Every year, I find that I remember less and I’m doing more. Or at least it feels that way. My brain is constantly churning however instead of becoming more productive, it seems as if my thoughts become jumbled and mumbled. At this time of year, this feeling seems to amplify. And so I have to ask, do our brains really shrink when we grow older?
There are several theories for why our brains begin to shrink: age, lack of use and recent research is now indicating that stress may be a factor. According to Bruce McEwen, stress impacts our brain by changing the way that it functions. In animals, he has found that stress actually reduces mental flexibility. However, he has discovered that exercise and relaxation techniques can help reduce this impact.
So do you have to purchase a video game like Brain Age or play Sudoku puzzles to exercise your brain? Recent research is saying no.
Meditation and the Brain:
Researchers at John Moore’s University have discovered that meditation may help enhance our brain’s productivity. Dr. Malinowski discovered that “those that meditated were more accurate, had higher speeds and were less distracted in the cognitive tests performed”. These results suggest that meditation could assist us with such skills as driving, studying for exams and any other situation that requires focused concentration.
According to Psychology Today, meditators shift their brain waves to different areas of the cortex of the brain: moving them from the stress concentrated right frontal cortex to the left frontal cortex. As a direct result, the stress level decreases enhancing our ability to concentrate and relax.
Additional Health Benefits of Meditation:
- Deeper relaxation
- Decrease in blood pressure and muscle tension
- Increases serotonin production: the happy hormone
- Builds self confidence
- Increases creativity
Recent research definitely supports the importance of adding mediation into your daily routine. But how do you even begin? It may seem impossible to turn off all of the distractions and to just stop life for ten to fifteen minutes. I have to admit that meditation is one philosophy that I struggled with. However, my struggle was due to my perfectionist mentality.
I believed that meditation meant that I had to immediately silence my mind. I was trying to tune out all my thoughts and ideas, and so when they would pop up, as they inevitably would, I would become frustrated and stop meditating. I was not giving myself the time to learn the practice and to inevitably learn about myself.
However with time and patience, I have learned that true meditation is not about eliminating all thoughts, but recognizing that they will appear. In fact, when you begin to meditate, more thoughts will appear than normal. However, your objective is just to continually pay attention to your breathe. Be patient with yourself. It may take months or years for you to be able to focus a full fifteen minutes on your breath, but every second of pure focus counts. Celebrate the small successes: work on 5 seconds and slowly build up to 30.
Meditation takes practice, patience and a belief that you are capable of focusing your mind. Everyone is able to meditate, the key is to find your own uniqueness in this practice. Make your meditative practice your own: there is no perfect way to meditate, just as there isn’t a perfect person.
Embrace your imperfections and allow yourself the time to learn, breathe and relax. Give yourself your own Christmas present this year and take 10 minutes a day to meditate.