If the thought of sitting cross-legged makes you antsy, try these ways to calm down and clear your chattering mind.
The world’s third-ranking Buddhist, the 17th Karmapa Lama, Trinley Thaye Dorje, made shock waves when he revealed his secret for calming the unquiet mind—PlayStation video games. “I can release that [negative] energy in the context of the illusion of the game. … I don’t have to go and hit anyone over the head,” he said in an interview with The Times of India. Science confirms that. “Gaming can be a type of meditative practice,” psychologists Jayne Gackenbach and Johnathan Bown say, citing their findings: increased awareness, calm control, absorption, heart rate variability and lowered stress. No one is saying that reaching the highest level of Dead Space 2 is exactly Nirvana. But, as the Karmapa Lama says, it’s “an emotional therapy.”
The Bicycling-in-Traffic Meditation
We love how author/comic Tim Kreider says he is never anxious or afraid when riding his bike in Manhattan traffic. “You are forced, under pain of death, to quit all that silly ideation and pay attention. It’s meditation at gunpoint,” he writes. Any cardio workout involves the release of the hormone serotonin, which increases concentration and calms the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, says John Ratey, MD, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. But if you’re streaking through the streets on your racing red Bianchi, you also get an extra boost of hormons, a neurotransmitter that has the mind-sharpening, energizing effects of Ritalin and Adderall. You’re running a built-in survival program, Ratey says. You’re alert, in control and completely present—you’re not worrying about anything else for once. Remember to wear a helmet.