Most of us are aware that we need to exercise to keep our bodies fit and to prevent disease. Did you know there are exercises you can do to keep your mind healthy too? Not just to memorize and learn new skills but to prevent diseases of the brain like memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a chronic, progressive, brain disorder that affects at least 5.3 million Americans at an estimated cost of $148 billion. Although there has been a lot of research on the disease, there is still no cure or widely accepted treatment. It is not clear exactly what causes AD either. However, chronic stress, sleep problems, depression, and anxiety have been linked to increasing risk for AD. While we may not know what to do to treat AD we may be able to prevent it by addressing some of the risk factors like stress that have been linked to it. Meditation has been suggested as a technique for relieving stress and anxiety and therefore may help to prevent AD. Meditation has been broadly defined as “an intentional and self-regulated focusing of attention, whose purpose is to relax and calm the mind and body.” Many people feel they don’t have the time to focus or sit still for a long time, however, even brief meditation of 5 to 10 minutes a day may improve stress and anxiety. In addition, meditation can boost immune system function, reduce blood pressure , improve insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance, and decrease inflammation. The great thing is that meditation is easy, can be done anywhere and doesn’t need any formal training or technique. Not sure where to start? Here are a few suggestions.
- Experiment: there are a lot of different ways to meditate. Read some books or look at instructional videos and pick a few to try.
- Go easy on yourself: remember the goal is to feel focused and relaxed not whether you need a specific technique correctly or not.
- Set aside uninterrupted time. Turn off phones and other electronics.
- Find a quiet place free of distractions,
- Be Comfortable: You can sit or lie down, whatever works for you.
- Stretch if you need to, get muscles relaxed and comfortable.
- Take a few deep breathes.
- Relax and focus.