Protect your brain health and improve cognitive function with THIS activity only 12 minutes a day
(NaturalHealth365) Want to preserve your brain health and improve cognitive function as you age? Tried and true techniques like regular exercise, good sleep, and a healthy diet are all essential. One other thing you might want to add to your healthy aging to-do list is? Spirituality.
An extensive review published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that religious and spiritual practices, including meditation, are “crucial components” for enhancing and protecting cognitive well-being – and perhaps even reversing cognitive decline.
“Spiritual fitness” is a new concept for healthy aging and improved cognitive function. What does the literature say?
With so many of us and our loved ones facing a potential future with dementia – more than 152 million people are projected to have Alzheimer’s disease by 2050 – time is of the essence when it comes to optimizing and preserving our brainpower. In this newly published review, a team of authors based out of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation of Tucson and Thomas Jefferson University reveal some inspiring news.
The authors combed through an impressive collection of literature to investigate so-called “spiritual fitness™, a nascent area of medicine combining “religious involvement, spirituality, and psychological well-being.” Chief among their findings:
- Decades of prior research suggest that spirituality and religious involvement are protective against cognitive decline among middle-aged and older adults
- One possible explanation: improvements in psychological well-being and stress relief brought about by a spiritual practice could reduce inflammation and protect against cardiovascular disease, among other benefits
- People who believe they have a “purpose in life” are 2.4 times more likely not to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s compared to people who score low on the “purpose in life” scale
- “The opposite appears to be true as well,” the authors warn, adding that “lower spiritual well-being is associated with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early dementia”
The beneficial impacts of spiritual practices – including prayer and meditation – aren’t wholly surprising, given what we already know about lifestyle and healthy aging. Currently, no drugs have been shown to have a meaningful impact on preventing or reversing cognitive decline. In contrast, lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and socialization are found to be significantly beneficial.
Research confirms: Physiological and cognitive benefits could come from this meditative activity. But how much is enough?
The link between cognitive health and spirituality – whether within or outside the context of organized religion – is an important yet emerging field of study. There is still much to be learned in terms of benefit, prescription, and association.
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If you’re looking for a spiritual practice to adopt, the authors introduce a specific type of meditation known as Kirtan Kriya (KK). They describe KK as “a 12-minute singing meditation that involves four sounds, breathing, and repetitive finger movements.”
Based on their literature review, just 12 minutes of KK per day has been linked to an impressive number of brain-boosting health benefits, including:
- Decreased stress
- Improved sleep
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved memory and/or reversed memory loss – including in patients with mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s
- Improved executive function (which includes important cognitive tasks like memory, flexible thinking, and self-control)
- Improved mood and decreased anxiety and depression
On a physiological level, the authors note that KK has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, increase gray matter volume, increase telomere length (the protective end of DNA strands which are indicated in aging and DNA damage the shorter they get), enhance immune function, decrease inflammation, and beneficially change gene expression.
Want to become more spiritually fit and try Kirtan Kriya for yourself? Learn more about it here from the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation!
Sources for this article include: