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How To Reduce Stress and Improve Your Memory
If you want your memory to work the best it can, then reducing the stress in your life will help.
Reducing stress is crucial for optimal brain functioning. When you are stressed, you waste a lot of your valuable mental energy worrying, so you have less mental energy available for paying attention to the things that are important for you to remember. When your body is stressed, your muscles tense up, which causes them to use more oxygen. So when you’re stressed, your brain gets less of the oxygen that it needs in order to function well.
And to make matters worse, stress causes the body to produce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is tolerable for brief periods, but it’s very unhealthy when your body produces it for extended periods of time. Cortisol is toxic to brain cells. Studies show that chronic stress can quadruple your chance of getting Alzheimer’s Disease.
Recent studies show that certain stress-reducing activities can benefit the brain greatly.
Dr. Sara Lazar at the Psychiatry Department of Massachusetts General Hospital studied the effects of meditation on the brain. She used an FMRI scanner, which is a machine that enables a researcher to see what’s going on inside a patient’s brain. As people get older, various parts of the brain become thinner. Dr. Lazar’s work showed that the brains of people who meditate exhibit significantly less of this age-related brain thinning. Other benefits of meditation include improvements in the ability to focus the mind, improvements in impulse control, increases in empathy, and more restful sleep.
Another activity that has been shown to be good for brain health is Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a gentle Chinese martial art, which consists of a formal series of graceful, flowing movements. A recent 8-month study done at the University of South Florida shows that doing Tai Chi causes similar results. Seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week had significant increase in brain volume and scored better on tests of their memory and thinking abilities. Other benefits of Tai Chi include improvements in strength, agility, flexibility, balance and posture.