Quieting the Mind: Healing Anxiety, Fear & Overwhelm Using a New Concept of Time
Emily Chan, ND
Why are meditation, gratitude, and prayer so powerful that they can transcend anxiety and shift your emotions and mind? What is the formula based on the physics principle of relativity that explains this? And how can you use this law of nature to help your patients learn techniques that empower them to feel safe, peaceful, grounded, and fulfilled, be more efficient with their time, and have abundance in all aspects of their lives?
Moving to California last year was a great decision to make. But it was also one of the hardest years in my life because it felt like the external stability was pulled out from under me during this transition period and made me very uncomfortable. I realized that so much of what I had built that gave me security turned out to be external. In fact, last year was a time when I personally experienced more fear than I ever had before, and the more fear and anxiety I had, the more I felt my circumstances were limiting me, and the more I felt I was running out of time. Yet the difficulty I experienced last year was a great gift to me because I learned how to transcend it and turn it into a new strength, sense of peace, and inspiration to others.
The Race for Time
The gift was this observation: Have you noticed that you get more things done in a day when your mind is quiet, perhaps when you took the time to meditate at the beginning of that day? Conversely, have you noticed that on a day when your mind is racing, you feel rushed, or feel the gravity of circumstances, that you don’t accomplish much?
I came to an awareness that time does not operate in a linear fashion. The formula 8 hours minus 1 hour equals 7 hours is not the way it works. People in our modern society struggle so much with time pressure that it results in anxiety, fear, and loss of hope. The less time they think they have, the less they are willing to do activities that help them become more efficient and peaceful. It is as if they are trapped a spinning vortex. Their mindset is that if they take 1 hour to meditate, which slows down their brain waves, they will have 1 less hour in the day. And if they are already behind, they cannot afford this. But is this true?
Time is not linear,1 and if one can figure out a brilliant way to maximize it, there will be a decrease in the perception of time pressure, as well as increased ability to get more done in a set amount of time. Most people inherently know that time is not linear, and have had the fortunate experience of noticing that when their minds are not racing (slower velocity) and when they are not weighed down by worries (less gravity), they somehow get more done that day. However, under pressure, most of us resort back to, “I’m not going to take 1 hour to meditate, because that is 1 hour less work and I cannot afford it.” The goal of this article is to provide some cutting-edge information that can break down patient resistance to a physician’s suggestions for positive lifestyle and mindset improvements.
A New Perception Using Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
By understanding the knowledge and science underlying the relativity of time, we are more empowered to choose behaviors that are conducive to a more efficient flow of time and that help reduce stress and anxiety. This article will explain how calm and grounded individuals seem to have more time, or have the ability to do more in a certain amount of time, using Einstein’s theory of relativity. Practical applications will then be discussed to utilize these discoveries so that individuals can live with more peace, time-freedom, health, and abundance.
Einstein’s theory of relativity states that an increase in gravity or in velocity (speed) increases time dilation.2 Time dilation refers to the clock ticking more slowly, which means less time has elapsed compared to a clock that is moving faster. If less time elapses, then there is a perception that less gets done.1 It is my hypothesis, using Einstein’s theory of relativity, that doing activities that reduce weightiness (gravity) such as worry, stress, overwhelm, and depression will support that individual in having more time. It is also my hypothesis that doing activities such as meditation that slow down the brain (reduction in velocity) also supports an individual in having more time. This hypothesis may seem intuitive or perhaps counter-intuitive at first, depending on how you understand what time dilation, clock running slowly, or time elapsed means. Everything is relative, eg, timeA compared with timeB, or person A compared with person B. With more information below, it will become clear.
Effects of Gravitational Pull
The movie Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan and released last year, tells a story of a space scientist (Matthew McConaughey) who leaves his young daughter to go on a mission to explore other planets that may be viable for human life, in order to save the human species.3 His daughter was very upset when he left, and did not forgive him for leaving her. When he left on his mission to space, his daughter was 10 years old. When he returned to earth, after his entire length of travel, his daughter was an old grandmother. The astronaut, however, did not appear to age when he returned to earth following a successful mission. During the mission, he explored 3 planets, 1 of which is of particular interest to our discussion today. The fictional Millers Planet had such a large gravitational pull that it created severe gravitational time dilation. One hour on that planet was equivalent to 7 years on earth.3 That was not one of the planets that was viable for humans.
