How Does Meditation Change Your Brain In 9 Surprising Ways
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Does meditation change your brain?
I asked this question to my friend the other day and his reply was,Even if meditation changes the brain, my biggest challenge is I dont know how to meditate
Are you like my friend, who is aware about the benefits of meditation but is having a hard time when it comes to practicing meditation on a daily basis?
If your answer is Yes, then I would like to tell you that I was sailing in the same boat like you a few years ago. I had seen umpteen meditation videos, read books on it, however when it came to practicing meditation on a consistent basis, I struggled.
When I was doing my research, I stumbled upon a course which helped me learn how to set up a meditation practice effortlessly. I strongly suggest, you check it out once and if its appropriate for you then give it a try. Here is the link:
Alright, coming back to my question: Does meditation change your brain?
The answer is a resounding Yes. In this post I am going to show you how you can enhance nine key brain regions through a regular meditation practice. I will also share with you how these key regions of the brain are related to your overall well-being and peace of mind.
Even scientists have agreed on the fact that meditation is the best way to build a better brain and its backed by 1000s of studies. So lets dive in:
Water Cooler: How Meditation Changes The Brain
Mon., Dec. 14, 2020
Meditation made its way from spiritual practice to a secular, pop culture-fueled lifestyle trend, but despite all its evolution and appropriation, many psychologists and researchers still think it can have a substantial and beneficial impact on the human brain.
One primary challenge to observing meditation within psychological trials and studies is that it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what meditation means given its long history and varied cross-cultural uses.
The earliest written documentation of meditation is from 1500 B.C.E., found in the Vedas, a body of religious texts and Hindu scripture of ancient India. It later spread to other Asian countries. Judaism and Islam had meditation practices that grew in prominence around the Middle Ages. Eastern and Western Christians also had their own versions. Meditation became a popular topic among Western intellectuals during the 18th century and by the mid-to-late 19th century, transcendentalists began to popularize aspects of Hindu and other Asian religions in the United States, which included meditation practices.
Western fascination with Eastern practices had another surge during the counterculture movements of the 1950s and 60s and is likely the foundation for the current understanding and appropriation of meditation within popular culture. Psychological and physiological research on meditation began in the 1930s and would proliferate in the 70s and 80s.
Play The Long Game: Aging And Brain
Free to all, meditation is a fountain of youth for mental aging. The human brain naturally begins to deteriorate in your 20s. Maintaining a healthy brain can be supported with the powerful practice of meditation.
Meditation is shown to thicken the pre-frontal cortex. This brain center manages higher order brain function, like increased awareness, concentration, and decision making. Changes in the brain show, with meditation, higher-order functions become stronger, while lower-order brain activities decrease. In other words, you have the power to train your brain.
Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist from Harvard Medical School, found consistency with meditation is key. In her study, she discovered that experienced meditators 40-50 years old had the same amount of gray matter as an average 20-30-year-old. In this older group, the health of the frontal cortex was maintained.
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Change Your Mind: Meditation Benefits For The Brain
In todays hyper-connected, fast-paced environment, the challenge more than ever is to have the discipline to slow down. Modern-day technology also inundates your life with distractions that draw your focus outward. Its possible to mask chronic stress and other unhealthy psychological states, but society has begun to recognize the need for a counter movement.
Taking a brain breakrelearning how to slow down and go inwardhas become increasingly popular. That may be due, in part, to recognized meditation benefits for the brain.
Meditating is a great way to ease the frantic state of mind many find themselves in. Once thought to be an enigmatic practice, meditation has gained traction in recent years. One study shows regular meditation by adults tripled from 20122017. The growing literature on the benefits of meditation is expansive and promising.
The practice of cultivating mindfulness through meditation can be achieved in many ways. Put simply, its being aware of where you place your conscious attention. What comes up may be pleasant or unpleasant. But as you practice this inward dive with nonjudgmental attention, youll be able to access an inner peace that already exists within you.
Anyone can start a mindful practice of meditation to find a new level of calm. Its all about the discipline of sitting down and going inward.
