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Meditation May Change Your Brain to Help Reduce Anxiety, Improve Memory

Mindfulness-based stress reduction may boost gray matter in areas tied to learning, remembering

   

According to study coauthor Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, "Participants reported feeling less stressed after the program. This was correlated with a change in brain structure, which suggests that they were not just imagining it. Their brains actually are different."

Getting started

There are many types of meditation. Mindfulness focuses attention on the present, helping you observe problems without reacting emotionally to them. Transcendental meditation uses a special word called a mantra as a focal point to quiet the mind. In guided imagery or visualization, you are led by a teacher (in class or on digital) to tap all your senses and imagine a calm, relaxed state. Tai chi and yoga incorporate deep breathing and meditation into various poses.

There's no right or wrong way to meditate, nor is one method better than another. Try different types until you find one that works for you. Check your public library or online for books and audiobooks to get you started, as well as classes at a health club or senior center.

Be patient with yourself, since it may initially feel silly, even unsettling, to disengage from the busyness of your mind. Ideally, set aside at least 15 to 20 minutes twice a day to meditate. But even a five-minute break to sit quietly — breathing slowly and deeply from your abdomen, with your feet planted on the floor — can break the gridlock of stress. —Margery D. Rosen

Want to dig a little deeper?

Concentrate on the research here.

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Membership Expires: Renew

Meditation May Change Your Brain to Help Reduce Anxiety, Improve Memory

Mindfulness-based stress reduction may boost gray matter in areas tied to learning, remembering

   

According to study coauthor Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, "Participants reported feeling less stressed after the program. This was correlated with a change in brain structure, which suggests that they were not just imagining it. Their brains actually are different."

Getting started

There are many types of meditation. Mindfulness focuses attention on the present, helping you observe problems without reacting emotionally to them. Transcendental meditation uses a special word called a mantra as a focal point to quiet the mind. In guided imagery or visualization, you are led by a teacher (in class or on digital) to tap all your senses and imagine a calm, relaxed state. Tai chi and yoga incorporate deep breathing and meditation into various poses.

There's no right or wrong way to meditate, nor is one method better than another. Try different types until you find one that works for you. Check your public library or online for books and audiobooks to get you started, as well as classes at a health club or senior center.

Be patient with yourself, since it may initially feel silly, even unsettling, to disengage from the busyness of your mind. Ideally, set aside at least 15 to 20 minutes twice a day to meditate. But even a five-minute break to sit quietly — breathing slowly and deeply from your abdomen, with your feet planted on the floor — can break the gridlock of stress. —Margery D. Rosen

Want to dig a little deeper?

Concentrate on the research here.