How Does Mindfulness Help Enhance Memory?

memory-concept-fbWe are currently experiencing an epidemic of memory loss…short and long term. With such diagnoses as Dementia and Alzheimer’s we can track how widespread the problem is. These two diagnoses are usually associated with the older population but we are seeing varying degrees of memory loss in people of all ages. The causes are multifaceted and range from stress to diet /nutrition, lack of exercise, over stimulation from technology, genetics and environmental pollution. I’m sure I left some out but these seem to be the ones that come to my attention most frequently.

Most of these issues that contribute to memory loss can be addressed by making lifestyle changes. Environmental pollution is a tough one as we are often times held captive by our environment and environmental issues express themselves in air quality, water quality and the food chain. It is important to mitigate these issues as much as possible by making wise choices when possible. Genetics is the only one that is seemingly out of reach although I have come across studies recently that suggest that even genetics can be modified under the right circumstances. Besides scientific genetic engineering and re engineering we have found that mindfulness meditation lengthens telomeres, the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes. The result is the ability to keep our brains younger, longer and we look at our brains as the focal point for memory.

Other mindfulness meditation studies have shown some impressive results with different parts of the brain that influence memory.

The Hippocampus is a part of our brain that is directly involved with short and long term memory. Through age and stress we know that the Hippocampus shrinks and gets less dense over time. A 2011 Harvard study showed significant increased thickness of the Hippocampus with the 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) program pioneered by Jon Kabat -Zinn.

We have also seen mindfulness meditation benefits in the frontal cortex area of the brain. The frontal cortex is responsible for functions such as concentration, attention, learning and memory. A study at Massachusetts General Hospital showed the that mindfulness meditation caused the brain’s grey matter of the frontal cortex area to thicken because  mindfulness meditation increases the size of blood vessels and the blood flow in the region.

There is enough scientific evidence now to conclude that mindfulness meditation has a positive effect on memory.

A great book on Neuroplasiticity, the effects of mindfulness on the brain is:

Three related studies/articles of interest are:

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