Meditation is a great practice to improve the health of our most important organ, the brain! Multiple acclaimed research teams have proven that meditation has numerous neurological benefits. The longer and more often you practice meditating, the greater its impact will be. Below are 6 ways in which meditation will change your life!
Meditation Reduces Stress:
A lot of people start meditating as a way to reduce their stress levels. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat Zinn, aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally; studies have proven there to be both short-term and long-terms benefits in reducing anxiety. In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can truly change the structure of the brain. They used multiple participants in their study and discovered that meditation led to decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala (part of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress). Not only were the participants reporting to feeling less stress but they were able to see the results on the participants brains!
Slows Aging of the Brain:
Studies have shown that meditation changes brain physiology and slow down aging. A research team at UCLA has concluded that a long-term meditator has a more well-preserved brain than a non-meditator. They came to this conclusion by looking at the gray matter volume in their participants brain’s - gray matter is the main component of the central nervous system - that declines as you age. Those that had been meditating long-term for 20+ years had more gray matter volume in their brains.
One of the central benefits of meditation is improved concentration and attention. In this practice, there is a strong focus aimed on attention of things such as an idea, an activity, an object, or a surrounding. Since attention is such a strong focus of meditation, it’s no surprise that meditation helps a person’s cognitive skills! Not only does meditation help preserve parts of the brain associated with meditation, but it has a widespread effect that encompasses regions throughout the entire brain.
Meditation has been able to help many people that have a short-fuse recognize their anger and detach themselves from it. A perfect example of someone that has used meditation to become more self-aware is Zaccai Free, a District of Columbia resident. He claims that meditation cleared his mind and helped calm him down. In addition, he thinks it mostly made him more comfortable in his own skin; “When you take more time to dive inside yourself, you are more comfortable showing who you are”. Meditation can bring about a true personal transformation. As you learn more about yourself, you’ll naturally start discovering more about yourself.
A research group at John Hopkins observed the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Their results showed that the size effect of meditation was 0.3, although this sounds small, it’s important to keep in mind that the size effect of an antidepressant is also 0.3. Just like there isn’t a universal antidepressant that works for everyone, meditation is not a guaranteed solution for depression, but it can be an effective tool for many! Other studies have shown that brain signaling increases in the left side of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for positive emotions, and decreased activity on the right side which is responsible for negative emotions.
Encourages a Healthy Lifestyle:
Meditation improves your mental well-being and has actually inspired many people to improve their health through lifestyle changes. The increase in overall happiness will generally make people want to further improve their health, such as wanting to put good and natural things into your body while avoiding the bad.
Overall, meditation can lead to some pretty awesome benefits, so why not give it a shot?! If you have some extra time in the morning or night, instead of turning on the TV or going on the internet, try meditating! It will leave you with a peace of mind and your body will thank you for it!