By Deane Alban
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
I’m sure you don’t need convincing that chronic stress is bad for your brain, and that if you are stressed out you need to relax. But that’s easier said than done!
One of the most widely heralded stress reduction techniques is mindfulness meditation. But many people find it difficult, if not impossible, to quiet their mind. It’s not unusual for people to feel frustrated and disillusioned with their meditation practice. Then meditation becomes an additional source of stress!
There are some excellent reasons to pursue meditation, even when it seems to be the problem and not the answer. And there are other ways to achieve the same benefits if you can’t get the hang of traditional meditation.
Stress Destroys Brain Cells
When a situation you perceive as stressful occurs, it initiates a launch of biochemicals such as adrenalin and cortisol. Too much stress over prolonged periods actually changes the structure and function of the brain. Cortisol kills brain cells in the hippocampus, the seat of the memory. It literally excites your brain cells to death.
Stress conversely causes the amygdala, your fear center, to grow, causing you to become more fearful and anxious.
Research also suggests that chronic stress stimulates the growth of certain proteins that might even be the cause of Alzheimer’s.
Benefits of Meditation for Stress Reduction
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce stress, but meditation keeps popping up as one of the best. Over 1,000 studies have been published showing the health benefits of this relaxation technique.
Meditation has become a mainstream relaxation technique which has been reported on favorably by prestigious medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, and Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch.
It helps your brain by reducing stress, but meditation does a lot more too.
Meditation has been shown to improve learning and memory by increasing the communication between the right side and left side of the brain.
It also puts your brain in a desirable brainwave state. Meditation enhances the brain’s ability to regenerate new brain cells and new neural connections.
One of the most exciting findings is that mindfulness can even slow down the rate of cellular aging!
Problems with Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is one of the most common types of meditation.
It involves sitting quietly while trying to keep your mind focused on the present. This can be done by concentrating on your breath or by repeating a mantra. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation suggests chanting the sounds “sa, ta, na, ma” for 12 minutes per day to improve memory.
I’m currently rereading the best-selling, true story Eat, Pray, Love.
If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you’ll recall the author’s struggles with meditation. Even though she was living in an ashram in India, she still found meditating a constant struggle!
She felt continually pressured that she wasn’t doing it right which made her feel stressed out which made her feel even worse about herself.
Imagine how hard meditation can be when trying to fit it into a sensory-bombarding, multitasking Western life!
Some of the most common complaints about traditional meditation include feelings of impatience, frustration, boredom, and not getting the desired results. It understandably leaves many people questioning whether they are wasting their time.
Brainwave Technology Can Help
We’ve all experienced the relaxing and mesmerizing effects of brainwave entrainment.
The sound of waves at the beach, the crackle of an open fire, or listening to relaxing music causes your brainwaves to synchronize with that sound’s frequency and puts you in a relaxed, theta brainwave state.
Brainwave software is often referred to as “push button” or “instant” meditation. It has been developed to get your brain in a meditative state anytime you want.
If you like instant gratification (and who doesn’t? ) using a brainwave software program can give you the same benefits of meditation immediately.
I’ve used sound technology in addition to traditional meditation for years. I find meditation to be hit or miss. Some days I feel like I’ve nailed it but many days I feel like my thoughts were a runaway train and I don’t know what, if anything, I got out of it.
Sound technology reliably puts me in a relaxed state almost instantly.
The sounds soothe my mind and dissipate the constant urge to think. I find I don’t even “think about thinking.” I come out of each experience feeling like I’ve been on a mini-vacation. I never feel the frustration, impatience, or boredom I experience with meditation the old-fashioned way.
Getting Started with Meditation
Everyone is different, so the only way you’ll know what either traditional meditation or brainwave entrainment can do for you is to give them a try.
If you want to try mindfulness meditation, you can learn about it for free at ShambalaSun.com. I personally get better results when I use a guided meditation CD to help me stay on track. My favorite is Jack Kornfield’s Meditation for Beginners. If you are beyond beginner level, I recommend his Guided Meditation CD set.
If you want to try brainwave technology, these popular brainwave entrainment meditation programs offer sample meditations you can download for free (as MP3s):
- OmHarmonics – brainwave entrainment overlaid with lush, relaxing music.
- Brain Evolution — brainwave entrainment that sounds like a babbling brook.
I hope this helps you find your perfect way to get the benefits of meditation — without the frustration.
- Research at a Glance at TM.org
- Stress: Your Brain and Body at YourAmazingBrain.org
Previous articles by Deane:
- Don’t Let These 10 Common Brain Myths Hold You Back
- Stress, Telomeres, and the Secret to Prevent Aging
- 20 Common Medications That Can Cause Memory Loss
- Beat Brain Fog: Know the Causes, Symptoms and Solutions
- 5 Common Food Additives That Are Toxic to Your Brain
- Coconut Oil Cures Alzheimer’s Disease: Truth or Wishful Thinking?
- 6 Common Habits that Rob You of Essential Brain Vitamins
- The ABCs of Vitamins for Memory and Brain Health
- The Toll Being Overweight Takes On Your Brain
About the author:
Deane Alban holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and has taught and written on a wide variety of natural health topics for over 20 years. Her current focus is helping people overcome brain fog, “senior moments”, and other signs of mental decline now, and preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia in the future.
The human brain is designed to last a lifetime, but modern life takes a greater toll on the brain than most people realize. Deane teaches the best ways to keep your brain healthy and stay mentally sharp for life at her website BeBrainFit.com.