Your Brain on Meditation
Meditation appears to have some remarkable cognitive benefits. This ancient practice has been rigorously investigated by science over the last decade. Here are some of the changes that happen to your brain on meditation.
It Protects the Brain from Ageing
Back in 2015, researchers from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better preserved brains as they aged. We all lose grey matter as we age, but regular meditation practitioners were found to lose way less than non-meditators.
Meditation keeps a lid on the Monkey Mind
A study by Yale University found that meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), a fancy term for the Monkey Mind. The DMN is active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. This is typical in people prone to ruminating and worrying, which can cause unhappiness and anxiety. Not only does meditation lower activity in the DMN, meditators are more likely to be aware when it is active and are thus more able to switch it off.
It Changes the Size of Key Areas of the Brain
Back in 2011, Harvard University found that just 8 weeks of meditation changed the structure of the brain. Cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, increased, whereas there was a decrease in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress. Changes in areas of the brain relating to mood and arousal translated into greater feelings of well-being among participants in the study.
Concentration and Attention Improve
A study back in 2014 found that just 2 weeks of meditation improved people’s ability to focus considerably. Since the central focus of meditation is concentration on an object, mantra, breath etc, this is perhaps no surprise.
It Rivals Anti-Depressants
In 2014 a review study by John Hopkins University found that mindfulness meditation had an effect size of 0.3 on depression. This is fairly low, but bear in mind that anti-depressants have exactly the same effect size, 0.3.
Meditation Helps with a Range of Conditions
Many controlled trials have shown that regular meditation is an effective treatment for stress, anxiety, pain, relationship problems, addictions and more. Whilst it is true that some of the benefits of meditation have been over-egged, there is enough evidence out there now to show how potent it can be from cognitive health.
With so many benefits to meditation, what are you waiting for?