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Researchers Find Meditation Might Help Preserve Gray Matter In Our Brains

Researchers Find Meditation Might Help Preserve Gray Matter In Our Brains

“In its broadest and most universal definition, meditation is a discipline that involves turning the mind and attention inward and focusing on a single thought, image, object or feeling”.

– The Australian Teachers of Meditation Association

Definitions of meditation vary from one individual practice to another, however the general idea is to train the mind to improve focus. Different forms of meditation focus on different aspects such as breath, an object, a mantra (repeated word or sound), a mental image or positive statements.

The effects of relaxation are an immediate result of practiced meditation and can provide a range of long-term benefits.

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From a physical view, meditation lowers high blood pressure, reduces anxiety attacks, increases serotonin production which improves mood and behavior reduces stress-related pain (e.g. tension, headaches and insomnia, and increases immunity and energy).

Mentally, meditation decreases anxiety, improves emotional stability, provides clarity and peace of mind and sharpens the mind.

To add to the abundance of benefits meditation offers, research by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) now suggest that meditation could slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain.

During an individual’s mid-to-late 20s, the brain begins to decrease in weight and volume, by which stage it begins to lose some of its functional abilities. Through the following years, the risk for mental and neurodegenerative disease increases.

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The study by UCLA shows that meditation can actually help lower these risks. It also suggests that meditation can preserve the brain’s gray matter, a neuron-containing tissue which functions to process information.

The study focused primarily on the association between age and the brain’s gray matter, comparing 50 people who meditated and 50 who had not, with both groups already showing signs of loss of grey matter as they aged.

Each group consisted of 28 men and 22 women, aged 24 to 77, with those who meditated for an average of 20 years. Using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists scanned the brains of the participants. Both groups of people naturally showed the degeneration in the gray matter (a loss of brain tissue with increasing age), but the large parts of gray matter in the brains of those who meditated were found to be better preserved.

While other factors, such as lifestyle choices, personality traits and genetic brain differences, need to be taken into consideration, the magnitude of the results was surprising even to the researchers.

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“We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating…Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

– Dr. Florian Kurth, co-author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center

Many people around the world are well aware of the cleansing and relaxation properties of meditation and most will make an excuse that it is too difficult or too time consuming. However if you think of it in terms of a few hours of your day in exchange for a better sleep at night and a healthier brain as you age, it might be time to reconsider.

To those who are already well-acquainted with the practice of meditation, this might provide encouragement for you to continue on with meditation into older age.

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“Our results are promising…Hopefully they will stimulate other studies exploring the potential of meditation to better preserve our aging brains and minds. Accumulating scientific evidence that meditation has brain-altering capabilities might ultimately allow for an effective translation from research to practice, not only in the framework of healthy aging but also pathological aging.”

– Dr. Eileen Luders, first author and assistant professor of neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA

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Elizabeth Andal

Elizabeth is a passionate writer who shares about lifestyle tips and lessons learned in life on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

11 Hidden Benefits of Using Oil Diffusers

Affordable, relaxing, and healthy, oil diffusers are gaining popularity with people everywhere due to their extensive benefits. Oil diffusers work through the simple process of oil diffusion, which uses heat to turn oil into a vapor that is then spread around a living space. Diffused oil can have several relaxation and health-related benefits, including safe scent-dispersion, mosquito and mold defense, stress relief, and more!

Read on for 11 hidden benefits of using oil diffusers.

1. Safe Scents That Make Sense

Unlike candles or air fresheners, oil diffusers release cleansing molecules into your air that work to purify it, not overload it with unhealthy chemicals. Electronic diffusers also do not pose the fire risk that candles do. Plus, they contain the added feature of interchangeability, which means you change oil types for different scents and health benefits.

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2. Stress Relief

Several lab studies have confirmed that diffusing essential oils like lavender have been shown to reduce stress and help relieve anxiety in medical patients. Preliminary studies have also shown that oil diffusers can help alleviate symptoms of depression.

3. Improved Sleep

Diffused oil has relaxing properties that can help people of all ages fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly. Electronic diffusers not only have the option to mix and match different oil blends (Try a lavender, Bulgarian rose, and Roman chamomile blend to help with insomnia), they also run at a gentle hum that helps relax an agitated mind. Many also come with an auto shut-off feature to help conserve oils once you have fallen asleep.

4. Appetite Control

Much like gum, oil diffusers can help stimulate the senses in a way that works to curb appetite. New research has shown that diffused peppermint oil can help curb appetite by inducing a satiety response within the body. Diffused peppermint oil has also been shown to increase energy.

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5. Bacteria and Mold Killing

When essential oils are diffused in the air, they break down free radicals that contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria. Eucalyptus, thyme, and tea tree oils are especially good for this purpose. Diffused oil is also highly effective when it comes to combating fungal yeast threats, as the oil help makes the air inhospitable for yeasts such as mold. Pine and red thyme essential oils are best for combating mold.

6. Decongestion and Mucus Control

Ever tried Vick’s Vapo-Rub? Its decongesting powers come from active ingredients made from the eucalyptus tree. In principle, oil diffusers work the same way as Vapo-Rub, except they diffuse their decongesting vapor all around the room, not just on your chest or neck. Oil diffusers have been known to cure pneumonia in lab mice.

7. Mosquito Repellant

Nobody likes mosquitoes — but when the trade-off means using repellants full of DEET, a toxic chemical that can be especially harmful to children, mosquito control can often seem like a lose-lose. However, scientists have shown that oil diffusers can be used as a safe and highly effective mosquito repellant. Studies have shown that a diffused oil mixture containing clove essential oil and lemongrass essential oil repelled one type of Zika-carrying mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, at a rate of 100%.

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8. Pain Relief

While applying oils directly to areas of your body may be the most effective way to alleviate pain, diffusing essential oils can also be an effective means of pain relief. When we inhale healthy essential oils, they enter our blood stream and can help internally relieve persistent pain from headaches, overworked muscles, and sore joints.

9. The New Anti-Viral

Research into the anti-viral effects of oil diffusion is now just gaining steam. A recent study showed that star anise essential oil was proven in medical experiments to destroy the herpes simplex virus in contained areas at a rate of 99%. Another study showed the popular DoTerra oil blend OnGuard to have highly-effective influenza-combating powers.

10. Improved Cognitive Function

Diffusing essential oils has also been shown to improve cognitive function. Many essential oils have adaptogenic qualities, which can work twofold in soothing us when we’re stressed, and giving our bodies a pick-me-up when we’re feeling down or sluggish. By working to level out an imbalanced mood, diffused oils also help us to focus. There are also several essential oils which have been shown to help balance the body’s hormones. With prolonged use, these oils can work to repair the underlying causes responsible for hindering cognitive function.

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11. Money Saving

With ten clear benefits of oil diffusers already outlined, there is one more that should now be obvious: using an oil diffuser will help you to save money. As an anti-viral, bug repelling, and stress-relief solution rolled into one safe product, an oil diffuser used with the proper oils will save you money on products you might otherwise be buying to help cure those pesky headaches or get your kids to fall asleep on time. If you’re wondering just how affordable oil diffusers can be, check the buyer’s guide to the best oil diffusers — you’ll be sure to find one that fits your budget!

Featured photo credit: Jopeel Quimpo via unsplash.com

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