I med­i­tate?

The sci­ence be­hind hit­ting pause on life is stack­ing up faster than you can say, ‘Have you seen my rose quartz?’

Women's Health (UK) - - IN THE KNOW -

1 BREATH WORKS Mind rac­ing faster than Lewis Hamil­ton? Just breathe. No, re­ally. ‘Tak­ing time to fo­cus on the sen­sa­tions of the breath seems to con­nect the heart to the head,’ says Dr Daniel Siegel, clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor at UCLA and au­thor of Aware: The Sci­ence And Prac­tice Of Pres­ence. ‘It low­ers the heart rate and re­duces lev­els of cor­ti­sol, mak­ing you feel less stressed.’ Sounds like Blu Cantrell was on to some­thing…

2 BETA BLOCKER Fo­cus­ing on the present is thought to re­duce beta brain­waves (the ones ac­tive when you’re charg­ing through your to-do list in the shower). But Nor­we­gian re­searchers* who stud­ied the brain­waves of peo­ple who were med­i­tat­ing found a high pres­ence of theta waves (a gate­way to learn­ing, mem­ory and in­tu­ition) and al­pha waves (linked with cre­ativ­ity). A study on Ti­betan monks even found gamma waves*, which are linked with a height­ened state of con­scious­ness. Beta that.

3 GREY MAT­TERS While the brain is pro­grammed to wan­der, con­stant mind drift­ing is as­so­ci­ated with lower lev­els of hap­pi­ness. But re­search into the brains of ex­pe­ri­enced med­i­ta­tors re­veals less ac­tiv­ity in the pos­te­rior cin­gu­late cor­tex* – the part of the brain as­so­ci­ated with self­mon­i­tor­ing and cog­ni­tive con­trol – re­veal­ing a higher abil­ity to fo­cus on the here and now. In the words of a cheesy greet­ings card, the present is a gift.

4 BRAIN GAINS Don’t get big­headed now – but med­i­ta­tion can make your brain grow. Stud­ies on med­i­ta­tion afi­ciona­dos have found a thick­en­ing of the hip­pocam­pus* – the part of the brain as­so­ci­ated with learn­ing, cog­ni­tion and mem­ory – and more growth and folds in the cere­bral cor­tex, which leads to faster brain pro­cess­ing and mem­ory for­ma­tion. And don’t you for­get it.

5 CEL­LU­LAR RE­SPONSE Liv­ing in the present could make for a bet­ter fu­ture. As well as be­ing thought to stave off Alzheimer’s*, reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion is as­so­ci­ated with a stronger im­mune sys­tem and gen­eral car­dio­vas­cu­lar health. ‘Med­i­ta­tion im­proves cel­lu­lar health and longevity by boost­ing the enzyme telom­erase, which re­pairs and main­tains the ends of chro­mo­somes,’ says Dr Siegel. Worth a pon­der.

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