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The Simple Meditation Practice That Can Help People with Alzheimer’s

The Simple Meditation Practice That Can Help People with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s: the modern memory scourge with no cure and no lasting treatment options. The apparent futility of the quest for a pharmaceutical cure has led some scientists to examine the possibility of alternative therapies.

One method that has garnered particular attention in recent years is meditation—specifically those practices that emphasize mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation encourages practitioners to turn their awareness to the present moment and accept the current state of their lives and their being. Past and future don’t matter when one is truly mindful of their present selves.

Over the long-term, mindfulness meditation actually alters an individual’s brain chemistry and functioning.

A recent study has even linked the practice with positive neurological changes in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) a dementia precursor condition that often manifests in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted functional MRI (fMRI) scans on the brains of adults, some of whom were cognitively normal and some who had been diagnosed with MCI.

The adults were split up into two groups. One group received care that was typical for their health conditions, while the other group engaged in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—a program utilizing meditation and yoga to cultivate a sense of mindful awareness—for at least two hours a week, for eight weeks. The MBSR group was also advised to cultivate a daily mindfulness practice on their own for at least 15 minutes.

When researchers compared the before and after fMRI scans of the two groups, they found that those who’d participated in the mindfulness practice experienced less degeneration in their hippocampus, the section of the brain responsible for major learning, memory and emotional functions, and enhanced connectivity in their Default Mode Network, a neurological system often associated with daydreaming and memory retrieval. These observations held true, regardless of whether the individual had MCI or was cognitively normal.

While Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s first author concedes that the investigation was relatively small, she and her co-authors are encouraged by their findings. “MBSR is a relatively simple intervention, with very little downside,” she says in a press release. “If MBSR can help delay the symptoms of cognitive decline even a little bit, it can contribute to improved quality of life for many of these patients.”

Mindfulness in everyday life

There’s no one right way to practice mindfulness meditation. You don’t have to be sitting on the floor with your eyes closed and your hands in the Vitarka mudra position to reap the mind-body benefits of mindfulness.

All you have to do is direct your mind inward, focus on your breath and the flow of your body, and just be; honoring the present moment and your place in it.

In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, Buddhist monk and Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, describes the daily practice of being mindful in this way, “Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.”

Related
An Insider’s Perspective on Life With Alzheimer’s
5 Tips for Overcoming Anxiety
The Unexpected Secret to Successful Aging
7 Yoga Poses That Can Help You Fall Asleep
How Being Mindful Can Help You Break Out of a Mental Rut
8 Easy Ways to Improve Your Mood

Read more: Alternative Therapies, Alzheimer's, Health, Healthy Aging, Mental Wellness, Peace, Spirit, Stress, , , ,

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor

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AgingCare.com connects family caregivers and provides support, resources, expert advice and senior housing options for people caring for their elderly parents. AgingCare.com is a trusted resource that visitors rely on every day to find inspiration, make informed decisions, and ease the stress of caregiving.

67 comments

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1:20AM PST on Dec 14, 2013

Meditation is good for a body, including the mind.

4:38AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

ty

6:37PM PST on Dec 11, 2013

Thanks for sharing

10:30PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

noted, thanks

7:04PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Thanks

5:54PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Thank you AgingCare.com, for Sharing this!

12:13AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

A commendation article I came across recently cited a group of caregivers, for those already in care facilities with "advancing Alzheimer's", met with families (those lucky enough to have families who remain committed), to discuss their residents' former lives, likes and dislikes, musical choices, poetry, etc. to see if they could be brought to a happier place (something like coming home) by including/reintroducing whatever it is/was that brought them pleasure, peace and contentment in their past.

They began with musical choices (music transcends all bounds) and were very surprised to find that those targeted by their choices not only "perked up" at the sound, but slowly advanced to chiming in vocally, became more cooperative and easier to handle, less aggitated and aggressive, etc.

What a simple yet complex challenge. With disinterest, time constraints, available staff, etc. don't see this going much farther, do you? Money and the self seem to rule our current populous, with those no longer able to carry their weight cast aside as medical waste. How sick we've become.

11:59PM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Thank you

10:53AM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

10:04PM PST on Dec 7, 2013

Many of my psychotherapy clients come to me with stress issues. I highly recommend this Mastery over Stress mp3 by Jon Shore at this website to many of my clients: http://stress.lightunlimitedpublishing.com/. Just download it and listen to it while lying in bed or sitting in a chair. It works well for all for them and will probably work for you as well if you practice with it for at least a week. It is worth trying. It will teach you how to deal with stress and get rid of stress anywhere and anytime by taking a deep breath. Having a trigger you can use anytime is very important. Practicing every day is also important so that the trigger is available to you whenever you need it. It only takes 12 - 15 minutes to use each day.
Go download it and try it.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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