Article first appeared in Prediction Magazine , May 07 Issue, page 51
Don’t you just love it when science catches up with age old spiritual techniques? If meditation has been a bothersome routine for you, or a practice that seems to be restricted to elite spiritual gurus, read on.
Recent study by Harvard instructor Dr. Sara W. Lazar, and fellow corroborator, Dr. Herbert Benson — the Mind Body Medical Institute Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has shown that “mediation can help to increase brain function, reduce the effects of aging on the brain, and improve concentration and memory”. This is not all.
The study also showed that the brain was physically affected and changed because of the practice of mediation where the prefrontal cortex increased in thickness; contrary to what should happen as the brain ages. As humans live longer than ever before, keeping the brain in good shape has become even more important.
Interestingly, the group tested ranged from 25-50 year-olds who mediated lightly, approximately 40 minutes a day. According to Dr. Lazar, no previous work has been carried out to analyse the physiological effects of one’s thoughts. She concluded that there was “strong physical evidence that there are some long-term physical effects” being caused by mediation.. Dr. Benson also explains that “Lazar’s findings are unique and show that the mind, through practice, can increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex”.
When the results were compared with a control group of the same age who were not meditating, it showed that the latter had thinner cortexes. The results carry significant implication on well being that Dr. Lazar is planning a follow up study to confirm the findings of her research, where “people will be tested at two points in time, once before mediation starts and once after to show the effects mediation has specially on memory and attention”, she hopes that the new study will shed more light on how meditation might be used to slow down the negative effects of again on the brain and perhaps even reverse it.
Another recent study, allowed Professor Alan Marlatt of the University of Washington’s Addictive Behaviours Centre, in Seattle, to measure the benefits and effects of Vipassana, or mindfulness, meditation, among alcoholics and drug addicts at the nearby King County North Rehabilitation Facility. The ten day programme required the prisoners to meditate silently for up to eleven hours a day.
Not only did the meditating prisoners drink and take drugs less after their release, they were also less likely to be depressed or to re-offended than others.“Mindfulness meditation is a spiritual approach that requires no religious faith”, said Professor Marlatt.
As similar findings continue to emerge, mediation could soon be prescribed by your GP “just like any other healthcare”.
So if you suffer from a bad memory, feel a bit under the weather, or simply want to stay young, get meditating!
Pointers to Younger Brain
Meditation is really about “unloading” the mind” of chatter and clutter. 10 minutes a-day could start you on your way. Close your eyes, focus on the tip of your nose as you breathe deeply in, through the nose, pause, then exhale through the mouth, as if you are blowing out a candle. Pause, before you breathe in again. As you get used to staying longer in mediation, use a guided meditation CD or tape, to help you vary your meditation.
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