Meditating can give you the brain of a 25-year-old

My meditation practice has always been sporadic and I’m not just talking about my “monkey mind” that leaps and roams . . . or falls asleep.  Needing a bit of discipline I joined a meditation group and in two months my brain will be younger and smarter.

Want proof?

There is an ever-increasing body of research evidence that shows that meditation decreases stress, depression, and anxiety, reduces pain and insomnia, and increases quality of life.

 One  study looked at long-term meditators (seven to nine years of experience) versus a control group. “The results showed that those with a strong meditation background had increased gray matter in several areas of the brain, including the auditory and sensory cortex, as well as insula and sensory regions.”

“This makes sense, since mindfulness meditation has you slow down and become aware of the present moment, including physical sensations such as your breathing and the sounds around you.”

Neuroscientists also found that the meditators had more gray matter in the brain region, linked to decision-making and working memory: the frontal cortex. In fact, while most people see their cortexes shrink as they age, 50-year-old meditators in the study had the same amount of gray matter as those half their age.

Wowza!

Just to make sure this wasn’t because the long-term meditators had more gray matter to begin with, a second study was conducted in which they put people with no experience with meditation into an eight-week mindfulness program.

The results?

“Even just eight weeks of meditation changed people’s brains for the better. There was thickening in several regions of the brain, including the left hippocampus (involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation); the TPJ (involved in empathy and the ability to take multiple perspectives); and a part of the brainstem called the pons (where regulatory neurotransmitters are generated).”

“Plus, the brains of the new meditators saw shrinkage of the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with fear, anxiety, and aggression. This reduction in size of the amygdala correlated to reduced stress levels in those participants.”

How long do you have to meditate to see such results?

“The study participants were told to meditate for 40 minutes a day, but the average ended up being 27 minutes a day. Several other studies suggest that you can see significant positive changes in just 15 to 20 minutes a day”

In 8 weeks my brain will look and act half its age . . . .if only meditating could do the same for my body . . .

(jw)

It’s “that” time year – Isolation, Not Loneliness, Shortens Life

We often believe that during holidays everyone, except us, is having a wonderful festive time, surrounded by loving family, caring friends, filled with fun, festivity and happiness.

At the risk of “bah humbug” what I most often heard from clients was holidays were filled with stress, trepidation, family feuds or deep pain at being alone while everyone else seemingly was partying.  

Coupled with studies which suggest that the Christmas/New Year’s holidays are a risk factor for cardiac and noncardiac mortality.* the United Kingdom study on loneliness and isolation of 6,500  had an interesting conclusion:

Loneliness hurts, but social isolation can kill you. 

“The study, by a team at University College London, comes after decades of research showing that both loneliness and infrequent contact with friends and family can, independently, shorten a person’s life. The scientists expected to find that the combination of these two risk factors would be especially dangerous.”

“We were thinking that people who were socially isolated but also felt lonely might be at particularly high risk,” says Andrew Steptoe, a professor of psychology at University College London.”

“To find out, the team studied 6,500 men and women ages 52 and older. All of them had answered a questionnaire back in 2004 or 2005 that assessed both their sense of loneliness and how much contact they had with friends and family. The researchers looked to see what happened to those people over the next seven or eight years.”

“And Steptoe says he was surprised by the result. “Both social isolation and loneliness appeared initially to be associated with a greater risk of dying,” he says. “But it was really the isolation which was more important.”‘

‘”At first, it looked like people who reported greater levels of loneliness were more likely to die, Steptoe says. But closer analysis showed that these people were also more likely to have other risk factors, like being poor and having existing health problems. Once those factors were taken into account, the extra risk associated with loneliness pretty much disappeared, Steptoe says.”‘

“But people who spent very little time with friends and family, or at social events, were more likely to die regardless of income or health status the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

“It’s not clear why social isolation is linked to mortality. But one possibility is that having other people around has practical benefits as you get older, Steptoe says. For example, they may push you to go see a doctor if you are having symptoms like chest pain, he says. And if you were to lose consciousness, they would call for help.”

Do Facebook friends count? How about texting?

“Other researchers say they are surprised and not necessarily convinced by the new study, even though they say it’s large and well-done.”

‘”It doesn’t negate the loneliness work that’s been done to date,” says Bert Uchino, a University of Utah psychology professor. He says this study may have reached a different conclusion than earlier ones because people’s definition of loneliness is changing in the Internet age.”‘

‘”People … may think that they’re connected to other people because they’re on Facebook,” Uchino says. So they may not report feeling lonely. But that sort of connection, he says, may not have the health benefits of direct contact with other people.”

*https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/01.cir.0000151424.02045.f7   (There are multiple explanations for this association, including the possibility that holiday-induced delays in seeking treatment play a role in producing the twin holiday spikes.)

