KDHamptons Health + Wellness Editor Charlotte LaGuardia Shares 3 Top Reasons to Start Meditating
At one point or another, we have all tried meditation, with hundreds of apps on the market it is kind of hard not to. Whether or not we stuck with it is a different story! Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not passive. It is actively training your brain to control the thoughts that pop up. Approaching the practice with this mindset can make it easier and slightly less frustrating in the beginning. So why do people meditate and why have we been doing it for thousands of years. Luckily, science has investigated this and here are my top three benefits:
1. Reduces Activation of Fear & Anxiety Centers
Our body’s stress system is ancient. We have the same hormones, reflexes, and neurological pathways that we did as cavemen. The blood pumping, heart racing stress response we feel during a big presentation was designed to help us survive threat in the wild. The process of feeling stress and undergoing the stress response was designed to be turned off once the threat is gone because once turned off the body can go back to digesting food, creating proteins, and repairing damaged cells. However, in modern life it can be difficult to find a break from the stress response. Between social media, traffic, work stress, and even caffeine consumption, stress is always present. Luckily, meditation helps to turn the stress response off by lowering the production of inflammatory cytokines and stress promoting cortisol.
2. Delays Neurological Aging
The human brain begins aging in the late 20s early 30s. When the brain begins to age, we see a reduction in brain size along with a decrease in neuron repair. This can lead to difficulty with memory, language, and cognitive function. The best way to support an aging brain is still up for debate but we do know ample sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise are a great place to start. This is because sleep, diet, and exercise are all associated with increased levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. BDNF is known to repair and stimulate the growth of new neurons, which can delay signs of an aging brain. Additionally, a recent study from 2017 demonstrated that regular yoga and meditation can increase BDNF. There are also some foods like blueberries and matcha that promote the production of BDNF and a healthy brain!
3. Improves Attention Span
My favorite description of meditation is to picture your thoughts as cars and let each one drive away. When we meditate it is not the absence of thoughts, but it is our reaction a detachment to them. By training your brain to watch the cars drive away, you are naturally improving the length of your attention span. One study even showed that a regular meditation practice helped to improve mind wandering, attention, and anxious thoughts.
Surrounded by our local small farms, fresh seafood, and wineries Charlotte learned the benefits of nutrient dense foods firsthand and will share her integrative, science-based approach, with KDHamptons readers through recipes, tips, and features on health and wellness. (Be sure to follow her on Insta @thriveeastnutrition)
Clinical Nutritionist, Thrive East; 631.374.5510