People who are stressed beyond their limit are candidates for many physical and mental issues. Stress and anxiety changes our physiology, raises our heart rate and blood pressure, causes physical illness and even changes our brain chemistry. One area that is most often affected is our memory.
The pituitary gland secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), when we are stressed, and this hormone in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline and later on cortisol (corticosteroids). Corticosteroids can weaken the blood-brain barrier and damage the hippocampus, which is a vital memory center of the brain.
When we are stressed we lose the power to concentrate. When we do not concentrate well on things that are important to us they do not get a chance to be encoded into our short term and long-term memory centers in the brain. We forget things very easily because we really are not paying that much attention to them in the first place. Although most people associate memory loss with age it can happen to anyone at any time in their lives.
Other reasons for forgetfulness include: being over tired, mental or physical illness, brain injury, alcohol and drug abuse, being over worked and overtired, or just not exercising the brain enough.
So before we start this discussion make sure you get enough sleep. It is not only children who need a good nightâ€™s sleep to be fresh and alert during the day, everyone needs it.
Meditation is a great way to get beyond the thinking mind and reach a higher state of awareness. The state of awareness will intensify mental alertness so that the mind will be clearer and free from psychic negative influences. Meditation will also produce a calming relaxing affect as well. There are different ways to meditate, but all have the common goal to quiet the mind and empty it of all thoughts.
Meditation requires a routine, it just does not produce benefits by doing it once in a while, regular practice is required. The length of time for practice differs amongst the people practicing. Some people will find that they only need five minutes per day while other people may require 15 minutes or more.
Find a time of day when you can have the piece and quiet you need to mediate. Generally the morning is better because the thoughts of the new day have not infiltrated the mind, but different times are more productive for different people. Some people like to meditate in the mid afternoon; some prefer to meditate before going to bed at night. What you should not do is mediate when you are hungry or just after a meal because the bodyâ€™s digestive signals can interrupt the quieting of the mind.
Find a quiet and peaceful location in your home and make sure it is comfortable. If you are uncomfortable while meditating, for example you have a sore back, these thoughts and feelings will infiltrate you mind and distract you from focusing on your meditation. Some people prefer to meditate on a cushion, and others prefer just the solid ground. As long as you are in a comfortable position it is okay. Some people will sit with their back straight and others prefer to lie down. Just make sure if you lay down you do not fall asleep.
Keep your eyes partially open without focusing on anything. However, that is too difficult for some people so focus on a single location on the wall or a candle flame and so.
Breathe deeply and rhythmically; make sure to breathe from your abdomen and not from your chest. Inhale to the count of three and exhale to the count of six. If you are practicing this particular type of meditation, it should be done for about 15 minutes. The breathing will reoxygenate your brain cells. Relax every part of your body starting from the toes to the brain. For a full description on how to do this read my article on hypnosis and memory.
If you find your mind is wandering to different thoughts gently bring it back to your breathing, your relaxing body parts, and the focus of the flame or location on the wall.
Recite a mantra, which is a sacred word such as aum, or count your breaths if you find that easier. If you find your mind is still wandering focus on a mental image such as a favorite quiet place like a chapel, an empty beach at night, a flower garden, a staircase that you descend slowly relaxing as you descend each step.
Once you mastered focusing on one thought you have reached the level of meditation where you focus on nothing at all. This is the essential level for cleaning your mind of chatter. If thoughts come back you can now look at them quickly, but you will have the ability to gently push them out of your mind. This level of meditation can take years so do not be discouraged if you cannot clear your mind of all thoughts. With practice it will come and you will become a master.
Physical exercise will improve every aspect of your life. It will not only make you physically healthy, it will make you mentally healthy as well. Numerous studies of brain wave patterns indicate that people who exercise regularly have a steep peaks and valleys brain wave pattern, which is indicative of mental alertness. This implies that people who exercise a lot are more apt at blocking distractions and focusing on the things that really matter. So by having better levels of concentration they are better able to retain information and retrieve their memories when needed.
Aerobic Exercise is great for retaining both verbal and short-term memory. This kind of memory is important when you want to remember directions, names, phones numbers, and you want to connect the name with the face of the person in question.
Some interesting research came out in 2007 pointing to exercise being a factor in building new brain cells in the dentate gyrus, an area in the hippocampus associated with age related decline in memory. This decline usually begins to around the age of 30. The hippocampus in general is one the crucial memory centers of the brain.
First studies of the new cell growth was seen in mice, they appeared to have more blood flow to the dentate gyrus meaning more activity and more brain cells. Later, the study was reproduced in humans who exercised and they too had that increased blood flow. These studies are also equally important pointing the fact that exercise may be vital in impeding memory loss as we grow older; especially when dealing with neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimerâ€™s and other forms of dementia.
Aerobic exercise improves the heart keeping it strong and keeping the vessels strong. This in turn improves the oxygen and nutrients supplied to the brain to keep it at optimum performance. The brain uses a quarter of the bodyâ€™s oxygen and natural sugars.
Aerobic exercise also boasts neurotropic factor (BDNF), which is a brain chemical responsible for promoting new cells growth that serves to make the brain stronger and healthier.
Mind Calming Exercises
Aerobic exercise is wonderful, but they are mostly geared for the younger crowd, not suitable for seniors or people with disabilities. Studies have shown that the gentle exercises of Tai Chi and Yoga will produce the same results for memory, as the aerobic exercises will do.
Tai Chi exercises promote body alignment, mental alertness and relaxation. Tai Chi integrates body postures with deep breathing techniques. It promotes the feeling being grounded (centered in oneâ€™s body). It promotes a general feeling of well-being.
We know Tai Chi to be a martial art, but it is much more than that. It is a way of life, a balance between mind and body and nature. According to legend, Chen San Feng, a shaolin monk first taught Tai Chi to fellow monks in addition to prayer and mediation. Afterwards it was used as a martial art to defend the temple. Up until the 17th century Tai Chi was reserved for monastery life.
Chen Wang Ting, a retired general added more postures or stances round about that time. Then up until the 19th century it remained a secret art. Yang Lu Chan further developed the art at that point and it then spread throughout China. Today there are so many styles and postures, which extend well beyond the original 13 postures.
Tai Chi is often referred to as â€œmeditation in motionâ€ because of its beauty and gracefulness. Tai chi is gentle low weight bearing exercises that provide a cardiovascular workout without side affects. The beauty of Tai Chi is that it is a suitable set of exercise for all ages, and physical levels of fitness. The lists of benefits for Tai Chi are many such as: slowing the aging process, increasing energy levels, sharpening mental focus, memory enhancement, boosting the nervous system and the immune system, reducing stress and anxiety, improving mobility and flexibility, weight loss, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, muscle toning, improving gastric problems, arthritis, fibromyalgia, asthma and allergies, improving recovery after surgery, stimulating circulation and more.
Yoga and memory
Yoga has been used for centuries as a means of quieting the mind, calming it down, and reducing stress. Yoga is also for promoting mental alertness so that we can pay attention to the world around us and thus improve our chances for concentrating and retaining what is important to us.
Yoga Asanas improve memory and mental and physical strength. Sarvangasana and Bhujangasana are two important asana postures. For more about these asanas and others you can visit: http://www.yogsandesh.org/articles/39/1/Miracles-of-Yoga-in-Improving-Memory-Power/Page1.html