Meditation is a practice that fulfills many purposes. Some use it for spiritual enlightenment, others for self-discovery, and still other to treat anxiety or depression.
Science actually supports the effectiveness of meditation. Research has shown that meditation can, over time, affect certain brain regions, and overall, change the brain’s chemistry.
What are these changes, exactly, and what do they mean in daily life? In the paragraphs below, we’ll go into a bit more detail on how this works without going too much into the complex scientific jargon that you’d need a doctorate just to understand.
What is Neuroplasticity?
As we grow, our brain changes. We learn to walk, talk, read, break old habits, and pick up new ones. In response to our various experiences, our brain is able to change, enlarging some areas and shrinking others. This is called neuroplasticity, and, as scientists seem to have discovered, it can be encouraged.
Having said that, we will now break down how meditation affects neuroplasticity.
The Prefrontal Cortex, and the Brain Regions Within it
There are many different parts of the brain, but we’re mostly going to be concerned with the prefrontal cortex because that’s the area that changes in response to meditation.
The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain that is primarily concerned with self-image, and how we see others. Different types of meditation can change this area in different ways.
Meditation studies were conducted by having various adults go through one of three types of meditation for three months. Each of these meditations was aimed at altering the prefrontal cortex in slightly different ways.
The first type, dubbed Presence, was aimed at improving the ability to pay attention, and increased self-control through the practice of guided breathing.
The second type of meditation was called Affect, and its main goal was to increase a person’s capacity to understand and feel for others.
The last module was named Perspective and was aimed at better understanding one’s self, and the viewpoints of others.
The Brain’s Response
At the end of this experiment, it was found that the brain had actually changed in response to the meditation in almost the exact ways intended. Those in the first group were found to have grown in areas involved in attention, whereas the second group had an increase in areas linked to empathy and similar functions, and the third group showed an increase in areas known to affect our understanding of others.
Meditation has also been shown to reduce the body’s connection to the medial prefrontal cortex, which is more commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ center, which reduces anxiety and our response to fear. This means that we are more able to stay calm and think through a frightening situation.
Meditation has also been linked to reduced risks for anxiety and depression, fewer feelings of loneliness, a stronger immune system and increased lifespans. Quite a lot for only half an hour per day, huh?
Sound Mind and Healthier Body
Meditation can have huge effects on various brain regions, which in turn increases our mental capabilities. With the help of meditation, we can become more caring, more attentive, more understanding people, and healthier happier people at that.
If you want to know more about meditation and what it can do for you, please visit our blog. Are you looking for a more relaxing meditation? We’ve got you covered.
Perhaps you have anxiety issues and think meditation might help. We have advice on that, too.