BY MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., AND MEHMET OZ, M.D.
Even if you're as high-strung as the saber-tooth squirrel Scrat in "Ice Age," you can train your brain to calm down, cool out and stay younger. You'll avoid anxiety, anger, stress and depression, and the big health risks they promote: everything from diabetes to cancer and heart attack to headaches. The great news? Brain scans of people who regularly practice mindful and compassion meditation reveal permanently decreased reactivity in the section of the brain that processes emotions and memory -- the amygdala. If you meditate regularly, you enhance your emotional stability and control your responses to stress.
Here's a short course: Mindfulness asks you to stay in the present moment. You can do it lying in bed when you first wake up. With your eyes closed, focus on your breath. Notice it go in and out; in through your nose, out your mouth, making your chest go up and down. Next, notice how your mind wanders from thought to thought. Don't judge your thoughts or stop them. The key is to be present in the moment, aware but not involved. Relaxed. Watching. Letting go. After 10 minutes, open your eyes and re-enter the world slowly. Compassion meditation asks you to visualize someone you care for, yourself, someone you have conflict with, a stranger and then the whole world. With each visualization, repeat compassion phrases to yourself or out loud. ("May you live a happy, pain-free life.")