The astronaut didn’t do much on Millers Planet; he just landed there, collected a specimen, and left in 1 hour. But that hour cost 7 earth years. This phenomenon, where the clocks on earth do not match up with the clock on a planet with such a strong gravitational pull compared to earth, is an example of Einstein’s theory of relativity.1 When there is so much gravity, there isn’t much time. The astronaut didn’t do much in 1 hour, whereas people on earth would have done much more in their 7 years. Although the story in this movie is fictional, with the help of the executive producer, renowned physicist Kip Thorne, the physics concepts in this movie are remarkably accurate scientifically.3
There are 2 ways to produce less time (increased time dilation – imagine being on Millers Planet). The first is increased gravitational pull. The second is increased velocity (speed).1 This is generally not good if you want more time efficiency, ie, getting more tasks done in the same period of time, or wanting to make more money working the same number of hours, etc. It’s nothing magical, but rather about getting your mind and body into a state in which you process ideas faster, or you think about a simpler idea to get the same result, rather than complicating things. Humans are great at creating their own obstacles, especially when they are stressed and ungrounded. This prevents them from getting what they want but unfortunately moves them closer to what they fear.
Effects of Velocity
We just talked about gravity. Let’s visit velocity… Remember how having a racing mind filled with stress and worry makes your day seem to go by less efficiently. I have personally been able to complete in 4 hours what usually takes me 2 days or more, as long as I was in a state where my mind was calm. Meditation is one way to slow down brain waves; another way is to be in a state of gratitude. See Table 1 for descriptions of brain wave activity in different states of being.
Table 1. Frequencies of Brain Waves4
|Gamma||30-100 Hz||State associated with learning and mental activity. When hyperactive, can lead to anxiety.|
|Beta||13-30 Hz||State in which we function for most of the day. Learning that takes place at this frequency is preferable.|
|Alpha||9-13 Hz||State in which we feel blissed out, perhaps after a sexual encounter, yoga, or taking a peaceful walk. The 2 hemispheres of the brain are more integrated in this state.|
|Theta||4-8 Hz||State in which verbal/thinking mind transitions to meditative/visual mind. Intuition, visualization, and awareness are heightened in this state. Complex problems may be solved in the subconscious.|
|Delta||1-3 Hz||State in which sleep and dreaming take place for most people. However, seasoned meditators can remain alert in this state.|
Notice that the slower the brain waves, the more relaxed a person’s state. In the theta state, which is pretty slow (1 up from sleep), the brain is much better at being intuitive and subconsciously solving complex issues. We may call this the state of “flow” where it takes less time to solve a problem, probably because the brain is in a state where it can come up with a brilliant and simple solution rather than overthinking and getting stuck.
Going back to the math, you may notice that brain waves are measured in Hertz (Hz), which describes a frequency (cycles per second). This is a different measurement than velocity (speed), so may not have relevance in Einstein’s theory of relativity which states that time dilation increases with gravity and velocity.1
However, let’s look at the definition of velocity: Velocity = Wavelength x Frequency (V= l x f)
According to this equation, the greater the frequency, the faster the velocity; therefore, brain-wave frequency would be a relevant example. If you are feeling anxious, your brain is likely in the gamma state (high brain-wave frequency), which results in less time-efficiency.3 See Table 2 for a summary of what we’ve discussed so far.
Table 2. Effects of Variable Gravity & Velocity
|Time||Earth and Space||Efficiency of Time||Metaphor||Conclusion|
|More Gravity and Velocity|
|Example: Millers Planet: Registers 1 hour||Accomplished less (eg, only landed on Millers Planet,collected specimen, and left)|
|Stress and worry make you less time-efficient; you have less time to utilize|
|Less Gravity and Velocity|
|Example: EarthRegisters 7 years||Accomplished more (eg, had 7 years to do things on earth, vs 1 hour on Millers Planet with high gravitational pull|
|Meditation and prayer make you more efficient; you accomplish more in less time|
So, what are some practical lifestyle habits patients can utilize to support more efficient usage of time, as well as the perception of abundance of time? Since anxiety, fear, and overwhelm are often related to time pressure and fear of lost chances, it is empowering to shift one’s mindset about his or her belief about time. Also, a proper understanding of the principles of relativity can help transcend the perception that there is not enough time. The goal is to enjoy living in flow and maximal productivity while remaining calm, grounded, and clear-minded. Below are some techniques that can bring the mind into a state of less gravity and less velocity.
We have not been taught traditionally how to think, or how NOT to think, and many people are unaware of the silent thoughts that go through their minds. These private thoughts hold the key to outcomes in our lives:
Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.
Meditation can be practiced to clear the mind of recurring thoughts by focusing on the breath. Meditation can also be practiced to reduce fearful or negative thoughts, by repeating empowering truths or affirmations.
Meditation slows down brain waves (Table 2). In a meditative state, brain waves can decrease from 100 Hz (stressful state) down to 4-8 Hz (meditative state). As we reduce the velocity of our electrical brain, according to relativity there is an increase in perception of available time. A study using EEG measurements showed that short-term meditation improved plasticity of brain complex networks.5Meditation also improves the depth of information processing,6 which may explain why an individual may come up with smarter ideas in less time when the mind is quiet.
Prayer is a solemn request for help or expression of thanks to God.7 I personally view prayer as handing over any burden or difficulty to God and being grateful that it already has started to be taken care of. A study showed significant improvements (p <0.01) in depression and anxiety in the group that participated in one-on-one 1-hour prayer sessions once weekly for 6 weeks, compared to the group that did not.8
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.
