We are all aware of the necessity for physical training of our bodies to keep them sound and strong as we age, but what about “brain training”? I recently had the pleasure of enrolling a new couple in our LiveWell program who practice centering prayer every day. I’ve also dabbled in some research around the topic of mindfulness, a more secular approach. It got me thinking about this type of discipline, and what it can do for our spirits as well as our brains.
It seems obvious, that taking a moment to breathe, look inward, or pray can only be beneficial to us mere humans. And like most of the good, simple things in life, science is starting to validate them. So, if you are like me, you really enjoy when the researchable evidence catches up with what we know, and then even surpasses that.
Sara Lazar, a Harvard neuroscientist, conducted research on meditation and found that a daily practice literally trains your brain in the most positive of ways. It can improve your working memory and executive functioning which is so important to all of us as we age. Working memory is the ability of the brain to hold some information and make it very easy to access. Read more about Lazar’s findings.
Executive functioning is involved in so many areas of mental functioning, including problem solving, planning, and one researcher suggests even living independently at home. Again, another key part of your brain working the way it should. And not to mention all the other benefits that are highlighted in this article – stress reduction, better focus, and more empathy.
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Over the years I’ve met and had the privilege of working with families coping with the loss of memory and as a result physical functioning. It’s almost revolutionary to think that there’s a strategy that we can all pursue that is safe and effective – no pills, no gimmicks – for training our brains to be healthier. In Nashville, we have wonderful resources at our disposal to help anyone get started or to support an existing knowledge base.
The Osher Center for Integrative Health at Vanderbilt offers classes with a more secular approach to mindfulness
Contemplative Outreach of Middle Tennessee has a list of churches and various denominations that host meetings on mindfulness.
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Jane Kelley serves as the Executive Director of Home & Community Services which includes LiveWell By Blakeford, a Life Plan at Home program unique to Middle Tennessee and Blakeford At Home, our CARF-CCAC accredited provider of at-home services.