Protecting your brain is a high concern as we age, but today’s lifestyles aren’t good for brain health. Luckily, there are things you can do to make sure your brain outlives your body.
Without a doubt, stress destroys the brain. Multiple studies have demonstrated damage to the brain with long term stress. Damage to the rest of the body is just as great.
So, with this knowledge, why is it that our population is so darn stressed out??
Sure—there is work, family and financial stress, but everyone has these. There have been times when I have employees who are stressed over financial issues, but if they had seen my checkbook they may have a better understanding of what it’s like to manage a company with employees. Any self employed person likely dreams about the day of being broke, rather than in a hole of debt deep enough to bury the bodies from the deaths caused by the drug companies in any given year.
So we all have stress—but obviously some of us manage it better than others. Or rather, should I say that some manage it not at all.
Stress has always been an adaptive response. Our bodies would undergo changes from stress that would allow us to adapt to the new situation (drought, moving the tribe, fighting off predators, etc…). But this chronic stress that our society is collectively dealing with is destroying us.
So what tools can we use to manage stress? Obviously, the long term answer is to adjust our lives so that we can reduce future stress. For the short-term solution, we need to use tools to help our bodies survive until the long term stressors are managed:
- Exercise is top of the list
- Supplementation of certain vitamins, like B12 can help the brain
- Digestive support (stress shuts down digestion, leading to problems like heartburn and ulcers)
Meditation is arguably one of the most powerful tools for helping us manage stress and protect our brain. But just how good is it?
This particular study looked at the changes in the white matter of the brain after just 4 weeks of meditation training. We are not talking about Transcendental Meditation practioners with years of experience. These were beginners. Researchers found improvements in the overall function of the white matter in the brain of the participants.
Interestingly, they were also able to demonstrate increased myelin surrounding the brain cells. Myelin is the material that makes up the sheath that surrounds the nerve cells. This is the material that breaks down in multiple sclerosis patients, leading to the symptoms associated with MS.
So, could meditation be powerful enough to help MS patients begin to heal some of the damage to their brains? Certainly we can see the benefits to all of us from the use of meditation to protect our brain, whether we have MS or not.
Further, studies have even shown that stress management techniques can reduce the number of brain lesions in MS patients.
Have you tried meditation before, and, if so, why types of benefits have you seen in your life and health?