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Spiritual Practice and Brain Health
Meditation and religious and spiritual practices, or your spiritual fitness, could mitigate the effects of chronic stress on cognition, reverse memory loss, potentially reduce other factors that contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In a comprehensive review of studies that compare cognitive function to spiritual involvement, 82% reported a positive association. The review also concluded that having lower spiritual well-being was associated with mild cognitive impairment and early dementia.
This news comes at a critical time. Age related cognitive decline cost the U.S. a whopping $305 billion dollars in 2020. Researchers tell us that if something isn’t done to solve this problem, these numbers could triple by the year 2050.
The new study, from researchers at the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, comes at a time when masses of people are leaving their churches, synagogues, and temples and becoming nones, or those that don’t affiliate with any religion. A 2016 National Geographic News article reported that nones in the U.S. have overtaken Catholics, mainline Protestants, and all followers of non-Christian faiths. According to Pew Research Center, 23% of Americans have no religious affiliation and 35% of adult millennials are religiously unaffiliated.
Brain Benefits from Meditation in Just 12 Minutes a Day
In the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation study, in which meditation, breathing, and a form or chanting called Kirtan Kriya were practiced for just 12 minutes a day, researchers recorded better sleep, improved cognition, better mood, slowed memory loss, increased wellbeing and increased blood flow to areas of the brain related to cognitive function and emotional regulation, as well as increasing the volume of grey matter or cortex of the brain.
I have written numerous articles citing the research on the effectiveness of certain breathing and meditation practices. The one common denominator of all the practices I have researched is the positive changes in the brain that happen from practicing pranayama and meditation. These practices are designed to de-stress the brain, freeing it to function at a higher capacity unrestricted by stress.