Meditation has been practised for thousands of years to calm the mind and increase one’s awareness of self. It is widely used by spiritual leaders, and is highly recommended to combat the stresses of modern day life. A meditative state can be achieved by disconnecting from external distractions and focusing on the source of life…the breath. The benefits of meditation are endless and include: less anxiety and an increased ability to deal with stressful situations. Scientists have proven where regular meditation stimulates the sections of the brain that help overcome anxiety and depression, as well as increase pain tolerance. Other ways in which meditation can change the brain are:
- Changes in Brain Waves
People that meditate regularly have higher levels of alpha waves which reduce negative feelings, and thoughts.
- A Change in the Density of Grey Matter
In studies conducted, after eight weeks of meditation the grey matter in the brain associated with learning, memory and emotion was more dense. In addition, those areas of the brain associated with fear and other negative emotions had decreased grey matter. There was also increased grey matter in areas of the prefrontal cortex, responsible for planning, problem solving and regulating emotions.
- Stimulation of the Hippocampus
In meditators, there is an increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Resting the mind through meditation also improves self-awareness, as well as increases goal setting and motivation.
- Slows Down our Thought Patterns
Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to change the brain in ways that help to boost relationships with others. It causes the decreased activation of our ‘monkey mind’ (Default Mode Network), which is responsible for the constant stream of thought in our heads. These thoughts lead to rumination and a decrease in overall happiness. Mindfulness stimulates our brain to slow down and create deliberate thought patterns. The result is a more aware, less receptive mind and lifestyle, a decrease in our judgement of others and an increased ability to accept them. This in turn boosts our positive interactions with others.
- Other Benefits
Meditation also increases the heart rate to more effectively transport oxygen and carbon dioxide through the body. Mediators are more likely to resist diseases as their system produces more antibodies, and those that are sick can use it as a tool to help with their recovery. Scientists think that shortened telomeres in our bodies help to make us ill. These special protein complexes protect our DNA. Studies have shown where meditation promotes the lengthening of telomeres in cancer survivors, effectively helping them combat the disease.