s Cycles: Studies on sleep habits have found that seven to seven-and-a half hours is the best amount of sleep for an adult because it gives us five 90-minute cycles on average. During these cycles we drop into delta, the deepest sleep that invigorates and refreshes the body. When we are awake, our brains cycle from beta (activity) into alpha (relaxation) roughly every 90 minutes. In our fast-paced, go-go-go world, we often fight going into alpha by grabbing an energy drink, another cup of coffee, or a chocolate bar. Instead, pay attention to what your body is telling you. The goal is to switch your brain for a few minutes from the busy beta-wave state to an alphawave state, the state that precedes sleep. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to slow down and the brain to regenerate. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes of meditation to feel the benefits.

Hakalau is a Hawaiian meditation technique well suited for short breaks. Here’s how it works:

Ho’ohaka: Pick a spot on the wall to look at, preferably above eye level, so that your field of vision seems to bump up against your eyebrows, but not so high as to cut off the field of vision.

Ku’u: “To let go.” As you stare at this spot, just let your mind go loose, and focus all of your attention on the spot.

Lau: “To spread out.” Notice that within a matter of moments, your vision begins to spread out, and you see more in the peripheral than you do in the central

part of your vision.

Hakalau: Now, pay attention to the peripheral. In fact, pay more attention to the peripheral than to the central part of your vision.

Ho’okohi: Stay in this state for as long as you can. Notice how it feels.

These techniques can be very helpful for restoring your energy, but should not be used as a substitute for sleep. Remember that every so often you need to take a true day off. Pick a day and let people know you won’t be answering emails or phone calls. Spend that time doing what you love most. Then you can think about those moments the next time you take your 15- minute breaks at work. And, as the Yale study shows, the more regularly you meditate, the more benefits you will experience.