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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

Meditation Benefits Our Body and Our Brain

As we age, we lose our ability to handle stress as well as we did when we were young, and left untreated, chronic stress speeds up cognitive decline, and all the various degenerative aspects of aging. Meditation, however, can counter-balance many of the devastating effects of stress on our bodies and protect our brains from the debilitating combination of aging and unchecked stress overload. Meditation lowers cortisol levels, and as early as 1978, findings show meditators were physiologically 12 years younger that their chronological age. Now that’s good news!

Mindful meditation practices are not the cure-all for every ailment or condition, but the great news is: improvements seen in medical patients using meditation and other mind-body interventions are virtually equal to the results seen using conventional approaches in treating pain, stress, and other illnesses. This includes the use of psychotherapy, psychoactive medications, and behavior modification education.

Today, across the country, and around the world, medical schools, medical practitioners, and everyday people are using a menu of many types of meditation. These various kinds of meditation draw on different techniques originating from a variety of spiritual and non-spiritually- based traditions including: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and the Western belief systems of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. To help the concept and practice of meditation be more understandable to us in the West, teachers of meditation have adapted many of the Eastern spiritual practices and redrafted them into a beneficial, mindfulness practice.

Strong correlations from persuasive research find changes in both the physical condition of people actively meditating, and more importantly, the lasting effects of meditating on their levels of cognitive function. In addition to significantly lowering our cortisol levels—that devil of all chemicals that causes physical and mental decline, regular meditation can help in the following ways:

  • Create a state of calmness
  • Improve our response to stress
  • Reduce our heart rate
  • Improve our memory
  • Improve our processing speed of information
  • Help concentration
  • Increase our feelings of being empowered

Truly exciting are the studies suggesting, “That meditation may decelerate, arrest, or perhaps even reverse age-related brain degeneration.” Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported this finding as early as 2005. My favorite dynamic girl duo, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel, along with recent research done at UCLA with scientists at the Centre for Research on Ageing Health and Wellbeing, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia found that meditation could drastically slow down age-related brain tissue decline, significantly decreasing brain-aging. The cross-sectional studies are few, but these new results are very encouraging!

Do I meditate every day? I wish I could say yes, but the truth is, no. I do think about it every day, and do work it in most days, unless my hair is completely on fire. On the days I do take time to sit quietly, I feel so much better, I approach life in second gear instead of fifth, and I “don’t sweat the small stuff” nearly as much. I have no good answer as to why I don’t meditate every day, except to say, I’m human, and I do my best. 😉

Until next time….Be vibrant!

Meditation App - LJ Rohan

Meditation Benefits Our Body and Our Brain

Today, I would like to let you in on a few of the secrets which result from being grateful, and to offer a helpful tool to guide you on your journey toward adding gratitude and appreciation into your life during this holiday season, and every day. It is a meditation I wrote several years ago at the request of friends. You may access it from the yellow shining sun icon on the homepage of my website, www.LJRohan.com , or drop into your App Store and download it: Lysa Rohan Gratitude Meditation™. My recommendation is to add this quick and easy 10-minute meditation into your day and during this week, and then notice how you feel.

So what does being more grateful do for our body, mind, and spirit?  GREAT things! Dr. Robert C. Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Philosophy at Baylor University wrote in the book The Psychology of Gratitude, an important collection of scientific research on the subject of gratitude and gratefulness, “Grateful people tend to be satisfied with what they have and so are less susceptible to such emotions as disappointment, regret, and frustration. [They have]… a powerful resource for transcending many of the circumstances that disappoint, frustrate, and anger most of us. In consequence, grateful people, whether religious or not, will be less prone to emotions such as anger, resentment, envy, and bitterness.”

The most current research backs up the work of Dr. Roberts. It reveals that grateful individuals experience a wide variety of physical, social and psychological health benefits. For example, folks who practice gratitude say they feel more alive, healthier, and have greater vitality. They see themselves as having an enhanced capacity to be independent and make their own choices using their free will.

 Practicing gratitude makes us psychologically healthier, as well.  We will more often choose healthy activities over unhealthy ones, and are more likely to seek help for health concerns when they do occur, than those of us who don’t have a grateful outlook. Other psychological benefits from adopting an attitude of gratitude include greater emotional stability, and a more positive opinion of ourselves, others, and a greater sense of optimism about life in general. All good news!

 To add even more benefits to the growing pile, grateful individuals tend to report less stress, less anxiety, greater life satisfaction, and better sleep. When we have higher life satisfaction we tend to smoke less and exercise more, and more often choose healthy activities across the board. Even more good news?  These results are found in many different cultures around the world.

Doc Childre and Howard Martin in The HeartMath Solution, the first book from the HeartMath Institute, which documents their ground-breaking research on the energetic and emotional workings of the heart’s response to thoughts of appreciation, found this to be true from their years of research:  Extensive studies using both a Heart Rate Variability machine, equipment very similar to an EKG, and measuring the antibody IgA, an important component in our immune system that fights against invading pathogens and is a key indicator of the health of our immune systems, shows that our heart rate slows when we make the shift to being grateful and these healing, life-enhancing antibodies are released into our blood stream for up to six hours.  That’s a huge pay off for the single choice to shift our perspective to one of gratitude.

This week, especially for my readers in the US who are celebrating Thanksgiving, try and practice my meditation as many days as possible. Notice how you feel afterwards and in the days that follow. Maybe jot down a few notes about these feelings and any thoughts that come to you. Enjoy this journey!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!