If you want your memory to work the best it can, then reducing the stress in your life will help.
Reducing stress is crucial for optimal brain functioning. When you are stressed, you waste a lot of your valuable mental energy worrying, so you have less mental energy available for paying attention to the things that are important for you to remember. When your body is stressed, your muscles tense up, which causes them to use more oxygen. So when you’re stressed, your brain gets less of the oxygen that it needs in order to function well.
And to make matters worse, stress causes the body to produce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is tolerable for brief periods, but it’s very unhealthy when your body produces it for extended periods of time. Cortisol is toxic to brain cells. Studies show that chronic stress can quadruple your chance of getting Alzheimer’s Disease.
Recent studies show that certain stress-reducing activities can benefit the brain greatly.
Dr. Sara Lazar at the Psychiatry Department of Massachusetts General Hospital studied the effects of meditation on the brain. She used an FMRI scanner, which is a machine that enables a researcher to see what’s going on inside a patient’s brain. As people get older, various parts of the brain become thinner. Dr. Lazar’s work showed that the brains of people who meditate exhibit significantly less of this age-related brain thinning. Other benefits of meditation include improvements in the ability to focus the mind, improvements in impulse control, increases in empathy, and more restful sleep.
Another activity that has been shown to be good for brain health is Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a gentle Chinese martial art, which consists of a formal series of graceful, flowing movements. A recent 8-month study done at the University of South Florida shows that doing Tai Chi causes similar results. Seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week had significant increase in brain volume and scored better on tests of their memory and thinking abilities. Other benefits of Tai Chi include improvements in strength, agility, flexibility, balance and posture.
Both meditation and Tai Chi can be used to “re-program” your mind so that it becomes less anxious and more relaxed. These new patterns of calmness and concentrated awareness can become habitual, so that they remain even if you have to take a break from your meditation or Tai Chi practice. You may want to try learning meditation or Tai Chi. In many cities, you can find meditation or Tai Chi teachers who offer classes for beginners. There are a number of excellent videos on Youtube that teach the basics as well.
Learning either of these techniques can help you improve your memory, concentration, and emotional state. They can also help you lower your level of stress. Lower stress levels have a positive effect on all your brain functions and enable your memory to work optimally.
Mike Weller is a memory improvement and brain fitness expert. Mike can help you improve your memory skills and overcome absentmindedness. Improve your memory skills by visiting Mike’s web site, Foolproof Memory Improvement, and signing up for Mike’s email newsletter, which is packed with memory improvement tips and techniques.
Photo credit: ‘Tai Chi‘ by Big Stock
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