Thursday, April 7, 2011

Meditate while you Walk

The word meditate stems from the Latin root to ponder. It's a practice rich with history and diverse traditions. Now a study from Psychiatry Research suggests that it can actually grow your brain.

Indeed, by meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks subjects were found to have "increased the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy."

"The researchers tracked 16 people who were participating in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, the training program... Over eight weekly meetings, the program leads participants through meditation exercises meant to build the skills of mindfulness—a moment-by-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Participants are supposed to try these practices on their own between classes."

"For decades, people who’ve completed the MBSR training have reported feeling less stress and more positive emotions; participants suffering from chronic illnesses say they experience less pain afterward."

Now an additional observation is that "when their brains were scanned at the end of the program, their gray matter was significantly thicker in several regions than it was before."

One of those regions which benefited from meditation was the hippocampus, which prior research has found to be involved in learning, memory, and the regulation of our emotions. The gray matter of the hippocampus is often reduced in people who suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

These brain changes encouraged the researchers to suggest that "meditation improves people’s ability to regulate their emotions, control their stress levels, and feel empathy for others."

I blogged earlier about another study concerning the hippocampus. Researchers found that a brisk walk three times a week can slow the atrophy of the hippocampus which normally begins in healthy adults around 55 or 60.

I have a feeling that some have personally perfected the 'meditate while you walk' to do double good for their outlook and their brains.

Image and book review