Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, especially in India meditating is sort of popular sport.
Only recently it has been increasingly researched and it was found that meditating not only reduces stress but also has a positive effect on the performance of the brain.
How exactly meditation changes the brain structure and how to find your way into meditation is explained in this article.
Meditation research, the Impact on our Brain
Meditation, for example, according to the tradition of Zen Buddhism, has the goal of sinking into a deep, trance-like state in order to bring the thoughts that accompany us daily for a certain time to a standstill.
In the state of deep meditation, the focus is placed on the essential, just being in the here and now. For the last few years, some meditation techniques have been experiencing a veritable boom, because once you have tried it, you will be able to confirm that you will be refreshed and full of energy to focus more on everyday life.
Science has also followed this trend and has tried to observe and measure the physical processes, especially those in the brain of a meditator. As a result, evidence has been found that meditation can actually change the structure of the human brain.
To detect this, brain scans were made on people who had meditation experience for a long time. In these people, it has been found that the regions in the brain that are responsible for attention and also for the processing of sensory impressions are larger than non-meditators.
It has also been found that this increase in activity is even more pronounced, especially in the elderly, than in younger people, although the aging process tends to reduce brain activity.
This result means that with a regular meditation practice the aging processes of the brain can be actively counteracted. If one compares these results with studies of jugglers or musicians, in which also the brain areas of the areas for musical, visual and motor perception are intensified active, it becomes apparent that meditation acts actually on our brain and can be used purposefully to enhance the brain structure.
Interesting research on the effects of meditation on the brain
Brain scans, that is, methods that reflect a picture of brain activity among meditation practitioners is a method to study the effects of meditation on the human brain.
In particular, the reduction of activities in the area of the amygdala region during meditation training was noticed. The amygdala region, also known as the almond core complex, is responsible for emotions and memories, as well as feelings of anger or anxiety.
Scientific research has shown that the reduction of this brain area takes place especially during meditation. However, they wanted to find out if this also has a long-lasting effect on the emotional region in the brain and made investigations by means of functional magnetic resonance tomography over a longer period of time.
For this purpose, a study was conducted, which observed twelve participants in the meditation practice over a period of eight weeks. Magnetic resonance tomography was performed before and after the study period in order to establish a comparative value.
There was also a control group whose participants received only health education lessons. The group of meditators focused on the mindfulness meditation technique, which aims to teach love, kindness, and compassion for oneself and others.
During the meditation practice, the subjects were sonicated with visual impressions of suffering people, but also with pictures of neutral or positive contents. Following this study, it was found that the activities of the amygdala region of mindfulness meditators have been reduced.
Despite intensified emotional stimuli, stabilization in the area of emotions and the reaction to stress could occur. In the case of the control group members, however, no differences were found between before and after the lesson phase.
The study’s researchers have concluded that meditation practices can be used specifically to support the processing of emotions in the brain. Meditation, according to these findings, causes a lasting and positive change in brain function.
Meditation Benefits for the Brain
Meditation, that’s only done by hippies, sitting cross-legged in a circle and worshiping some Buddha, right? Total nonsense – and yet meditation is often associated with esoteric and spiritual and that scares off.
Actually, it is exactly the opposite, namely to see things as they are while meditating, and to consciously perceive the moment. The here and now should be consciously experienced and one should reflect on one’s own mind and body, so do not immerse oneself in supernatural spheres.
Meditating is currently booming in the Western world. Many hope for a break from the stress and the mass of information that pounces on us. The advocates of regular time-outs are numerous, since recently also include neuro and cognitive scientists. Enduring stress affects important processes in the brain, cognitive scientist Andrew Smart explains in his book “Autopilot.
Why doing nothing is so important. “. Thus, e.g. Creativity, self-awareness and emotional well-being are impaired.
The only prerequisite for the curious: you must have the willingness to experience yourself consciously and to think in a self-reflexive way. If you feel like it, meditation can teach you a lot, e.g. to gain control over your thought processes and just to be happier with yourself!
