Posts filed under ‘Reduce Stress’

Meditation for Mind Improvement: It Only Takes A Little!

Ever wanted to try meditation, but thought you wouldn’t be able to stick with it for long enough to make a difference?  Good news! Even a few short meditation sessions turn out to have measurable effects.Meditation Garden:  Image by Renaudeh on Stock.Xchng

Quite a few studies have documented that  that meditation seems to have a positive impact on the brains of long-term practitioners, but it’s usually been assumed that the length and intensity of their practice was necessary to see the benefits.

That made meditation an unlikely tool for your average Jane or Joe, who has neither the time nor the discipline for a 3 hour daily meditation practice.

But a new study (published this week in Consciousness and Cognition) suggests that even brief flirtations with meditation may have measurable brain benefits.  Over a period of four days, the study participants were instructed in 20 minute mindfulness meditation sessions.  Surprisingly, their cognitive skills improved significantly after the training.

Why is this important?

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April 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm Leave a comment

Finding Calm: Deep Breaths For Your Brain

Relaxation Toolbox:  Photo by frecuencia on Stock.Xchange Stress relief is an important part of keeping your brain healthy, and since modern life is full of ongoing stressors, it’s a good idea to keep a tool kit of stress busting techniques handy.

One of the simplest and most effective tools? Learning (and remembering!) to breathe deeply, from the abdomen.

Here’s how it works:

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April 6, 2010 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

Popcorn Meditation: Snack-Sized De-Stressing.

Popcorn Meditation! Image by plattmunk on Stock.Xchng So, by now you’ve probably heard that stress is bad for your brain.  And you’ve probably heard that meditation is good for reducing the negative effects of stress, and provides a lot of other brain-benefits.

But starting a meditation practice can seem… well… stressful!  There are so many disciplines to choose from, so many apparent rules to follow, even concerns about the religious implications. Then there’s that whole quieting the mind thing, not to mention being physically still?  For a whole 20 minutes to an hour?  Puhlease! And don’t even start in about those pretzel like positions most seniors couldn’t have managed even in their youth!

The stress of just thinking about all of this can stop would-be meditators in their tracks.

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February 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm Leave a comment

5 Ways to Destress Your Brain

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While short bursts of stress
can provide a quick (and temporary) boost to  your cognitive function, ongoing, chronic stress takes a heavy toll on the brain. Modern life is full of stressful situations that can’t often be avoided, and today’s seniors deal with complications their parents didn’t face:  traffic, health care complications, ever-ringing cell phones, and even raising their own grandchildren.

But there are lots of small ways to help reduce the effects of those stressors, and keep the risk to your mental functions at a minimum.  Below, you’ll find just a few!

  1. De-Clutter
    Physical clutter can create a feeling of being overwhelmed. it’s a constant reminder of things left un-done, and it scatters your attention.  Even if you can’t de-clutter your entire living space, try and create one corner that’s clean and clear of distractions, somewhere you can go and not *see* things that are left to do.  You’ll be surprised at how effective this one is!
  2. Stay In The Now
    Thinking too far ahead  will clutter up your brain with future stresses, problems and tasks – it quickly becomes overwhelming.  So try to stay in the moment of now, focusing on one task and one step at a time.  It’s good to plan ahead, but don’t dwell on the future.  Keep your attention on the here and now, and watch your stress melt away.
  3. Set Boundaries
    A lot of stressful situations can be avoided by setting healthy boundaries on what you allow into your life.  If people are bringing stress into your life with their actions, comments, and expectations, it’s ok to decide you won’t allow that to happen anymore.  Gently tell the people around you about your new boundaries, and even if they don’t change their actions, you may find that the act of declaring those limits may help you deal with the problems more effectively.
  4. Put Down The Superman Cape
    Yes, I know. You bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, feed it to the grandkids, and use the leftovers to make quiche for the weekly book club you organize.  But you haven’t actually got superhero powers, and trying to live like you do can add significant stress to your life.  it’s time to assess your expectations of yourself, let go of those perfectionist ideals, and know that it’s ok to be a mere mortal.
  5. Get Physical
    I know, I know, everyone nags you to exercise.  But it is honestly one of the best ways you can help your body and brain destress.  Physical activity is the natural outlet for the processes involved in stress-reactions, and just a 30 minute walk every few days can have significant impact on stress relief.

Have any of your own stress-reduction techniques and suggestions? Share them in the comments, and maybe we’ll come up with a part two for this article!

December 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm 2 comments

De-Stressing Your Brain: A Meditation Primer

This gorgeous "Zen" image by gryhnd on Stock.XchngIn my first post on meditation this week, I promised a follow up with recommended  resources, common types of meditation and what to expect in a beginning meditation practice. That may be a bit of an ambitious agenda for one post, but let’s get started and see how much ground we can cover!

Since meditation has many different forms, it isn’t easy to pin down into a simple definition.  But for our purposes of reducing stress and training the brain to be stronger and healthier,  I’ll define it as a disciplined practice of relaxed yet focused awareness.  One of my teachers referred to the state as “effortless concentration” and I found that the concept described it perfectly!

Types of Meditation

Buddhist Meditations are probably the best known forms of meditation in the US.   Qualified instruction is readily available in most parts of the country, and there are some excellent CD’s and even online courses available.   There are many different practices within Bhuddhist traditions, but the basics focus on developing a disciplined, mindful state of awareness,  compassion and empathy towards yourself and others.  They often use neutral concepts like your  breath, a set of beads, a series of chanted words, or even the motion of walking as a focus point.  The non-denominational, neutral focus makes these meditations are appropriate for everyone, regardless of their spiritual orientation.

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July 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

Meditation: Breathe, and De-Stress Your Brain

Image from Nepal - by nicolatte on Stock.XchngMeditation is a pretty amazing tool for brain health. It’s great for reducing and  reversing the harmful effects of stress on the brain, and it’s even been shown to increase brain size. (How seriously cool is that?)  Meditation is inexpensive, simple, and can be done by anyone, anywhere, without any special props.

So why aren’t more people doing it?
Well…

Some people are a wee bit afraid of meditation.

It’s true. And honestly, I don’t  blame them!
Not that meditation itself is scary (because it isn’t) but some of the louder proponents of meditation make  it sound  all exotic and New Agey, as if it’s always part of some foreign religion or cult.

They associate it with out of body experiences, contacting spirit guides, or other sometimes really wacky ideas (one popular group promotes that you can meditate your way to levitation!) – these sorts of things concern those of us who are more mainstream and conventional, and make us question the sanity of the “meditators”.

But that sense of exotic, spiritual “strangeness” doesn’t come from basic meditation techniques, but rather from how  the particular practices are shaped, and the intent behind them.

(more…)

July 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

Relax. (It’s good for the brain)

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Stress is a bit of a puzzle, when it comes to brain function.

In short bursts, stress  can actually help you to think more clearly, but when prolonged (as it often is in modern life) it impairs mental function – affecting blood flow, slowing the growth of new neural paths and new brain cells, and most alarmingly, actually killing off brain cells.  Long term stress can actually shrink the hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial to our memory process, creating memory issues for otherwise healthy people, as well as dramatically speeding the advancement of Alzheimer’s.

The good news is that the effects of chronic stress on the brain appear to largely be reversible; when the stress stops, our brain can once again begin to repair the damage, producing new cells and restoring the hippocampus. (more…)

July 2, 2009 at 11:49 am Leave a comment


About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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