The Mindful Brain: Daily Mindfulness Exercises

Jan 20, 2024 | Mindfulness

Finding moments of calm and clarity is becoming more and more difficult in our current culture.

Daily mindfulness exercises can be a powerful antidote.

Daily mindfulness exercises can show our brains how to slow down and focus on the present moment. As a result, it is a powerful tool for emotional balance and holistic well-being. Mindfulness helps us grow a sense of presence and tranquility during the constant commotion of life.

In our first blog piece, we discussed why we view the fusion of mindfulness and psychedelic cannabis as a uniquely powerful healing tool, and how mindfulness is at the core of all of our cannabis circles, workshops, and retreats.

At Holistic TherapeutiX, we also believe that mindfulness is not confined to a psychedelic journey; We believe it really makes a difference in the simple moments of our daily lives.

In this latest piece, we will explore how to integrate mindfulness into your daily life. Lastly, we will also dive into the amazing physical changes that mindfulness has on our brain.

The Art of Mindful Living

Daily Mindfulness Exercise

What is the essence of mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the current moment, acknowledging and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. Daily mindfulness exercises are about developing a greater awareness of your surroundings, emotions, and internal experiences.

While a psychedelic cannabis journey can enhance your ability to experience mindfulness in an altered state of consciousness, what about after the ceremony? Is mindfulness something to be forgotten as a pleasant but distant memory?

We do not believe so.

There are a number of ways in which you can begin to practice mindfulness every day. With some time and consistency, this elevated awareness in daily life will lead to more emotional balance and a higher quality of life.

Here are some simple yet powerful daily mindfulness exercises:

1. Morning Meditation
What’s the first thing we usually do when we first wake up? If you’re like me, your instinct is to reach straight for your cell phone and check your texts or Instagram or LinkedIn! While this is natural, a more mindful option may be to find a comfortable seated position, and take a few minutes (or more) to focus on your breath. Notice the sensation of each inhale and exhale. Check-in with yourself and see how you arrived for the day ahead. With compassion, take note of any heavy emotions or sensations you may be feeling. This short meditation can ground you right away and set the tone to accept any and all emotions or experiences that may come in the day ahead. 

2. Yoga (Optional: Enhance with Cannabis)
Yoga is an excellent choice for a mindfulness practice. It combines both physical and mental aspects of well-being. Yoga helps grow an increased awareness of the body and mind through intentional breath control, mindful movement, and a focus on the present moment. The synergy of postures, breathwork, and meditation makes it quite easy for us to connect to the present.

3. Guided Body Scans (Optional: Enhance with Cannabis)
Guided body scans involve directing our attention to different parts of the body. By mindfully observing sensations, tensions, and feelings in each area, we naturally become more in tune with our bodily experiences in the present moment. This encourages a non-judgmental attitude toward our physical sensations, and promotes a sense of mindfulness and connection with our body.

4. Morning, Bedtime Gratitude
Begin or end your day with a short gratitude exercise. Keep a gratitude journal, and reflect on three things from the day before, or the day that just happened, that you’re thankful for. This will help set a positive tone for the day, or for the next day. This gratitude exercise can help you connect with the part of yourself that can find some joy in the present moment, despite all the troubles going on around us.

5. Incorporating Mindful Breaks
In the chaos of a busy workday, it can be easy to go from one task or meeting to the next with no breaks. Find 5-10 minutes in your schedule, block those off, and check in with yourself. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and center your attention on the present moment. These mini check-in sessions can refresh your mind and improve overall focus and productivity.

6. Mindful Walking
Whether it’s a short stroll in nature or a commute to the office, practice walking mindfully. Feel the ground beneath your feet, notice the movement of your body, and be present in each step. Notice all of the smells, noises, and sights around you. Is it warm out? Cold? Is it a sunny day? Perhaps there is a musician busking nearby, and you notice how pleasant her music is. You’ll be surprised to find how much beauty there is around us every day.