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/03/26/175283008/maybe-isolation-not-loneliness-shortens-life

Pawsitively Tuesday – Rx for Gratitude

Guaranteed* to decrease moping, malcontent and feeling blue. Gratitude is now available over-the-counter, but should not be used off-label for conditions other than dysphoria.

Rx for Gratitude by Peggy

WARNING!

Adverse Side effects

  • Only take as directed, no more than 100 gratitudes a day, or may induce euphoria, resulting in dancing nude on the beach which can lead to skin cancer.
  • Can cause lightheartedness in individuals with pre-existing conditions of joy
  • May impair balance and equilibrium with danger of falling in love with yourself or others.

*Disclaimer:  

Any and all information, directions, inferences, enticements, and/or opinions on this site are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.
Peggy, Judy or their representative felines and canines make no representation and assume no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained on or available through this site or any other web site, and furthermore such information is subject to change without notice, depending on our mood.

PEGGY, JUDY, their felines and canines are  NOT RESPONSIBLE NOR LIABLE FOR ANY ADVICE, COURSE OF TREATMENT, DIAGNOSIS OR ANY OTHER INFORMATION, SERVICES OR PRODUCTS THAT YOU OBTAIN THROUGH THIS SITE or anywhere else, for that matter.

 

A Happiness Hack – Pet a Pet

Peggy & Judy are compiling all the Happiness Hacks they’ve posted.  Here’s my favorite:

Warning!

This hack is addictive. If it lasts more than 10 minutes it’s NOT A HACK

The Early Bird Pets the Worm

Get a pet (no wild animals please, since we don’t have liability insurance) and pet away to increase oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine in your brain.

A Japanese study showed that playing with a dog with which you have a bond, and makes sustained eye contact with you, causes oxytocin to spike in both!

Several studies show that having a pet can reduce depression, encourage healthier habits, and increase feelings of connectedness.

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, S.D.E

Supreme Dopamine Enhancer

Frankly Freddie, Heads & Tails

My Way by Freddie
(with apologies to Paul Anka)

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there is doubt
I eat it up, never spit it out
So you too, can face it all standing tall

and if you’re smart

you’ll do it my way

You Humans ruminate, obsess, plan, plod and procrastinate.  I’m here to give you guidance:

1. Get your nose out of the past and your tail out of the future

Live for now. Think about it. Now is all that exists. If all the stuffing comes out of your plaything, find another one. When someone won’t scratch behind your ears offer them your back.

2. Never lead with your butts

I never procrastinate or make excuses why it’s too late to go for a walk or put off dinner until my favorite program is over.

If you had to cram seven years into one year you wouldn’t procrastinate either.  When you tell yourself “I want to go  fetch BUT I have to check text messages text first”  .  remember to go at life head-first, not “BUT . . . first”.

3. STICK Your Head Out the Window (make sure it’s rolled down )

There are so many smells and so many blessings outside the window . . . take it all in wherever you’re headed (pun intended). You humans focus too much on the destination and forget to enjoy the journey.

4. Use Your Sniffer

BEFORE MAKING JUDGMENTS based on what others look like take a few sniffs and watch their behavior.

I can tell after 5 sniffs whether someone is trustworthy.  You might need more than 5 since you aren’t as perceptive as I am.

5. Wag before you Speak 

I don’t speak a human language (I write it but don’t speak it)  I can’t give you a thumbs up but I can give you a paw.  Only if I can’t get your attention with a nudge I use my bark. My tail never lies . . . and you shouldn’t either.

6. The Power of Pet 

Scratch each others backs, rub bellies, pat heads.  At the very least, reach out and touch others with kindness.  Getting and giving pets feels really good.

Freddie Parker Westerfield

*If you’re a constant worrier, you’re not alone. 40 million American adults live with anxiety disorders.

How to change your own neurochemistry to feel happier

There is power in positive thinking–and the power comes from you.  and what you can do to have more “happy” neuro-chemicals. 

SEROTONIN & POSITIVE THINKING

As far back as 2007 scientists* measured how positive thoughts change brain serotonin levels which is another key neurotransmitter in happiness. Professional actors were used since they could keep up an intense emotional state.   Using a PET scan researchers found that focusing on happy memories resulted in increased uptake of the serotonin building blocks. Focusing on sad memories resulted in lower uptake. This supports the since replicated conclusion that we, by choosing to focus on happy thoughts, can self-regulate our brain’s neurotransmitters and change our brain’s chemical balance to support happiness.

DOPAMINE & MEDITATION

Another study shows why meditation makes monks among the happiest people on earth,

Dopamine is also crucial for happiness and relaxation, Researchers examined the changes in dopamine during meditation using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning on meditators.  The dopamine increased significantly in an area called the basal ganglia during meditation. This is the first evidence that by focusing our thoughts, we can alter how the neurons in our brain fire, and increase dopamine release.

No prescription needed, no side-effects from medications.  Your only cost is a bit of practice focusing on positive memories and thoughts or, if you are more ambitious, a bit of your time to learn to meditate. 

The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 

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