What Actually Happens To Your Brain While You Meditate?
Have You Been Benefiting From The Health Boosting Effects Of Meditation?
When you think of meditation - do you think of woo woo new age stuff or some white bearded fellow in a long robe sitting on a rock?
Or do you think of calm, peaceful and relaxing thoughts?
Have you ever taken 5-10 minutes to meditate in silence?
If you have, I'm sure that you've experienced a calming inner peace with a great reduction of stress and anxiety - along with a whole host of other feel good emotions.
People generally associate meditation and mindfulness with a zen state of mind, or peaceful gurus sitting still for hours.
However science is beginning to explain exactly what happens to your brain when you clear your mind (mindfulness) and find your calm and relaxed state....your happy zone.
A recent study from the University of Siena in Italy and Harvard Medical School discovered that meditation makes significant changes to the parts of our brain that manage perception and emotions. Nerdy and exciting!
The study took 24 participants who had never meditated before through an 8 week course on mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), as well as simply just meditating.
Each week, participants spent 2.5 hours practicing different meditation techniques and then also meditated daily for 45 minutes. MRI's and psychological evaluations of each participant were also taken before and after the 8 week course.
The research team compared their findings with a control group who didn't go through any meditation exercises. They found critical changes had occurred in the brains of those who meditated.
“We found a significant cortical thickness increase in the right insula and the somatosensory cortex of MBSR trainees, coupled with a significant reduction of several psychological indices related to worry, state anxiety, depression and alexithymia.”
To break that down into terms we can all understand:
As the right insula (part of the brain that manages emotion, consciousness and self-awareness) grew and became thicker - factors that relate to depression, anxiety and emotional dysfunction decreased significantly.
This research shows that meditation exercises the brain - reducing stress and anxiety - while increasing emotional stability, self-awareness and perception.
You may want to find yourself a nice quiet spot, put on some headphones, and boost your brainpower!
More and more studies are coming out suggesting that meditation increases brain elasticity and a whole host of other health benefits including emotional resiliency. Very exciting!
Has your meditation practice changed you?