The brain starts to weaken, its volume and weight begins to shrink, when people hit their mid-to-late 20s. When this happens, the brain starts to lose some of its ability to focus, remember or memorise. So, as people age, they become more vulnerable to mental illness and neurodegenerative disorder. But there is hope. A new study says that there is a way to slow down the brain ageing process: meditation.
Past research has linked meditation with heightened cognitive functions, such as memory, attention and processing speed. In this new study, the objective was to link meditation with brain tissue, specifically gray matter.
Meditation Shown to Better Preserve Gray Matter
UCLA researchers used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of participants, who were grouped in two: one group was composed of people who have meditated for between four and 46 years and the other group had participants who have never practiced meditation.
The study showed a negative correlation between gray matter and age in both groups – meaning people lose brain tissue as they age. What surprised researchers was that large sections of the gray matter in the brain in the participants who meditate appeared to be better preserved than those in the non-meditation group.
Although more research is needed to directly link meditation with the preservation of gray matter in the brain, this newest study still shows promising results. It makes us hope that getting on in age doesn’t necessarily have to come with a reduced quality of life. It calls on researchers to focus more attention on approaches designed to enhance brain health.
Mindfulness Meditation and your Brain
It has been an accepted therapy for stress and anxiety for years. But now studies reveal that this ancient Buddhist practice can significantly alter the way the different parts of the brain communicate with each other – which essentially means how people think.
Here’s how to get started on a simple mindfulness meditation practice:
Find a quiet spot where you can sit quietly and undisturbed. Empty your mind of all thoughts. While meditating, it is important to keep silent – both in the mouth and in the mind. Find an object for your meditation – it can be as simple as focusing on your breathing, the in and out passage of air from your mouth into your lungs and back out again. If you find your mind wandering or random thoughts invading your mind, it is natural. Simply re-focus on the object of your meditation.
Try to incorporate this simple routine into your daily life – a few minutes of your time each – and feel the positive results in your mind as well as your body.