Trust your inner voice

Meditation for health benefits #2

Written by Estella Vall

Below, we talk about meditation health benefits mentioning different studies that have come out in the last few years to show that meditation produces measurable changes in our brain:

  • A study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than those who don’t meditate as they aged. People who have been meditating for an average of 20 years have more grey matter volume throughout the brain.
  • One of the most interesting studiesin the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts. It is active when we’re not thinking about anything specific, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. When the mind starts to wander because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at reacting quickly to bring it back to its original state.
  • Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found back in 2011that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness, was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well.
  • Having problems concentrating isn’t just a kid thing; it affects millions of grown-ups as well. One of the most important benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a coupleof weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory.

A lot of people start meditating in order to reduce stress, and there’s lots of good evidence to support this. There’s a whole newer sub-genre of meditation, mentioned earlier, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which objective is to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety and overall psychological well-being.

  • It’s been said that meditation helps people separate the state of craving from the act of smoking, so the one doesn’t always have to lead to the other. A large number of studies have shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from addictions. For example, a study found that people who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training than those in the conventional treatment.
  • For developing brains, meditation has as much as or maybe even more promise than it has for adults. There’s been increasing interest from researchers and educators in bringing yoga and meditation to kids who are dealing with the usual stressors inside school and often additional stress and trauma outside school. Some schools have starting implementing meditation into their daily schedules, and with good effect: Studies have confirmed the emotional and cognitive benefits of meditation for school children.

Meditation is an active form of brain training. Researcher Madhav Goyal affirms that many people have the idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing, but that’s not true because it’s an active training of the mind to increase awareness.

 

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