7. Mindful Listening
When in conversation with someone, practice active listening. Do your best to give your full focus to the speaker, and what she is discussing without trying to think of your response. (I am guilty of this too). Be engaged in the moment, and in the conversation.

8. Mindful Appreciation
Notice the beauty around you, wherever you are. Whether it’s nature, art, a restaurant with unique architecture, or a simple object on a coworker’s desk, take a moment to appreciate its existence. Eventually, we can train our brains to do this naturally.

9. Mindful Stretching
If you have a stretching routine, bring mindfulness along with you. Pay attention to the sensations in your muscles and be fully present in each movement. Perhaps you notice some areas that need some extra time or attention. Perhaps you notice an area has been extremely tight all day. This is a great way to slow down, and take stock of your body.

While these practices may seem simple and mundane, they can have extraordinary effects on our brains.

In the next section of this piece, we will discuss just exactly what some of those effects are.

The Impact of Mindfulness on the Brain

You might begin to notice the effects of daily mindfulness exercises through increased emotional balance. The effects can also be observed in neurochemical changes in our brains.

In this section, we will be discussing mindfulness’s remarkable effects on neuroplasticity, stress reduction, and focus.

Daily Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity

A Mindful Brain

The brain’s ability to adapt, reorganize, and rewire itself is known as neuroplasticity.

In layman’s terms, this means how effective your brain is at learning something new. This could be a new language, learning a new musical instrument, or learning an entirely new behavior pattern.

While neuroplasticity becomes harder to access after our teen years, psychedelics, and mindfulness can help re-open this unique ability of our brains.

Daily mindfulness exercises can lead to a number of positive changes in brain structure and function. Regular mindfulness has been shown to increase gray matter density, particularly in brain areas associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.

Meditation, a core mindfulness practice, has been found to have direct effects on neuroplasticity. This particular study found that it “reduced age-related brain degeneration”, and led to the “improvement of (several) cognitive functions”.

Stress Reduction and Cortisol Regulation

Daily mindfulness is one of the best defenses we have against stress.

Stress is something we all experience. Data collected by the APA (American Psychological Association) in 2022 showed that “more than three-quarters of adults reported psychical symptoms of stress” (i.e. headache, fatigue, sleep problems), and nearly half of those surveyed reported that “stress has negatively affected their behavior”.

Chronic stress can also have detrimental effects on the brain.

However, mindfulness practices can help you develop stress resilience. Mindfulness has been shown to help regulate cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. This particular study found that “the more a person reported directing their cognitive resources to immediate sensory experience and the task at hand, the lower their resting cortisol.”

Mindfulness also has notable effects on the amygdala. The amygdala is your brain’s fear response center and is at the core of many anxiety and fear-based disorders. An overactive amygdala can cause chronically high cortisol levels.

With mindfulness however, a study done by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that mindfulness training “promotes functional neuroplastic changes, suggesting an amygdala pathway for stress reduction effects.”

There is clearly something powerful about training your brain to stay in the present. With compassionate and curious awareness, your brains system will not be activating due to painful memories from the past, or from ruminating about possible future anxieties.

Improved Focus and Attention

Another skill we all would like to improve on is our ability to focus. With modern advances in technology, (looking at you social media), our attention spans are shrinking.

Can daily mindfulness exercises help out?

In this article, researchers found that after regular mindfulness practices, “your ability to sustain your attention improves, selective attention is improved, and executive control over what you are paying attention to improves.”

Part of the reason mindfulness improves attention is because the act of mindfulness is itself an exercise of attention. Mindfulness requires a strong focus on the present moment, and not giving into intrusive thoughts. The more we practice this, the easier it becomes.

Another reason mindfulness improves attention is due to its effects on the brain’s prefrontal cortex. A study done in 2022 by the International Journal of Yoga found that mindfulness practices “improve prefrontal cortex functions like cognition, self-awareness, attention, memory, and reduce psychological symptoms.”