– The Holy Bible (New King James version)9
Why is it that when one prays, anxiety and depression decrease? Because when one lets go of holding onto worries or baggage and hands them over to a higher power, it is metaphorically as if there is less gravity. Less gravity, according to Einstein’s principle of relativity, also correlates to a perception of more available time,1 as well as less time-stress.
There are, however, conflicting studies about the effectiveness of prayer or intercessory prayer in regard to decreased complications from surgery, clinical outcomes, etc.10 It is my opinion that one reason for these inconsistencies may be due to the way prayer is used. In our culture, we often pray like we are talking to a magic genie, with minimal confidence that our prayers will be answered. In contrast, when we pray with gratefulness, claiming the truths of blessing and healing, and trusting that what we ask for is in line with our best higher purpose, the effectiveness of this type of prayer exponentially increases. We’ve discussed some scientific explanations and studies; however, prayer transcends science in ways that we do not understand, and can heal in a dimension that we may not yet grasp with our minds.
Prayer is the conveyer system that transports things from one dimension to another.
– Matthesius J11
In the Zone
Have you noticed that people who complain and worry seem to have unfavorable circumstances, often a mixture of health problems, relationship problems, money problems, and not enough time or resources? Unfortunately, the more they perceive that their life is not together, the worse it gets. The state of one’s mind is extremely crucial to getting a specific outcome.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast.
– The Holy Bible (New King James version)9
Conversely, have you noticed how people who are filled with unconditional love and “in the zone” appear to have one good thing after another going for them? It seems like they are lucky. Of course, everyone faces challenges in life, but what if the challenges do not take us down and instead become a vehicle for growth?
What is the secret of happy-go-lucky people? They seem to be happier, healthier, and more abundant. Perhaps they either innately behave in a way that goes with the flow of the laws of the universe, or they take the time to learn. The same resources are available to everyone on earth; it is up to us to utilize them. Because it often seems paradoxical to do what it takes to live a life in the zone, our minds will often have us do the opposite of what is beneficial, especially when we feel overwhelmed and stressed.
It is my hope that this article inspires you and your patients to take the time to get in the zone, because time transcends the linear definition of time, allowing for a perception of more time. It’s worth doing what it takes to decrease the metaphoric gravities and velocities of life so that we make available to our very own perception and reality more abundance of time and resources. Other activities that decrease the weight, or slow down your brain, in addition to meditation and prayer, include: exercise, dancing, expressing your creativity, giving, being in touch with nature, and listening to or playing music. I recommend taking the time to get in the zone in the morning, and watch how much more time you seem to have that day. Happy time-warping!
Emily Chan, ND, received her doctorate of naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, WA, in 2008, and has interned at the Functional Medicine Research Center and the Emergency Department at Evergreen Hospital. She currently practices in San Diego, CA, and consults around the world. She specializes in chronic medical conditions that have an emotional component to them, and addresses the immune/nervous system and physiological relationships in treating her patients. She frequently works with mood and behavioral issues, endocrine disorders, autoimmune disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Dr Chan is published in medical journals and magazines, speaks at medical conferences, and has appeared on television. She has served children in China with birth defects on a short-term mission, and frequently gives lectures to the public on natural health. She loves media and has her own YouTube channel: Dr Emily Chan ND. Website: http://www.modernintegrativemedicine.com
- Everett A, Roman T. Time Travel and Warp Drives: A Scientific Guide to Shortcuts through Time and Space. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press; 2012.
- Seifer M. Transcending the Speed of Light: Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and the Fifth Dimension. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions; 2008.
- Thorne K. The Science of Interstellar. New York, NY: WW. Norton & Co; 2014.
- Mager D. Brain Wave Entrainment. Updated January 23, 2014. Huffington Post Web site. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-mager/brain-wave-entrainment_b_4142898.html. Accessed February 15, 2015.
- Xue S, Tang Y, Tang R, Posner MI. Short-term meditation induces changes in brain resting EEG theta networks. Brain Cogn. 2014;87:1-6.
- Van Leeuwen S, Singer W, Melloni L. Meditation increases the depth of information processing and improves the allocation of attention in space. Front Hum Neurosci. 2012;6:133.
- Augarde AJ. The Oxford Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; 1981.
- Boelens PA, Reeves RR, Replogle WH, Koenig HG. (2009). A randomized trial of the effect of prayer on depression and anxiety. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2009;39(4):377-392.
- Nelson Bibles, ed. The Holy Bible:New King James Version (NKJV). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006.
- Andrade C, Radhakrishnan R. Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials. Indian J Psychiatry. 2009; 51(4):247-253.
- Matthesius J. PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens: Divine Principles for Praying with Confidence, Discerning God’s Will, and Blessing Others. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2014.