Day Six: Busting the Myth of Multi-tasking
We can do two things at the same time. For example, we can watch TV while we’re cooking dinner. But it is not possible to concentrate on two tasks at once. Multi-tasking is not only a myth, it is also not great for our mindset.
Throughout the course, I’ve been sharing prompts and thoughts on mindfulness, but I think this may be a good place to expand on it a bit. Because the very opposite of multi-tasking is doing things mindfully and with purpose.
As a society, we glorify busy-ness, overwork and getting by on 4 hours of sleep. In many ways, we have mistaken all this activity to be something meaningful, and by extension, attributing importance to the person doing it.
But I think we have been hoodwinked into thinking that being busy gives meaning to our lives, and I believe that “ideal” is not the way to nurture a positive mindset or a healthy brain.
Rather, to nurture our own minds and our health, might it not be better to cut out the busy-ness and say no to things that distract us?
See how you feel, how much more open your mind can be, if you say no to the things that divert you from that which is truly important to you. Consider what is that one priority that anchors your life or work each day, and cut out the distractions from that.
Your Health Tip for the Day: Magnesium for your Mind
When we’re caring for our minds, we must also consider what is going into our bodies, because bottom line – we are what we eat.
We always hear about getting enough calcium and protein, but the nutrient that is much harder to get, and that most North Americans are deficient in, is magnesium.
For a healthy brain, and a more positive mindset, it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium. It has many protective properties, especially with respect to stress reduction. One reason is that it helps stabilize the stress hormone, cortisol.
It also improves GABA levels. GABA is an amino acid that blocks certain brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system. That produces a calming effect which can help with feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.
Magnesium plays a part in more than 300 of the body’s biochemical reactions, but thanks to our depleted soil, modern farming techniques, and less-than-ideal diets, most people do not get enough to protect their brains. And as we age it is more difficult to maintain magnesium levels in the cells, so magnesium deficiency is a big problem.
Magnesium also improves brain plasticity, something I discuss in great detail in Don’t Let the Memories Fade. Magnesium helps nourish and energize brain cells, which can result in less memory loss and other forms of age-related cognitive decline which is also linked to a negative mindset.
A low magnesium level is also connected to vitamin D3 deficiency. Since vitamin D3 is essential for your health generally and especially important for your brain, this is another reason to be sure you’re getting enough magnesium.
As is the case with most nutrients, the RDA is incredibly low, only 420 mg per day for men and 320 mg per day for women, but most North Americans don’t even get that much. The average intake of magnesium ranges between 143 and 266 mg per day.
I always recommend getting your vitamin and mineral levels checked and work with a nutritionist or integrative doctor to get them to healthy levels. Just like B12, magnesium deficiencies can wreak havoc on the brain.
The best way to get magnesium is from your food, of course: spinach, Swiss chard, and nuts like Brazil nuts, almonds, and cashews. Squash and pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate are also great sources, but pure cacao is healthier than chocolate. Add it to a smoothie or your coffee. Eating these foods also provides other much-needed minerals and vitamins.
So – what could be better than dark-chocolate covered almonds????
Your Mindfulness Note for the Day
While you’re considering what is most important to you, and how you can eliminate the things that do not contribute to your well-being and peace of mind, this might be a good time to focus on the attribute of Trust.
“Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings is an integral part of meditation training. It is far better to trust in your intuition and your own authority, even if you make some “mistakes” along the way, than always to look outside of yourself for guidance. If at any time something doesn’t feel right to you, why not honor your feelings? Why should you discount them or write them off as invalid because some authority or some group of people think or say differently? This attitude of trusting yourself and your own basic wisdom and goodness is very important in all aspects of the meditation practice.”
We should trust in the ability of our mind to heal itself once we take the opportunity to do so. Once we get out of the way, not trying to intervene, the mind can indeed become healthy again.