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How Meditation Works

April 26, 2021

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A lot of research works about the brain and meditation have been carried for many years now. New studies are even coming out each week to show how meditation works and the benefits it delivers, including traditional benefits that are now confirmed by EEG or fMRI. Practicing meditation comes with amazing neurological benefits. The following are interesting studies executed the last few years showing how meditation works. 

Skeptics will surely question how meditation works and produces great results in the brain region, but fortunately, there is evidence to prove this. Meditation helps relieve people’s subjective depression and anxiety levels, improve concentration and attention, and boost overall psychological well-being. The following are 7 ways how meditation works and changes the brain: 

  1. Meditation Preserves and Protects the Aging Brain

A study conducted by UCLA had found out that long-term meditation helps preserve one’s brain as they age. It has been reported that long-term meditators have better-preserved brains than non-meditators. Participants in the study, particularly those who meditated for about 20 years, have more volume of grey matter in the brain. However, older meditators still have volume loss than the younger ones. 

Distinct and small effects are expected in some regions that have been linked with meditating before. But based on what’s been observed, there were extensive effects of meditation that included regions across the entire brain. 

  1. Meditation Lessens Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center”

There have also been studies revealing that mindfulness meditation lessens activity in the Default Mode Network or DMN; this is a network in the brain in charge of the self-referential and mind-wandering thoughts, which are also known as “monkey mind.” DMN is active when you’re not thinking about something, and your mind is just wandering from one thought to another. Considering that mind-wandering is often linked with being ruminating, less happy, and worrying about the past and even the future, the goal is for people to dial this down. 

Various studies show that meditation, by its calming effect on DMN, tends to do only this. Even if the mind begins to wander due to the newest connections formed, meditators are better when it comes to snapping back out of this. 

  1. Meditation Relieves Anxiety and Depression 

Researchers say that there’s an important connection between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce anxiety, pain, and depression symptoms. Meditation has good effects on the brain, and it’s considered good brain training. It’s particularly an active mind training to increase awareness. Meditation may not be a magic bullet or instant treatment for depression, but this is one effective tool to manage the symptoms.

  1. Meditation Leads to Volume Changes in Major Areas of the Brain 

It has also been found out by Sara Lazar and her team in Harvard that mindfulness meditation can actually change the brain’s structure. About 8 weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR tends to increase the hippocampus’ cortical thickness that governs memory and learning and brain areas in charge of self-referential processing as well as emotion regulation. There’s also a decrease in the volume of brain cells in the amygdala that’s responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear. Meditation doesn’t only change the brain but also people’s subjective feelings and perceptions.

Lazar’s team also conducted a supplementary study and eventually found out that following meditation, the changes in the brain were noticed, and these are linked to mood and arousal and associated with how the participants of the study felt, including their well-being psychologically. 

  1. Meditation Improves Concentration and Attention 

Moreover, other major benefits of meditation include improved concentration and attention. A study discovered that just a few weeks of meditation training helps people’s memory and focus. Meditation also plays a beneficial role in improving people’s cognitive skills, but this still requires more science to confirm this. So, if you have problems concentrating, you can turn to meditation to overcome this problem. 

  1. Meditation Lessens Anxiety Including Social Anxiety

Many people begin meditating due to its biggest benefits in terms of stress reduction. There are plenty of evidence to support this. There’s an entire new genre of meditation known as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), exclusively developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts. This aims to lessen one’s stress level both mentally and physically.

Studies have also shown the benefits of meditation in reducing anxiety. Mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety, and that these changes tend to be meditated through the brain region linked with me-centered or self-referential thoughts. This type of meditation is also a great help to those suffering from a social anxiety disorder. A team at Stanford University discovered that MBSR brought positive changes in the brain region engaged in attention and relief from social anxiety symptoms. 

  1. Meditation Helps with Addiction 

The increasing number of studies show that given the effects on the brain’s self-control region, meditation proves to be effective in helping people to recover from different types of addiction. A study found out that people who learned mindfulness are more times likely to quit smoking at the end of the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking or FFS program than those engaged in conventional treatment. 

This is probably because meditation helps ‘” decouple” craving from smoking, so a person doesn’t need to lead to other all the time, but you rather fully experience and then ride out the craving for smoking until this pass. According to other research, mindfulness training, Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy MBCT help in treating different types of addiction. Meditation therapy is also available to help someone with withdrawal symptoms and substance cravings. 

Meditation doesn’t just benefit the adults. Even short-term medication can help develop kids’ brains. Researchers and educators are now getting more interested in bringing yoga and meditation to school kids, especially those who are dealing with trauma and added stress outside the school. Some schools have already started implementing these, and good effects were noted. Therefore, meditation is worth a try, considering the positive changes to the brain and the incredible benefits of meditation, such as health and wellness benefits.

You can always use a meditation device to help you with your meditation routine, for effective mental health daily care.

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