Take-Home-Message # 1: Meditation means to consciously perceive one’s own body and mind in the present and to focus only on the moment. Everything else around you is hidden during meditation. It not only strengthens your creativity and emotional well-being but also the power of your brain!
Meditation enhances Brain Activity
You might wonder how meditation and increased brain activity can be related. Normally, one combines relaxation with the least possible effort of the brain. In fact, in meditation, there is an awful lot in the head, even if you are not consciously concentrating.
The cells in the brain are very active in meditation. For that they need oxygen and energy; thus, the blood flow is increased.
The Bender Institute for Neuroimaging in Giessen, Germany, has dealt with brain-stimulating meditation and found it surprising. People who meditate regularly, have a positively altered structure of the brain.
The researchers at the University of Giessen found that more gray matter is formed, in which all the stimuli are processed. For example, your sensory perceptions, such as tasting and smelling, and each of your thoughts is processed in the gray matter. If more gray matter is present, your perception processes will be improved.
In short: you are more attentive!
This insight has been used in the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience in Maastricht. In the process, the relationship between meditation and the age-related decline in brain performance has been investigated. Research is still in its infancy, but it is believed that the brain’s performance can be stabilized through meditation.
The age-related decline in brain performance was not as high in subjects who meditate regularly as in those who did not meditate, as the degradation of gray matter was slowed down
Our brain constantly picks up external and internal stimuli, and we’re always busy with something, even when we’re not consciously thinking. If you meditate, you relieve your brain.
You are, so to speak, assuming an observer position, with which you perceive only your own body and your own mind and thus reduce external stimuli. This process stimulates the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning processes of all kinds and for processing feelings.
The relationship between meditation and the brain has been studied by researchers at Harvard University and has shown that meditating increases the activity in hippocampus significantly.
Harvard University’s large-scale study found that recollecting yourself makes you smart while you relax! But meditation can do more in your brain. Even memories that are stored in your memory, created by the support of the hippocampus. If you are very stressed, important tissue of the hippocampus in the brain dies. This can only be reformed if you reduce the stress by e.g. Meditation.
Take Home Message # 2: Meditation strengthens an area of the brain, the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning, feelings, and memories. If you meditate, all this will be optimized, you can concentrate and remember better!
How to start Meditation
You want to relax, reduce stress and ultimately improve your brain performance. Sounds way too good not to start with it right now, right? And this is how it works:
Step 1: The simplest way to start meditation is the so-called “Anapana meditation”. When you concentrate on your natural breath alone, without consciously controlling it. So you get into a state of concentrated relaxation.
It will initially help you to do the exercise at the same time. You’re developing a new routine that will help you keep going.
Step 2: For starters, sit on a chair and put your hands on your thighs. This is a familiar, comfortable position for you and you do not have to worry about a particular posture. Later, you can still switch to the cross-legged position or a lying position.
Step 3: Whether you want to start directly with your eyes closed, or at first have your eyes open, it’s up to you. Start by focusing on your breath. How it flows in and out through your nostrils. Concentrate on this feeling alone and what you feel. If your thoughts wander off, you keep your attention on your breathing again and again.
Step 4: Stay in this state for 5-10 minutes and then open your eyes. Give yourself some time to consciously perceive your surroundings and start your daily routine at your own pace. You will feel fresher and more relaxed!
Step 5: And last but not least: the beginning is hard! Your greatest success will be first of all to follow the meditation daily. 5 minutes are enough for your personal break. Also, it will not immediately work, always stay one hundred percent focused. At first, your thoughts will wander, but that’s normal. The main thing is to stay tuned and take the time for you. For sure, you will soon see significant success and improved well-being!
Conclusion: Meditation for the Brain
I guess it’s clear by now, meditation has great benefits for our brains.
It enhances memory, brain performance and simply our well-being. Start practicing with our 5 step method and you’ll see results quickly.