How is Your Nervous System?
What are you doing to calm your nervous system? Keeping your cool on the inside may be more important than you think!
A new study in one of the world’s most prestigious journals (Nature) may have just proven a fundamental Ayurvedic principle,1 showing that nervous system activity is linked to lifespan. Nervous system stimulation, sometimes called neural excitation, is linked to shorter life, while dialing down neural excitation, or staying calm, is linked to longer life.
This study suggests that a lifetime of worry, stress, and incessant thinking is likely to be a short one.1
Rest + REST Protein
If the mind is calm and we can handle stress without nervous system overexcitation, we can enjoy a longer life. Suppression of life-shortening neural excitation is regulated by a protein appropriately named REST. The more REST protein you can produce, the more calm you are and the longer you may live.
Ayurveda is founded on the premise that health and longevity benefits are directly related to maintaining a calm center in the midst of a busy lifestyle. Ayurveda employs many techniques to accomplish this. Some, like meditation, have proven to increase REST protein and naturally suppress neural excitation.3
Learn how to meditate here.
Studies show that lack of REST is linked to age-related cognitive decline and mood instability.3 The longer one maintains reduced neural excitation, the more a family of proteins known as forkhead transcription factors are activated, which also induce longevity. This longevity pathway mimics the pathways associated with caloric restriction or making longer trips without food between meals.1,4
Learn more about Ayurvedic calorie restriction here.
Ayurveda + Calm Mind
As I’ve written about for years, all of Ayurveda and Vedic science can be boiled down to four words from the Vedic texts: Establish being, perform action. This suggests actions must come from a calm mind to maximize human potential, health, and longevity.2
Using the hurricane analogy (one of my favorites), the bigger the eye of a storm, the more powerful the winds. If we can establish being (or calm in the mind) and learn to take action from a place of peace, we can enjoy higher levels of activity and endure higher levels of stress without being damaged by an overexcited, stressed-out nervous system.
Training the Nervous System
Imagine teaching your nervous system not to be overstimulated under stress. Researchers in the study above commented on the need to investigate stress reduction techniques to see if they could increase production of REST protein. However, studies have already demonstrated an increase in REST from meditation.3
Studies of centenarians (those over 100) show significantly more REST in their brains than those who die in their 60s and 70s.1 The centenarian lifestyle is one of peace, calm, and no hurry, which mimics the Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Balance Vata + Live in Sattva
The key to neural de-excitation and building more REST, according to Ayurveda, is to balance vata and live a sattvic lifestyle.
Vata is governed by the air element and controls movement. One of the things that moves the most in the body is the nervous system. It has long been held in Ayurveda that keeping vata and the mind calm is the key ingredient to health and longevity.
A sattvic lifestyle is one that engages in care, giving, and concern for others. It is non-violent, relaxed, and patient. It includes eating organic, whole, non-processed, fresh food in a relaxed way, enjoying uplifting company and conversation.
Ayurvedic techniques designed to calm the mind are too numerous to list here. Every article I write has this message laced into its fabric. But if I had to choose the number one Ayurvedic REST-increasing technique, that would be meditation.
Meditation has been shown to increase REST and lengthen telomeres. (This was discovered by Noble Prize-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn.)5 If you do not know how to meditate, you can start today with my very simple One-Minute Meditation.
What balances your nervous system? What effect do you feel from meditation? Let us know!