In the middle of my second piano lesson after a six-year hiatus, my teacher said, “You’re playing really well; you’re so much calmer now.” It’s nice to know someone is noticing a change in my post-retirement behavior, but I never knew that I came across as “excited, nervous, upset” (the antonyms offered up by my on-line thesaurus), when I played for her six years ago. What’s exciting is that you may not have to retire to get the same results. I’ve seen two reports in the last month from research studies on the effects of meditation and both offer hope for anyone showing signs of stress.
Both were summarized in DailyGood. Harvard researchers were responsible for the first. Their conclusions, which were reported in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, and were based on Magnetic Resonance (MR) images, “found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.” Meditators averaged 27 minutes a day for eight weeks, using mindfulness meditation techniques to get these results. For those of us who can’t remember where we left our keys or what day of the week it is, these offer us a great deal of encouragement.
The second study, from Wake Forest Park Baptist Medical Center, showed that meditation provided significant pain relief. In fact, “While morphine and pain-killers typically reduce pain ratings by 25%, [the] Wake Forest study found a 40% reduction with meditation!” Participants in this study “attended four 20-minute training sessions on mindfulness meditation…After meditation training, the subjects reported a 40 percent decrease in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness… And it wasn’t just their perception of pain that changed. Brain activity changed too.”
Google mindfulness meditation and you’ll find many sites offering helpful exercises. This is just one. The moral of the story is that we have much more power than we think over our minds and bodies, though it does take time and a some work to find it…and I’m retired.