Neuroscientists have recently discovered several benefits that meditation has on the brain. This includes changes to the brain’s structure itself. Ferris Jabr, Associate Editor of Scientific American, explains below.
According to Deepak Chopra, M.D., meditation impacts regions of the brain having to do with memory, stress, empathy and sense of self. Furthermore, Harvard studies documented these changes in brain gray matter of people who practiced meditation for only 8 weeks.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health agrees that meditation can actually change the brain physically. This can, in turn, alleviate a variety of health issues.
Chopra continues, stating that loss of gray matter (brain cells) is a normal part of the aging process. However, this study shows that meditation may give us some control over how much gray matter we actually lose.
An article in the Huffington Post states that meditation changes brain physiology to slow aging. Sara Lazar, a researcher at Harvard University, says that the brains of people who meditate have more gray matter (more brain cells). In addition, they have longer telomeres (indicative of biological age).
How Meditation Effects the Brain Physically:
Next, on Mindful.org, neuroscientist Richie Davidson states that the brain is not static, but rather changes throughout its life. In fact, we can intentionally change the plasticity of our brains in a beneficial ways, simply by our thoughts.
Short periods of daily meditation can actually show measurable changes on a brain scanner. Davidson addresses four brain structure changes below.
How Meditation Changes the Brain: 4 Ways
- Increased grey matter in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (for self-regulatory processes).
- More grey matter density on the Prefrontal Cortex (used in problem solving, emotions).
- Improved cortical thickness in the Hippocampus (for learning and memory).
- Decreased size of Amygdala (the home of our fear and anxiety emotions).
There is an article in Scientific American titled, “What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?”. It says that this form of meditation changes how our brain “regions” communicate with each other. Therefore, it changes how we think.
The more hours that a person meditates, the more that the brain changes physically. Plus, these changes are showing to be permanent. In addition to learning, memory, problem solving and emotions, a regular meditation practice helps people who suffer from addiction or chronic pain.
Another side effect is that meditation can help you sleep. For some, it can even relieve insomnia. This factor, in turn, can help improve brain function.
Meditation Can Help Reduce “Mind Wandering”
An article in Forbes Magazine reports that mindfulness meditation can minimize the amount or mind wandering. These types of thoughts include worrying about the past, future and generally being less happy.
This same article also discusses a study done at Johns Hopkins. They studied meditation and depression. Apparently, the effect of meditation on depression is the same as the effect of antidepressants on depression. Furthermore, meditation helps with other disorders. These include social anxiety and addiction.
The Effects of Meditation on the Brain Mentally:
In short, meditation effects the brain in numerous ways that make it worth trying.
- Meditation improves focus
- Learning is enhanced through meditation
- A regular practice boosts memory
- Meditation builds creativity
- People increase intuition by meditating
- A mindfulness routine makes people more emotionally stable
- Meditators are less anxious
- Meditating increases overall happiness
How Meditation & Yoga Can Impact Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Researchers are still trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. However, an article in Yoga Journal reports that yoga and meditation may be able to prevent and even improve symptoms of these brain-related diseases.
In fact, a study done by UCLA and Buck Institute suggests that memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s can be reversed.
This makes sense, when you consider that chronic stress can affect brain structure, and that meditating can reduce that stress. Helen Lavretsky, M.D explains that chronic stress is also associated with inflammation in the central nervous system and the brain. In addition, yoga can reduce the stress as well as the inflammatory factors
According to ArtOfLiving.org, the key to experiencing the physical and mental benefits of meditation is to do it regularly. You only need to spend a few minutes per day doing it. However, consistency is important.