How Mentally Fit Are You?by Sueños on 06/12/17
We're all familiar with the importance of maintaining one's own physical fitness. Reduced chance of heart disease, prevention of injury, and certain types of cancer. However, a frequently forgotten topic is an individual's mental health. Even for people who are not struggling with mental illness, there are still things you can begin doing to sharpen your focus, more aptly deal with stress, and prevent dementia and Alzheimer's. I am, of course, talking about meditation.
Meditation and Yoga are often referred to as brain training exercises. This assertion comes from the results of multiple studies in which long-term meditators were given MRI scans and had them compared to those who didn't. In these studies areas that are associated with wandering thoughts were more stable, gray matter in these areas was denser, and myelination in these areas was increased. Essentially, these areas had more connections, and were able to communicate with one another more quickly. These changes have even been true for people who meditate for only 2-4 weeks in some studies.
Reduction of Stress
Anxiety is the most frequently diagnosed mental illness in the United States with an estimated 18% of the U.S. population 18 and older having been diagnosed. Anxiety disorders are typified by wandering thoughts that have an unusual amount of power. These thoughts can be powerful enough to trigger extreme stress responses in individuals, resulting in an anxiety attack. Meditation exercises of all kinds, namely mindfulness and transcendental, have been effective forms of treatment for these extreme forms of anxiety. We all, in some form or another, experience anxiety, perhaps on less extreme scales. However, who hasn't been nervous for a job interview, presentation, or project? Still, in these moments we seek to appear calm, confident, and unshaken. Meditation shows incredible promise of helping anyone in these scenarios.
Preventing Long-Term Mental Illness
The processes underlying the improvements in people with anxiety disorders, are similar to those which help patients who are struggling with dementia and Alzheimer's. Meditation in essence increases neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to create new connections and improve the quality of these connections. This is of course incredibly important in these types of patients as the brain essentially atrophies in these scenarios. To put it more plainly, meditation allows the brain to repair itself.
The evidence surrounding meditation, and its usefulness, is still growing. However, I can personally attest to the profound difference the practice has made in my life. I encourage all and any, young and old, to begin the practice today. It only takes twenty minutes a day to begin the change of a life time.
This is a guest post by one of our coaches Diego-Andreas. If you like this post, and want to see more like it, check out his blog at www.wonderingintomyself.com