You Become More Kind & Compassionate
According to the latest science, true happiness does not come from achieving & receiving instead it comes from practicing compassion. By helping our fellow man or co-workers we feel connected to the people around us. Life takes a different meaning and purpose when we give expecting nothing in return or when we are kind just to be kind.
It is interesting to note that our brain has a region which is termed as a pleasure center. This region gets activated when we indulge ourselves into volunteering for a cause or donate to charity. Neuroscientists claim that the Right Anterior Dorsal Insula is very active in people who meditate regularly. Such people do not miss opportunities to spread the love and are no less than any humanitarians.
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Meditation And Protecting The Aging Brain
Preliminary research also suggests that meditation may help protect the brain against aging. Research published in the journal NeuroImage by a team from UCLA suggested that people who meditate have less age-related atrophy in the brains white matter.
A follow-up study published in January 2015 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that meditation also appears to help preserve the brains gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons and is connected by the white matter.
For the study, the same researchers compared the brains of 50 people who had meditated regularly over the course of 20 years with the brains of those who didnt. Individuals in both groups showed a loss of gray brain matter as they aged, but for those who meditated, it declined less.
The researchers cautioned that the study cannot draw a cause and effect relationship between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Still, they say it is promising, and call for more research to further explore the practices potential protective benefits on the aging brain.
Does Mindfulness Help You To Feel Less Pain
The examples above only focus on specific areas of the brain. But in reality the different areas of the brain and body communicate and work together. And they sometimes do this in ways we dont expect. A great example of this is how we experience pain and how mindfulness can change it.
For example, a few studies have found that mindfulness experts reported feeling less pain than people who didnt practise mindfulness. In these people, the areas of the brain that are associated with pain didnt shrink. Instead, the areas of the brain linked to emotion and memory were less active. This shows that mindfulness may have reduced the connectivity between these two areas of the brain. By not drawing on past memories of pain, the experts were able to feel less pain.
These studies help us to see just how complicated the brain can be! In fact, the brain works in far more elaborate ways than this.
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How Can Mindfulness Change The Brain And Improve Your Health
Scientists have used MRI scans to see how the brain changes when people practise mindfulness. This has highlighted some fascinating results. Evidence suggests that certain areas of the brain may either shrink or grow in response to regular mindfulness practice. Here are a few examples.
- Mindfulness and stress. After practising mindfulness, the grey matter in your brains amygdala a region known for its role in stress can become smaller. Studies have also shown similar brain changes in people who meditate.
- Mindfulness and creativity. The pre-frontal cortex is the area of your brain responsible for things like planning, problem solving, and controlling your emotions. The grey matter in this area can become thicker after practising mindfulness, showing increased activity in these areas of thought.
- Mindfulness and memory. An area of the brain known as the hippocampus helps your memory and learning. This area can also become thicker after practising mindfulness.
Meet The 5 Main Types Of Brain Frequencies
Your brainwaves are just one aspect of the complex processes in the mind that produce your experience. And meditation can help you control them.
As you meditate and turn attention within yourself, alpha and theta waves increase. Producing alpha waves helps you tap into the voluntary onset of rest and relaxation. This wave comes over you when youre not focusing with effort on anything in particular.
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It Helps You Build Self
Meditation is perhaps the greatest tool to build self-control. Because with each practice youre training your mind to focus or be aware. Whether you want to build healthy habits to get ahead in life or you want to quit addictive substances, meditation can help you accomplish it and get back on track.
How does meditation build self-control? You are no longer remain reactive to the addictive stimulus such as a cigarette, or a drink. Meditation helps you bring awareness to your defeating habits and with this awareness youre better able to make healthy lifestyle decisions.
Better Thinking Less Depression
Mindfulness really gets dull senses reactivated: food tastes better, your smell improves , your higher awareness makes the formerly boring and mundane forever fresh and new, your wider perspective deepens your understanding of world happenings.
The simple act of observing your mind through meditation increases both the potency and frequency of your positive thoughts. As a result, the formation of fresh hippocampal neurons activate making positive experiences the norm rather than the exception.
