Manage stress

LOOK INWARD

Spend a few quiet minutes every day meditating or practicing mindfulness; this will help ease anxiety and lower stress hormones. To learn more about meditation, watch a guided meditation with Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, Ph.D at bit.ly/Kornfield-med.  For more info about mindfulness visit umassmed.edu/cfm or read Jon-Kabat Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, Illness.

For online (and sometimes free) courses on Mindfulness, visit palousemindfulness.com.

GET MOVING
Try to be physically active for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day, says Ronald Petersen, MD, Ph.D director of the Mayo clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Cnter and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. Choose an activity you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, practicing yoga, hiking, etc. Anything that gets you moving vigorously will help reduce stress–but check in with your physician before starting any exercise program.

LAUGH

ANYTHING  THAT MAKES YOU LAUGH MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD.  Some evidence even suggests that laughter can deactivate stress hormones. (Three  Stooges; Dumb and Dumber, to name a few).

TUNE IN TO MELLOW MUSIC

Music has a powerful effect on the brain, and can induce the release of calming hormones, thereby reducing stress, says Mark Gudesblatt MD a neurologist at South Shore Neurological Associates in Patchogue NY and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

STRENGTHEN RELATONSHIPS

There is strong evidence that being socially active boosts cognitive   ability says Gary Small, MD, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences…interacting with other people also helps us avoid feelings of loneliness, which may protect the brain, since associating with others appears to decrease the risk  of Alzeimer’s disease, even if you like being alone.”

For example, a UCLA study found that chronically lonely people have higher levels of inflammatory cells, which can cause brain cell damage and neurodegeneration. “The good news is that becoming and staying socially engaged may reduce your risk for dementia by as much as 60 % says Dr. Small.”

In the same issue Dr. Herbert Benson MD, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital and the endowed Mind Body Medicine professor at Harvard Medical School compared the activity of 40,000 genes in people  who meditate regularly with gene activity a group of people who never meditated. He and colleagues collected blood before and after the program, during which participants were asked to meditate for 10 minutes twice a day. They checked the samples for white blood cells in order to measure gene expression.

They observed that in the meditation group, there was an enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, insulin secretion, and maintenance of aging cells, and a reduced expression of genes associated with inflammation and stress-related pathways, says Dr. Benson, whose work was published in the Journal  PLOS ONE in 2013.

He credits these genomic changes to something he calls the “relaxation response,” a physical state of deep rest in white blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels decrease. The genomic changes intensified the more people practiced” he says. (To learn more about the relaxation response, visit relaxationresponse.org/steps)

SOURCE: NEUROLOGY NOW.  APRIL/MAY 2015