Charlotte Grainger

How Meditation Can Protect Your Brain As You Age

how meditation can help brain health

Meditation has become a hot topic in recent years, no small thanks to its countless emotional and psychological benefits. But did you know that this practice can have a positive impact on your physical health too? As part of a new review, researchers delved into how meditation and spiritual well-being can protect your ageing brain. Within this guide, we’ll take a quick look at that interesting research and how you can start practising too. 

THE LINK BETWEEN MEDITATION AND HEALTH

Neurotheology—the study of how spiritual and meditative fitness impacts your health—is an emerging field. The idea is pretty simple: Tending to your emotional well-being, through a practice such as meditation, could have a positive impact on your physical health. Over the last two decades, researchers have conducted a selection of studies into this theory and looked at the ways that spiritual practices may impact our wellness. 

Published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the latest review into this area suggests that engaging in a Kirtan Kriya, a 12-minute meditative practice, could reduce multiple risk factors for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Similarly, the researchers discuss the fact that having a level of psychological well-being means people are more than twice as likely to remain AD-free as they age. Put simply, this research could suggest that people who engage in acts such as meditation and spiritual practices could have stronger cognitive health.

Of course, it’s important to understand that no research is conclusive. There could be all manner of reasons for the recent findings and more studies are needed in the future. However, what we can take away from the review is the idea that meditating may have a positive impact on your physical health in the long term. 

breathing exercises

SIMPLE MEDITATIVE PRACTICES TO TRY YOURSELF

Now that you understand the link between cognitive health and meditation, why not give it a go? There are plenty of forms of meditation that you can try. Since everyone is different, you may need to take the time to explore which suits you. Some people find that it’s easy to gently slip into a meditative state, while others need more guidance to get themselves there. If you’re ready to give it a whirl, why not try one of the following?

1. Mindful breathing

How often do you think about your breath? When you’re going about your day-to-day life, chances are that you rarely take a second to notice how you’re breathing. Focussing on your breath could be a smart way to include some more mindfulness in your everyday routine. You can give this yourself by taking the time to sit alone and pay close attention to your breath. However, if you’re new to the practice, you might want some guidance.

The Greater Good in Action website has a handy and straightforward guide on mindful breathing. Should you have 15 minutes to spare, giving this practice a go could help you unwind and relax. While it may take some time to perfect this art form, the more you practise it, the easier it will become. Simple. 

2. Loving-kindness meditation 

Let’s face it, we could all do with a little more kindness in our lives. One of the increasingly popular types of meditation practice is loving-kindness. The aim of these meditations is to strengthen your relationship with those around you but also yourself. You can do this through practising higher levels of compassion each day and becoming more empathetic to the people you surround yourself with. 

If you’re new to the practice, following a simple loving-kindness meditation guide could be the answer. You don’t have to be an expert to get this right from the offset. Simply ensure that you’re in a comfortable space where you can meditate in absolute peace. The practice takes 15 minutes and will give you a refreshed perspective. 

3. Mindful movement 

Are you a naturally active person? While the idea of staying perfectly still and meditating may not appeal to you, there is another way to go. Mindful movement is the act of engaging in movement while focussing your attention on your whole body or breathing. For instance, you may find it helpful to keep your mind on how your body feels during certain types of exercise or consider how you are breathing during the movement. 

The truth of the matter is that there is not just one type of mindful movement. In fact, you can choose a practice that suits both your skill level. For instance, some people may find that walking in the great outdoors while losing themselves in thought works for them. On the other hand, you may want a more formal approach. Both Qigong and Tai Chi are types of mindful movement that you can give a try for yourself.

4. Mantra meditation 

Of course, some people find it helpful to have something to repeat while meditating. This is known as mantra meditation. While this approach can have spiritual connotations, anyone can give it a go. Choosing which mantra to use is a personal decision. You may want to choose a phrase that is meaningful to you or brings you some form of comfort. For example, some people use the phrase ‘I am happy and content’ as theirs. 

The first step in this process is setting your attention. Take the time to consider which mantra suits you and what story you are telling yourself. The words that you use are important and should not be taken lightly. You may need to try out a few different chants before you land on one that suits you and your lifestyle. Don’t worry. You can take all the time you need to get this right—even if it’s a matter of trial and error. 

THE TAKEAWAY!

Ready to get started? Remember to take things at your own pace and figure out what works for you. Meditation may help protect your brain health, but also offers a whole range of additional benefits. If you can find the time in your day, dedicating some of your spare time to this practice can only be a positive thing.