By Jennifer R. Wolkin, PhD, author of Quick Calm
Here’s one of the most empowering things you will learn today: five minutes a day, every day, will do more for the brain and overall wellness than one hour once a week.
Why? Because the science of neuroplasticity has shown that tiny intervals of repetition are what rewires the brain towards wellness.
Our brain thrives on repetition and patterns. And we can break out of old habits by instilling new positive ones, little by little. In other words, we can short-circuit and coax our brain into developing healthy coping mechanisms to fall back on when confronted with daily stress and anxiety.
It’s similar to lifting weights. Hoisting five- to ten-pound weights for five minutes a day CAN change your physique and make you stronger. The changes won’t happen overnight, but in time, the results will become noticeable because our muscles, like our brain, respond to consistency, and that has a bigger payoff than infrequent, all-out sessions.
It’s like having a reminder on your phone popping up every day for five minutes versus one that pops up for one hour once a week—that’s just as irritating to the brain as it sounds. Over time, you are cued by the daily pop-up messages, because they are repeated.
Of course, it’s hard to measure the brain’s progress because you can’t actually see your neural circuitry forming new healthy connections in the same way you can see your muscles strengthening. Yet, over time, you will certainly feel it.
I lay out this concept, as well as thirty quick, neuroscience-backed brain-calming exercises, in my new book, Quick Calm. Five minutes a day seems low stakes, and it is. We all can find five minutes. Low stakes, but big payoffs.
Ok, there’s a catch! Did you really think there wasn’t a catch?
Just like consistency is crucial, so is compassion—the two “Cs” vital for practice. Mindfulness practice is called that for a reason, “practice makes practice,” not perfect. In these daily five minutes we also learn to cultivate self-love and forgiveness, instead of defaulting to berating ourselves and giving up.
There are truly no ends to the beginnings we can take. If we practice five days in a row and then we don’t for five days, just start again. No judgments! The practice that you DID do is never lost.
That’s the beauty of it all. You can train your brain to work more efficiently for you, and start again and again. It is all part of the journey toward finding long-term mental calm.
Jennifer R. Wolkin, PhD, is a licensed clinical health and neuropsychologist, writer, speaker, and mental health advocate. She founded a private practice with an appreciation that our mind, body, spirit, and brain are intimately intertwined and impacted by one another. She draws heavily on tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based techniques. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in creative writing with a poetry focus. You can find her on Instagram @drjenpsych_.