As we age, bodily functions and organs decline. The brain is not an exception. Cognitive functions decrease as we age, and it is characterized by forgetfulness, lack of concentration, and so on. It is never a pretty sight. Cognitive decline occurs at different rates in individuals. Some people start noticing the effects of cognitive decline from a relatively young age.
However, there are ways we can retard ageing in the brain and, thereby, retard the decline in cognitive functions. Meditation is one of those ways. In this article, you will learn about how meditation can help protect the ageing brain from decline.
Ageing and brain decline
There are many pros to ageing. You feel a sense of fulfillment and social satisfaction. Not to mention that you may get to experience the joy of watching your progeny grow and thrive. It can be quite beautiful. However, it’s not all sunlight and roses, far from it. As we age, the body system becomes weaker, and many bodily functions start to suffer.
The brain also ages, and cognitive functions start to decline. The mind is no longer as sharp, the person becomes forgetful, motor coordination will reduce, among others. Although this decline is natural, it may become a huge problem for the individual, their relatives, and society at large.
Cognitive decline may lead to mental conditions, like dementia and mild cognitive impairment. These conditions can significantly affect the quality of one’s life, making simple daily tasks very difficult to handle.
Therefore, it is unsurprising that scientists and doctors are always on the lookout for ways to enhance cognitive function and retard brain decline. Enhancing cognitive functions, like memory and attention, will improve the quality of life of the ageing individual. According to studies and research, meditation can enhance these cognitive functions.
Below, we will examine how it does this.
How meditation protects the ageing brain from decline
Scientists have studied several meditation exercises and techniques that may have some mental benefits. Many of these techniques work differently on the brain, but they all work towards the same goal of enhancing cognitive functions.
There are many meditation techniques. One of the techniques scientists have conducted studies on is transcendental meditation. This technique employs the principles of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that involves making a special and conscious effort to focus on the present moment while being aware of what you are feeling and thinking at the time.
The results of these studies were very positive and encourageing, with participants showing improvements in mental health. The reason for this can be attributed to the fact that this technique can increase mindfulness.
Mindfulness involves an individual reconstructing the environment by creating new categories, thereby shifting attention to new cues that one can consciously and actively control. It sounds a little complicated, I know. Consider it as consciously and actively redirecting one’s attention to specific thoughts, and by being mindful and totally focusing on these thoughts, one can reconstruct the environment.
Increasing mindfulness implies focusing on a particular thought until one reaches the source of that thought and has a state of pure consciousness. This meditation gives a state of calmness and allows individuals to increase mental performance and creative activity. Doing this for extended periods will lead to improved cognitive functions.
Scientists also believe meditation may delay the brain’s ageing and the body in general by protecting telomeres, which are caps on our chromosomes’ tips. Telomeres play a critical role in the ageing of cells. Whenever a cell divides, its telomeres become shorter. The more the cell divides, the shorter the telomeres get. When the telomeres get too short, the cell loses its ability to replicate, and the cell dies. Therefore, telomeres can be referred to as a clock that limits lifespan. However, an enzyme called the telomerase can build telomeres back up, thereby protecting it from shortening.
While the ultimate consequence of telomeres shortening is death, the individual can also experience a host of health conditions, both to the physical and mental body. The individual is at a higher risk of physical health conditions, like diabetes, osteoporosis, several heart diseases, etc. Someone with shorter telomeres is also at a higher risk of mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.
So, from all of these, we can infer that if the telomeres are protected, one can retard cognitive and physical decline. Meditation has been proven to increase telomerase activity, and thereby, protect the telomeres better. Scientists believe that this increase in telomerase activity might even reverse cellular ageing.
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