7 Benefits of Meditation

7 ways meditation changes the brain

Some studies show that meditation affects the brain in various ways, from changing the brain’s volume to decreasing activity in those parts of the brain responsible for stress.

Meditation is interestingly being talked about now as much as it was practised in ancient times. As modern 21st century beings, we are rediscovering the plethora of benefits that meditation offers. If stress and anxiety are urban life by-products, we are also finding huge life transforming ways and techniques like mindfulness, yoga and meditation as well. Meditation is indeed one of the best ways to rediscover calm and bring back focus.

Technology has made us more connected than ever – our busy fingertips and constant ogling at screens have taken us away from our natural demeanour of calm though.  Constant juggling and multi-tasking to accomplish goals and complete daily chores have additionally put our mental peace in jeopardy. Stress, anxiety and depression are modern day giants threatening the human population.  According to WHO, depression, one of the most debilitating mental diseases worldwide, has an estimated 3.8% of the population affected with approximately 280 million people suffering from it.

As we continue to discover the myriad ways in which mediation helps us, recent research has shown that meditation can even change the structures in our brain. We already know how a distracted and agitated mind can be calmed through meditation, of how it can help regulate different emotions and how it can help respond to triggers. But there are many more advantages to meditation now, as researches suggest.

But for beginners, what is meditation and how can it be done? If you are contemplating practising it, you must first recognize it as a powerful tool or technique designed to train your mind to focus and redirect thoughts to stay in a positive or creative zone. With multiple goals, sundry pressures and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, modern humans truly need to train their minds to stay calm and focused.

For each person, meditation can hold a different meaning. You might be meditating to overcome stress and anxiety, while somebody else may be using it to improve their focus and memory. Indeed, meditative practices are now being touted to have the potential to change the human brain structure. Some studies show that it affects the brain in various ways, from changing the brain’s volume to decreasing activity in the parts of the brain responsible for stress. Soulveda brings you a few ways in which this works and helps us.

Changes brain structure

Our brain is one of the most intricate organs and runs many parts of the body that perform distinct functions. The grey matter of our brain is responsible for muscle control and sensory perceptions. It also controls emotions, memory, speech, seeing, hearing and decision making. Also, there are specific centres in the brain responsible for our macro behaviour patterns. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, amygdala takes care of emotional responses and hippocampus is responsible for memory and learning.

According to a research published in the journal Psychiatry Research, around 2 months of sustained Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training program leads to an increase in the cortical thickness of the brain’s hippocampus. This part of the brain is responsible for memory and emotional regulation. Thus mindfulness and meditation has far reaching positive effects on the most important human organ.

Increases focus

One of the most apparent effects of meditation is gaining increased focus. Our mind has this huge tendency to wander and move to random thoughts. Once the mind starts wavering, it might even go into a spiral of negative thoughts. This leads to a loss of focus, wasted time and effort. With meditation, the grey matter concentration of the brain or the cortical thickness of the hippocampus increases.

As we already know, the hippocampus is responsible for memory and regulating emotions, so meditation consequently increases concentration and productivity. Researchers have also concluded that those who meditate show more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex; this is the region of the brain linked to spontaneous thoughts and mind wandering.

Reduces stress and anxiety

Some studies have also found that meditation helps decrease the volume of the amygdala. This centre of the brain is responsible for stress, fear and anxiety. A stressed mind caused by any external stimuli is not able to deliver according to its full potential. Stress and anxiety also cloud one’s clarity of thoughts and decision making abilities. This adversely impacts the performance, productivity and general wellbeing of people. When meditation is practiced on a sustained basis, there are reported changes in the amygdala that in turn brings stress levels down.

Slows down aging

A recent study by the University of California found that there is more grey matter volume in those who practiced meditation regularly for 20 years. To the surprise of the researchers, it was found that meditation had a widespread effect on many parts of the brain. It is already known that we lose agility and even memory due to aging. However, the increased grey matter developed by meditation leads to improved alertness and memory in most humans. This reverses the aging process and its effects to a substantial extent.

Uplifts mood 

Depression can be debilitating. Just like any other disease, it must be treated with appropriate medicine. Remaining low tired and generally lacking in enthusiasm to carry out even mundane tasks are classic symptoms of depression. A study by researcher Madhav Goyal at John Hopkins University found that the effect of meditation on the brain was the same as some anti-depressants.

So if one meditates regularly, it leads to mood enhancement and a general upliftment of all senses. Many studies have confirmed that meditation leads to mood arousal and improvement in wellbeing as well.

Increases pain bearing capacity

Meditation, done in any position, influences neurotransmitters associated with pain. Through the act of meditation, a decrease in activity in the brain areas that are associated with pain is observed. It also releases chemicals and neurotransmitters that improve one’s sense of wellbeing.

It is the posterior cingulate cortex, a central neural node of the brain that directly regulates the sensation of pain. A particular research subjected meditating participants to pain stimulus and less severe reaction of pain was noted. Meditation has thus been found to be related to greater deactivation of this centre; this means an increase in the pain threshold of people who meditate.

Enhances self-awareness and self-control 

Meditation is a way to increase self-awareness and this includes rediscovering oneself. When one starts to meditate regularly, they become aware of the thoughts that sway their mind often. Enhanced awareness leads to increased self-control too. Numerous studies have suggested that meditation impacts the self-control centres of the brain. It can even be helpful in de-addiction programs as sustained meditation leads to enhanced capacity to master urges.

Meditation is calming and when practised regularly, can transform the way we react, handle our thoughts and soak in moments. Lately, more studies are being conducted to conclusively prove that meditation brings structural changes in the brain, leading to instant and long-term benefits. We are counting the perks of meditation with each passing day!




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