All too often, we don’t bother to address a problem until it is beyond repair. Nowhere is this more true than with our brain health. We think of brain deterioration as something that happens in old age. In reality, by the time we notice outward signs of slowness and confusion it is often too late to make a real difference.
Brain deterioration actually begins in our mid to late twenties. If we truly want to stay sharp, the time to take action is now. As Robert Frost wrote, “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”
The cruel irony of mental fatigue is that it often hits hardest upon those who value their brains most.
The ambitious, the thoughtful, and the proactive often wear their minds thin long before their time. They become so busy living life that they neglect the importance of rest. Just like any muscle in the body, the brain needs downtime and care to remain healthy.
So – what can we do about this?
One of the most effective ways to preserve neurological wellness is the simple practice of meditation. As we age, we begin to lose gray matter, which decreases the power of the brain. However, UCLA researchers have found that people who meditate habitually lose brain mass at a slower rate than those who do not. Meditation physically strengthens the brain in a measurable and scientifically proven way.
According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazur, these changes happen as quickly as eight weeks into a meditation practice. After this short amount of time, Dr. Lazur and her team found participants’ brains to increase in volume in four crucial areas. The affected regions of the brain were those which dictate focus, learning, memory, emotional regulation, and empathy, among other crucial skills that are known to deteriorate with age.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of meditation. However, it’s surprisingly simple. Here are some tips to help you get started in your meditation practice:
- Dedicate a time and space for your meditation practice. Commit to it on a daily basis. Soon it will become as much a part of your routine as brushing your teeth.
- Don’t be afraid to incorporate technology. It may seem incongruous with an ancient practice, but many people find meditation apps to be helpful. Here are some good ones to try out.
- Experiment with breathing techniques. These facilitate mindfulness and relaxation. Start with these popular ones. Don’t be afraid to edit them and create your own.
- Find a meditation style that speaks to you personally. Some popular ones include yoga, mindfulness, or nature walks. Don’t feel pressured to meditate in the lotus position, in solitude, or even in silence. Anything that relaxes you and calms your mind will do.
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day,” explained Deepak Chopra. Commit to meditation for eight weeks, and see how you feel. Do it for your brain. Do it for your stress level. Do it for your spirit. It’s a simple and wonderful way to love yourself.