Best of all, you dont need to give up your worldly possessions or enter a Tibetan monastery to reap the massive benefits of meditation. Many studies show remarkable results after only a few short weeks of practice.
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Where Did The Story Come From
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Technology In Dalian, China, and other research centres in the US. It was funded by the James S. Bower and John Templeton Foundations, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse-Intramural Research Programme. It was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA .
Although the Daily Mail story does accurately report the research, the study does not prove that meditation could help us get smarter as suggested in their headline.
Mental Wandering Increases Brain Activity
Surprisingly, it was the nondirective form of meditation that revealed the highest amounts of brain activity.
I was surprised that the activity of the brain was greatest when the persons thoughts wandered freely on their own, rather than when the brain worked to be more strongly focused, explained NTNU researcher Jian Xu. When the subjects stopped doing a specific task and were not really doing anything special, there was an increase in activity in the area of the brain where we process thoughts and feelings. It is described as a kind of resting network. And it was this area that was most active during nondirective meditation.
Perhaps even more surprising, levels of brain activity during the concentrative meditation task were the same as when the participants were just resting.
In many meditative traditions, mind wandering is viewed as a distraction that can lead to rumination, depression, and anxiety, so the goal of such approaches is to eliminate mind wandering and bring attention back to a single focal point.
The results of this study indicate that such mind wandering can actually be beneficial and useful for overall well-being. Mind wandering may serve as a gateway to greater introspection, deeper thinking, improved memory retrieval, and increased self-awareness.
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Making The Most Of Meditation
The Takeaway Meditation Is A Practice Not A Magic Pill
While mindfulness meditation can cause incredible changes in your brain and outlook, this doesnt happen overnight, and it isnt a cure-all.
Learning to let go of your expectations and simply experience meditation is hard but its also largely the point. The more you practice being in the moment without judgement or expectations, the better you get at it.
You cant go in expecting to experience enlightenment or to have a mystical experience, Rhoads says. But people do find that at the end of even a 10- or 15-minute practice they feel more centered, calmed or relaxed. Its great if that happens and its great if it doesnt. Trust in the process.
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Harnessing Neurogenesis: How To Change The Adult Brain Through Meditation
There are certain things we can’t do. We cant walk on walls. We cant run a two minute mile. We cant change our brain… Or can we?
While it was once enshrined within generations of handed-down scientific dogma that our brains did not change much after birth, recent breakthrough studies have proven otherwise. We DO have the power to make our brains better. In the scientific sense at least, we can move mountains.
How far can we take our brain? A groundbreaking, bestselling book by Canadian-born psychiatrist Norman Doidge M.D., “The Brain That Changes Itself” dives into just how malleable our brains really are, full of stories and real world examples of people taking a jackhammer to “carved in stone” scientific doctrine.
Like what? Blind people learning to see, learning disorders cured, IQs dramatically raised, old brains renewed, stroke patients regaining their abilities, severe anxiety melted, deep depression lifted, character flaws fixed, “permanent” disabilities reversed, the list goes on.
How about being born with literally half a brain? No problem, you too can become a high functioning adult. The stories contained within this book are both awe-inspiring and incredibly motivating.
Here, we will discuss the massive implications of being able to generate fresh neurons through a process known as “neurogenesis,” and how you can harness your own innate brain transforming ability for many wonderful benefits.
Meditation ‘changes The Brain’
Meditation is proven to be the serene way to get smarter, reported the Daily Mail . It said scientists found that even a short course of meditation strengthens connections between the regions of the brain that regulate our emotional responses.
The study in question compared the brains scans of people who received 11 hours of meditative sessions over a period of a month to those of people who were shown basic relaxation techniques. People who received meditation sessions were found to have more changes in the white matter of the brain in an area called the corona radiata.
The study was relatively small , and only included healthy young adults. It did not look at whether these brain changes were linked to changes in behaviour, intelligence or emotions. Overall, this study may further our understanding of the effects meditation can have on the cells of the brain, but it does not further our understanding of any mental health benefits.
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