Need a little boost at the end of your working week?
I read a wonderful book last year by Rick Hanson called “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom.” It connects the dots between Buddhist techniques and why they work by explaining their effects on the brain and body.
Here are three ways, according to the book, Buddhist techniques can help us be more awake and alert. Experiment with them yourself and see if you find similar results:
- Sitting in an erect posture provides internal feedback to the reticular formation – a mesh-like network of nerves in the brain stem which is involved with wakefulness and consciousness – telling it that you need to stay vigilant and alert. This is a neurological reason behind a schoolteacher’s demands to “sit up straight, class!” as well as the classic meditation instruction to sit upright in a dignified way.
- “Brighten the mind” is a traditional phrase used to describe infusing your awareness with energy and clarity. In fact, to overcome drowsiness, it’s sometimes suggested that you literally visualize light. Neurologically, this “brightening” likely involves a surge of norephinephrine throughout the brain; that neurotransmitter – also triggered by the stress-response cascade – is a general orienting signal that fosters alertness.
- Oxygen is to the nervous system what gasoline is to your car. Although just 2 percent of body weight, your bran uses roughly 20 percent of your oxygen. By taking several deep breaths, you increase oxygen saturation in your blood and thus rev up your brain.