I am a newly qualified Mindfulness teacher and this along with my passion for brain health means that I want to share with you the ways in which mindfulness and short, guided mindful meditations can support your brain health and reduce your risk of developing dementia.

First, it is well known that Mindful Meditation can reduce the impact of STRESS on the brain and the body. There are numerous studies to support this. Some stress is inevitable. We all experience a degree of stress in our day to day lives but chronic i.e. long term stress is really damaging. It creates inflammation in the body and brain; it affects our mental well-being which can, in turn, lead to impaired cognitive function. Chronic stress also impacts our sleep and we know that good sleep is important for good brain health. Sleep is when our body and brain repairs the damage done during our waking hours. Poor sleep also makes us less physically and mentally resilient. Mindful Meditation helps modulate the stress response, lower stress hormone levels and promotes a sense of calm and well-being.

Second, Mindfulness helps us get out of our heads and into our bodies. It is all about being in the moment and bringing awareness to both what are doing and feeling. Mindful Meditation helps us to become more intuitive, more tuned in to our bodies and this is really supportive of our our brain health. Take a body scan style Mindful Meditation exercise, for example. We work our way around our body tuning in to physical sensations, any aches, pains or tension. How often do we do that in our day to day lives? If we feel some discomfort, we tend to ignore it and bash on with our lives as usual. By tuning in to our bodies and how we feel, we may be able to release the tension through our breath or at least recognise it for what it is. Mindful meditation provides us with the opportunity to reflect – why do I feel like this; why am I holding tension here in my jaw, or my shoulders or my pelvis? Unresolved tension or pain is a stressor on the body and activates the stress hormones. It may also prevent us from leading a full and active life.

Self-awareness extends beyond a meditation and into our day to day lives. We become more aware of all our senses and and how well they are working! Losing our sense of smell over time can be an early sign of cognitive decline. Of course, it may well be due to something else like a cold or long Covid but don’t ignore it if you’re not sure why your sense of smell has deteriorated. Likewise being more aware of your hearing will hopefully prompt you to take action if you start to experience hearing loss. Hearing loss is not unusual as we get older and should not be ignored(post menopause women often experience changes to their hearing because we have a lot of oestrogen receptors in our ears!). Untreated hearing loss tends to make people withdraw from social activities and we know that social connection is key to good brain health.

Third, Mindfulness and Mindful Mediation helps us to live more of our lives in the present. We ruminate on the past and worry about the future less. We find joy and gratitude in small things likes a bunch of flowers or being out in nature. Joy and gratitude promote well-being both physical and mental and this in turn helps to protect our brains from cognitive decline. Anxiety and depression are risk factors for dementia.

Forth, Mindful Meditation helps us focus our awareness on the breath. We learn to slow our breath; to breathe through our noses and to breath deep down into our bellies. Nasal breathing increases the production of nitric oxide in the nose. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which means it helps to widen blood vessels which in turns improves oxygen circulation around the body and brain. Nasal breathing can lower our risk of snoring and sleep apnea. Many people report fantastic sleep when they try mouth taping at night – read up about this before trying it. Breath by James Nestor and Oxygen Advantage by Patrick Mckeown are both good books on this subject. Nasal breathing filters the air we breathe so we breathe in less toxins whilst mouth breathing can lead to a dry mouth, bad breath and gum disease. Both toxins and gum disease are risk factors for dementia.

Fifth, increasing our awareness of how we breathe when we meditate will overflow into daily life. We can use our breath to help manage difficult situations; to improve our digestion; and to trigger our parasympathetic nervous system – this tells our brain via the vagus nerve that we are calm and ok. By practicing mindfulness when we eat for example, we slow down our breath, we breathe through our nose and we trigger the rest and digest nervous system. We are conscious of being present – we eat mindfully rather than eating in front of the TV or when we are running from one meeting to another. This helps with both our digestion and weight management. Good digestion is important for good gut health and the link between gut health and our brain health is well known. Being overweight is a risk factor for dementia so bringing greater awareness to what and how you eat is a good thing when it comes to your brain health.

I hope you found this useful. I will shortly be putting together a 6 week course aimed at busy people with busy minds who want t0 stress less and find some calm in their day. I can assure you it won’t involve sitting crossed legged up a mountain for hours on end! If you are interested in signing up for this course, let me know by emailing me amanda@theagewellcoach.com