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Why Meditation Makes You Happier, Healthier and More Successful and How To Get Started

Why Meditation Makes You Happier, Healthier and More Successful and How To Get Started

The benefits of meditation have been talked about for years around mental health, boosted immunity, vitality and creativity. Sounds too good to be true but the good news is science is now supporting that improved well-being, enhanced creativity and a rewired brain are just some of the benefits of daily meditation practice. So what exactly is modern science saying about this ancient wisdom?

The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation reduces anxiety at a brainwave level. A team of researchers at the University of Zagreb in Croatia have published a study on the impact of meditation on brain waves. The EEG brainwave patterns were measured as an indicator of peace. Results confirmed that the effects of transcendental meditation on EEG brainwave patterns and anxiety suggested that meditation is helpful in treating different types of anxiety disorders.

Creativity is enhanced in meditators. In another study published in the Creativity Research Journal it was found that after meditation when participants were given the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking they showed higher than average results for creativity and successful problem solving.

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Job burnout is happen less when you meditate. In a third study researchers looked at job burnout, a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, and found significant reduction in a group who had been meditating versus the control group. This was a clinically important decrease in perceived stress.

Pain is more easily tolerated. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research done on chronic pain suffers showed that those who meditated didn’t reduce pain levels but the amount of pain they were having caused them less discomfort than the non-meditating control group.

Interestingly despite these scientific results, meditation is still viewed by many as a hippie practice that borders on religion more than healthcare. In one study 80% of Americans asked said they would rather take a pill to relieve anxiety than sit for 20 minutes in meditation. Perhaps this is because people don’t know how to get started on a practice.

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How To Get Started

If you want to get started at home in a simple meditation practice and see these benefits in as little as 2 weeks, here are 8 simple steps to get you started.

1.Pick a time.

I learned that the best time is when you first wake up. The acronym I learned was RPM for rise, pee, meditate. Why? If you put it off until later in the day, it tends to get lower and lower on the to do list.

2. Make it a habit.

Start by scheduling it on your calendar for 21 days. That’s enough time to get a habit formed.

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3. Avoid distractions.

Find a place where you can sit without interruptions for 15-20 minutes. If you have small children pick a time where they won’t need your immediate attention and tell them they can sit with you but you won’t talk to them until you are done.

4. Comfort is key.

Sitting is recommended more than laying down because your body equates laying down with sleep and you are more likely to doze off if you lay down, Make sure you are warm enough. And there is no need to be in a yoga posture as you sit. Cross legged is fine. Eyes closed if possible.

5. Start by following the breath.

This means just bring full awareness away from anything but inhaling and exhaling. Witness what your breath is doing without trying to change it or control it.

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6. Don’t try to stop thinking.

You have approximately 80,000 thoughts each day. It’s impossible to stop them from coming. The goal in meditation is just to notice when you are thinking and refocus back on the breath. This trains the brain to focus for longer durations without asking it to stop thinking.

7. Don’t compare your meditation to others.

Don’t even compare it to your last meditation. Each one is different. Judging your meditation means that there was a goal you were trying to achieve in the meditation. “There is no try just do” in the words of yoda.

8. Benefits that start in meditation are happening outside meditation.

You will notice the benefits of what you do in meditation, not during the meditation but in the rest of your day. You might notice that you have more patience, more creativity or more vitality.

In the words of Pema Chodron: “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are”

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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