Everyone is forgetful at times. And you’ll likely find that you grow more and more forgetful after reaching a certain age.
For some, this is the first signal of approaching dementia, but for most of us it won’t snowball into a major problem. Still, nobody wants to lose even a little bit of their cognitive powers.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to help your brain stay sharp. With just a few minutes of mindful meditation every day, you can both strengthen your cognitive abilities and your general quality of life.
A wide range of benefits
Mindful meditation refers to various types of meditation — each employing slightly different techniques to help you find peace through a focus on the present moment.
But a moment of peace is just the first and most obvious result of this meditation. As recent research shows, regular practice can actually restructure your brain for the better.
In a recent study published in Reviews in the Neurosciences, researchers at Australia’s Western Sydney University analyzed 10 studies that explored the effects of different types of meditation on people whose cognitive impairment ranged from mild to Alzheimer’s disease.
Specifically, they assessed meditation as a behavioral intervention that aims to reduce stress, improve cognition, and quality of life.
Results showed “significant findings” in a broad range of measures that include:
- Increase in quality of life
- Increases in functional connectivity
- Reduction in cognitive decline
- Reduction in perceived stress
Three of the studies used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to gauge changes in the brain during meditation. In these trials, researchers recorded increases in brain volume and cerebral blood flow in cortex areas.
Change your gray matter
In Dr. Marc Micozzi’s Complete Alzheimer’s Cure Protocol, he spotlights a study that also tested mindfulness meditation using fMRI.
This Harvard Medical School study compared two groups of healthy adults who had never meditated. One group took an eight-week meditation course and practiced meditation at home for about a half-hour daily.
Before and after fMRI scans showed “significant structural results” in those who participated in meditation.
Dr. Micozzi describes the results: “First, they experienced major increases in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with compassion, introspection and self-awareness. This finding has many implications…
“You see, when you do something that increases gray matter ‘density,’ it basically means you increase the neurons, or cells, in your brain. So it makes me think of all the potential to use meditation as a non-drug treatment for disorders like dementia. It could help create more brain cells to replace those that may be lost.”
Dr. Micozzi also notes that meditation decreased gray matter density in the amygdala — an area of the brain that plays an important role in anxiety and stress. So it’s no surprise that those in the meditation group reported feeling less stressed. None of these changes occurred in the non-meditation group.
“As I often report,” Dr. Micozzi says, “the practice of meditation brings a sense of peacefulness and relaxation. People who practice it also experience cognitive benefits and psychological improvements that persist throughout the day.”
And he quotes one of the researchers who offers this important insight: “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
Sit, focus, breathe…
If you’ve never meditated, you’ll find it’s one of the easiest and most rewarding things you can do for your health. Plus, you can do it just about anywhere. Dr. Micozzi outlines a typical meditation approach:
- Sit comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on feeling your breath as it flows in and out of the nostrils.
- Non-judgmentally become aware of your thoughts, sensations and feelings, while maintaining focus on your breath in the nostrils.
- If you are distracted by thoughts, sensations or feelings, simply acknowledge and release the distraction, and bring attention back to the breath.
- Practice for 15 to 20 minutes, once a day.
Almost all mindfulness meditation methods use some variation on this form that emphasizes focusing on the moment by way of your breathing.
It’s quite remarkable that this simple practice alone can have such significant protective powers for your brain, especially in preventing memory loss and advancing dementia.
You can learn about many more strategies for building a better brain — including proper supplementation, diet, exercise, and lifestyle interventions — in Dr. Micozzi’s Complete Alzheimer’s Cure Protocol. Click here to read more about this online learning protocol or to enroll today.
Mindfulness and meditation: treating cognitive impairment and reducing stress in dementia.
Reviews in the Neurosciences
September 25, 2018