Lastly, mindfulness has also been found to reduce activity in the Default Mode Network.

The DMN is typically responsible for self-referential thoughts and mind wandering. According to this particular study, mindfulness meditation was “associated with reduced activations in the DMN… Regions of the DMN showing a group by task interaction include the posterior cingulate/ precuneus and anterior cingulate cortex.”

With the prefrontal cortex having such significance in the effectiveness of our brains, and the DMN’s prevalence in mind wandering, these mindfulness-induced improvements can have long-lasting ripple effects in our lives.

Tips for Daily Mindfulness Integration

  • Start Small and Be Consistent
    Begin with short mindfulness sessions and gradually increase the duration. Consistency is key to reaping the benefits. Whether it’s a few minutes each morning, or scheduled breaks throughout the day, establish a routine that works for you.

  • Make it a Habit
    Integrating mindfulness into daily life requires commitment. Transforming it into a habit involves repetition and positive reinforcement. Consider setting reminders, creating a dedicated space for practice, or bringing it into existing routines.

  • Utilize Mindfulness Apps
    There are numerous mindfulness apps designed to support your journey. Apps like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer offer guided meditations, mindful exercises, and tracking features to help you stay consistent.

  • Join Mindfulness Communities
    Engage with like-minded people. Joining mindfulness communities, whether in-person or online, provides a supportive environment for sharing experiences, gaining insights, and staying on track.

  • Be Patient with Yourself
    Mindfulness is a skill that develops over time. Be patient with yourself and embrace the process. There will be moments of distraction or difficulty, and that’s perfectly normal. The key is always to gently guide your focus back to the present.

A Mindful Revolution

A Psychedelic-Themed Hike

As we discussed today, the integration of mindfulness into daily life is not just a practice but a holistic journey for your brain and overall well-being. Daily mindfulness exercise can become your pillar of tranquility.

By bringing mindfulness into various aspects of your day, you can train your brain to have a increased sense of awareness and presence. Doing so can help you begin to feel less anxious about previous traumas or future anxieties. Although true trauma healing requires more than just mindfulness, mindfulness can begin the process of contacting these traumas in a way that does not overwhelm us.

As the neuroscience behind mindfulness continues to unfold, we also covered the remarkable impact it has on the brain’s structure and function. Mindfulness can enhance neuroplasticity, stress reduction, improve cognitive abilities, and improve focus. The benefits are profound, tangible, and substantial.

While the discussed daily mindfulness exercises may seem simple, their massive effects on the brain show the potential for positive change in our lives. From neurochemical shifts to enhanced emotional balance, mindfulness can be a spark for a shift in our approach to well-being.

Remember to start small, be consistent, and be patient with yourself.

Every practice or exercise you choose contributes to a gradual rewiring of the brain. A rewiring towards a newfound sense of balance, clarity, compassion, and resilience.

At Holistic TherapeutiX, we invite you to explore the depths of your mind and unlock the transformative power of mindfulness for a balanced, harmonious life.

We also integrate mindfulness into various holistic practices. From conscious cannabis circles to breathwork sessions and holistic healing retreats, each experience aims to engage the brain in a mindful journey, fostering inner peace and holistic well-being.

We hope you join us in living a mindfulness-based life.

Julian Bost

Julian Bost is a Development Specialist and Psychedelic Sitter for Kinesthesia Leadership and Holistic Therapeutix, a Psychedelic Freelance Writer, a Psychedelic IFS-Therapist in training, and a volunteer for the Nowak Society of the greater Denver area. Julian’s experience includes stints with Psychedelics Today, REMAP Therapeutics, and the Integrated Research Literacy Group. Although his background was originally in economics, he has spent the last several years focused on psychedelics, chronic pain, and mental health. He has studied this intersection through the lens of cognitive psychology, human anatomy, and neuroscience. He also has over 15 years of experience resolving his own pain and injury as a lifelong athlete.

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