You can use the power of your brain to transport you into a place where you can relax, gain perspective, and re-energize yourself
Training your mind
I discuss the many benefits of meditation in my book, Dementia Action Plan: How to Give Your Brain a Fighting Chance. Today, I want to introduce this subject in our blog and briefly examine its impact on the brain and overall health.
Meditation is a way to take control of your thoughts. It allows you to take your mind off daily concerns, dismiss harmful thought patterns, and pay attention to what will help you. It is a systematic process of training your mind to become calmer as you learn to focus and redirect your thoughts.
Although many practice meditation from a spiritual perspective, doing so is not a requirement. Its effects are as beneficial from a secular perspective. In other words, you choose the focus of your mind and where to redirect your thoughts.
Meditation is part of my experience
Working nights in an emergency room, I face very critical cases in each shift. These cases include gunshot wounds, suicide attempts, or the sudden death of an infant. Such cases are physically, emotionally, and spiritually distressing. Sometimes, it becomes necessary for me to step out of the ER, look at the stars and moon, and get away from all that distress for a few minutes so I can find some peace.
I am pleased to introduce you to the benefits of meditation. I have found it incredibly valuable, and I think you will as well. Whatever method you use, meditation promises many benefits for your overall health and your brain.
Benefits of Meditation: Overall Health
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what in your life is causing stress. It seems to be more of a habit than anything else. Meditation is one of the best ways to relieve this generalized stress. Instead of kicking your immune system into high gear and triggering your flight-or-fight response, you can stay calm. And if your meditation is part of your religious observation, it can help remind you of a higher power’s goodness and ultimate control, a powerful boost to peace.
Improves your emotional health
Meditation can have a positive impact on your emotional health. It increases your self-awareness, imagination, and creativity, as well as your patience and tolerance with other people. It helps you focus on the present and thereby avoid anxiety. Meditation also improves your ability to concentrate and makes you less critical of yourself, happier and more optimistic, and less anxious.
Improves chronic health conditions
Meditation makes you calmer by helping you manage chronic health conditions. It helps you better manage symptoms of asthma, chronic pain, heart disease, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems, and tension headaches. It helps decrease inflammation, balance sugar levels, improve cardiovascular and GI function, speed up your metabolism, and may even address the underlying causes of cancer. Meditation can’t necessarily replace traditional medical treatment, however, so please consult your physician regarding any chronic health condition.
Benefits of Meditation: Brain Health
Increases your Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)
For your cognitive health, the most significant benefit of meditation is its ability to increase BDNF in the brain. To review, BDNF is a protein that helps neurons in your brain and central nervous system survive and thrive. In 2017, researchers at the University of Southern California measured the BDNF levels of 38 people before and after a three-month meditation retreat. The result: Those who meditated increased their BDNF levels by 280%. The theory is that meditation can cause anatomical improvements in the brain. For example, these improvements may include—
- The creation of new circles and connections between neurons and neurogenesis,
- The enhancement of memory, and
- a decrease in the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Enlarges the grey matter in your brain
The grey matter in your brain is made up mostly of cell bodies of nerve cells. When you start losing grey matter, your abilities and skills begin to decline. A study at Harvard involved 16 people who took an 8-week mindfulness course with guided meditations. Progressive MRI scans showed more significant concentrations of grey matter. Other studies have shown larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of grey matter. The hippocampus, remember, is the region of the brain involved in learning and memory.
Finding a place and time for your practice
Some environments at work or home are not conducive to consistent, quiet alone time. If you’re experiencing this same difficulty, you might consider participating in a meditation class. It’s possible that a group setting could improve your chances of experiencing the benefits of meditation and provide you with a supportive community.
Otherwise, you can always set your alarm a few minutes earlier to take advantage of a quieter time in the morning. A regular morning routine may help you develop a consistent habit and help you to begin each day with a renewed and refreshed mind. Likewise, some say that meditating before bedtime will help you have a more peaceful and restful sleep.