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Learn how mind-body therapies keep your brain healthy

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Recently I participated in an online conversation. It was interesting, and really sparked my curiosity. I learnt that practices as simple, and uncomplicated, as meditation, tai chi, yoga, and breathing exercises, could help relieve depression and resolve poor sleeping habits in people who had been diagnosed with dementia.

One of the participants commented that she was living with dementia and really struggled to sleep well. She told us that this lack of sleep was causing her to feel stressed and depressed, and this, in turn, was impacting her memory even more.

Most people had suggested she seek medical intervention in the form of prescription medication. This seems like a sensible and simple solution. However, she wasn’t keen.

You see when a person living with dementia takes certain medications, it can place them in greater danger of losing their balance and falling, and their psychomotor skills can become impaired. (Psychomotor is the relationship between the brain and physical movement.)

Someone in the group asked if she would consider meditation as opposed to medication. She loved the idea but bluntly stated, “My brain’s too far gone for that now.”

Being curious, I began to explore if meditation could, in fact, be beneficial for those diagnosed with dementia.

Here’s what I found

Mind-body therapies could possibly be the missing piece in the puzzle for extending the quality of life for dementia patients.  Research studies support the benefits of mind-body therapies to not only improve cognitive function, but in possibly preventing dementia altogether.  Now that does sound exciting.

You see, mind-body therapies help you to build physical, emotional, spiritual and mental resilience.  In plain English, this means these therapies can toughen you up from outside in.

What exactly are mind-body therapies?

Typically, Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness practices, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Music Therapy, Dance Therapy, and other similar interventions, fall under the umbrella of mind-body therapies.

Wow! That sounds like a fun way to keep your brain healthy.

The research

But if you are someone who needs cold, hard facts, then keep reading to discover what science says.

A study in 2007[1] examined how effective a 13-week education program titled “Health Promotion for the Mind, Body, and Spirit” was for older adults living with early-stage dementia. The results showed promise. Perceived self-efficacy (belief in your capacity) scores improved significantly, compared to pre-test responses. Participants, and their caregivers, also reported heightened confidence levels.

Another study[2] published in 2018 discovered that mindful movement (such as yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong, and walking meditation) outperformed conventional exercise in improving mood, quality of life, and cognitive function.

Mind-body therapies seem to be effective when it comes to improved mood and memory function. These findings are further supported by other studies[3] showing that mind-body therapies reduce stress and anxiety in those living with dementia.

Ongoing stress impacts brain health

When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, which is very beneficial if you have to run or fight for survival.  However, ongoing stress means that these high levels of cortisol are freely roaming around your body all the time. At these levels, cortisol is neurotoxic, and this hastens brain degeneration and the ageing process.

Mind-body therapies engage our parasympathetic nervous systems, which help us to relax, de-stress, and stimulate a well-functioning digestive process.  People living with dementia can often feel various degrees of stress or agitation brought on by declining capabilities and memory and poor sleep. This, in turn, increases their cortisol levels. You can see that this ends up going round and round with no relief.  So, instead of being able to respond with new insights and awareness and engage their parasympathetic nervous system, their brain remains in a state of high alert.

New-age therapies to the rescue

I’m not denouncing medical intervention, but to date there is no pharmaceutical cure, or long-term management system, for dementia. Even though millions of dollars have been invested into research, there haven’t been any successful outcomes as yet.

Mind-body therapies seem to be able to offer something simple and safe that can potentially slow progression or possibly ward off dementia altogether.

Perhaps the medical model needs to seriously look at integrating mind-body therapies into their treatment plans when addressing ageing and dementia care.

I strongly believe there is room for mind-body therapies to become a part of mainstream treatment options.  After all, mind-body therapies are safe and effective tools that provide proven benefits to those living with dementia and to their caregivers.  In fact, these therapies provide real benefits to everyone.

Will mind-body therapies become part of your healthy ageing plan?

Thanks for reading!

“I love to write about Personal & Spiritual Growth, Wellness, Feminism, and creating a Vegan Future.” Silva Mirovics is a Melbourne-based writer, gerontologist, yogi, vegan, and owner of We, The Brave Magazine. Silva has a Degree in Health Science, and a Research Masters in Gerontology

Research links:

  • [1] Nancy E. Richeson, Sarah Boyne & E. Michael Brady (2007) Education for Older Adults with Early-Stage Dementia: Health Promotion for the Mind, Body, and Spirit, Educational Gerontology, 33:9, 723–736, DOI: 10.1080/03601270701364438
  • [2] Laird, K.T., Paholpak, P., Roman, M. et al. Mind-Body Therapies for Late-Life Mental and Cognitive Health. Curr Psychiatry Rep 20, 2 (2018).
  • [3] Anderson, J. G., Rogers, C. E., Bossen, A., Testad, I., & Rose, K. M. (2017). Mind–Body Therapies in Individuals With Dementia: An Integrative Review. Research in Gerontological Nursing, 10(6), 288–296.
Silva Mirovics
Silva Mirovics
Silva Mirovics is a Melbourne based writer, yoga teacher, vegan and owner of She has a degree in health science and a research Masters in |Gerontoloby

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