As someone who has practiced mindfulness meditation for over two decades, I can tell you many physical and psychological benefits of meditating and how Meditation affects Brain. Meditation helps deal with stress and helps one become kinder, calmer, and more compassionate. Meditation does not need to be complicated; it simply means taking some time out of your day to focus on yourself without doing anything else.
This article discusses the way meditation affects the brain physically. Let’s get started!
Meditation Nurtures the Brain
Research shows that practicing meditation enhances brain function by increasing gray matter concentration in the hippocampus, responsible for things like memory and learning ability. Meditation also increases cerebral cortex thickness, thereby improving visual awareness and perception while enhancing sensory-motor skills.
Previously, scientists thought that the brain stopped growing once a person reached adolescence or young adulthood. However, more recent studies have shown that meditation can increase neuroplasticity in adults by forming new neural pathways throughout one’s lifetime.
Meditation also increases neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin while lowering cortisol levels, which leads to stress-related conditions such as depression. Meditation has even been used in some cases to help treat addiction because it reduces the craving for drugs and alcohol. Meditation can be especially beneficial for people suffering from chronic pain because it reduces physical pain while helping them feel calmer overall through mindfulness techniques. Meditation is an excellent way for someone with chronic back pain to become less anxious about their next attack of pain. Meditation has also been shown to help people sleep better and become less distracted by thoughts that may keep them awake.
Daily meditation is an excellent way for someone with chronic back pain to reduce their anxiety level, catalyzing stress-related conditions such as depression and insomnia. Meditation can be beneficial when combined with other methods like yoga and breathing techniques. Meditation shouldn’t be complicated; it simply requires some time spent in silence focusing on yourself without doing anything else. Meditation should serve to make you feel more aware, calm, and relaxed throughout the day—not stressed or anxious (unless you’re dealing with chronic stress).
How Meditation Affects Brain?
The simple act of sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing affects the brain regions responsible for behavior, sense of self, and stress. Meditation increases the thickness of the parts of your brain involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
Meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN) associated with daydreaming, self-referential thoughts, or mind-wandering. Meditation also reduces the gray matter density in the amygdala, which is related to anxiety and stress. This can be especially helpful to patients with disorders such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). And it’s one of the only forms of mental training that appears able to do this. All these changes lead to improved concentration and emotional well-being.
Meditation can be as effective as antidepressants or other psychological therapies for preventing depression, and it often produces long-lasting effects that those methods lack. Meditation strengthens the connections from your prefrontal cortex from areas involved in focusing attention and regulating emotion. So, the benefits of meditation include reducing stress, anxiety, and pain perception while improving memory and cognitive function. Meditation changes your brain, so if you still have doubts about whether it’s a good idea to start practice, I would say I don’t wait another minute!
Meditation has long been associated with relaxation and stress reduction. Now, new research suggests that meditation can lead to structural changes in the brain. Meditation enhances thickness in the cerebral cortex, which plays a role in memory, attention span, awareness, and thought processing. Meditation also increases gray-matter density in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that helps us learn and contains tools for cognitive abilities. Meditation is even associated with an increased cortical thickness within brain regions related to emotional regulation, empathy, and self-awareness.
Meditation may improve these functions through neural plasticity – its ability to actively change functionally and structurally by creating new neural connections or redirecting connection pathways throughout our lifetime. Meditation may affect other brain areas. For example, meditation has been linked to an increase in the amygdala, the brain area that controls our fear response. Meditation also appears to affect the prefrontal cortex, which assists with emotional regulation and processing information. Meditation is even associated with changes in white matter.
White matter contains fiber connections that help different regions communicate with each other. Meditation may help maintain or even increase these connections, especially in aging adults. Meditation can relieve stress through its impact on how we perceive pain. Still, it also works at a deeper level by relieving anxiety and depression, enhancing mood, and improving cognitive function.
Meditation may affect white-matter
Meditation relieves stress and anxiety and improves mood and cognition. Meditation can enhance many areas of the brain, like – Memory: Meditation enhances memory by increasing thickness in the cortex, especially within regions related to emotional regulation, empathy, and self-awareness. Meditation is associated with an increase in gray matter density within the hippocampus as well. This may be due to neural plasticity, as meditation has been shown to induce structural changes in the brain. Meditation also affects other brain areas, such as attention span, awareness, and thought processing.
Meditation may improve these functions through increased cortical thickness and improved connections between different regions of the brain. Meditating every day not only improves your cognitive abilities but also helps you manage your moods more effectively, especially during stressful times. Meditation even relieves stress through its influence on our ability to perceive pain. Meditation enhances many brain areas and can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression while improving mood and cognitive function.
The posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) is believed to play a role in consciousness, meditation, and the sense of self.
A recent study published in the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings reports that meditation leads to decreased activity in this region.
The research was led by Harvard neurologist Gaëlle Desbordes and included eight experienced meditation practitioners and teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. The group underwent MRI scans before and after their first meditation session using techniques to observe images without disrupting brain activity. During meditation, both resting-state images and images during meditation showed less activity in the PCC than they did before meditation practice began. However, increased activity was observed in the angular gyrus, located within the brain’s parietal lobe. This suggests that meditation may enable practitioners to experience a greater sense of spaciousness and freedom from thoughts and emotions.
The researchers state that meditation reduces activity in the PCC, typically increased when subjects are asked to perform self-referential tasks such as evaluating personal opinions or recollections. A decrease in this activity has been observed during meditation practices, suggesting that meditation may diminish the extent to which sensory stimuli are processed about one’s point of view (self-relevance). This may allow for mental processes associated with resting-state awareness (or mindful awareness) while meditating.
Prior studies have shown that there can be dramatic changes in people who practice meditation, particularly in the size of this area of the brain. The posterior cingulate cortex is linked to many vital functions impacted by meditation, including self-referential processing, introspection, and complex thinking associated with memories.
Located in the middle of the brain stem, its name, pons, comes from the Latin for “bridge” because it resembles one viewed below. The pons is the central part of the medulla oblongata, a bustling and essential part of the brain where many neurotransmitters that help regulate brain activity are produced. Some neurons in this region even cross over to reach their targets on the other side.
The pons plays a vital role in meditation practice. For example, meditation strengthens long-term potentiation (LTP), which involves strengthening chemical connections between nerve cells (synapses) for lasting results such as improved memory and learning. The delta waves involved with meditation also improve sleep; meditation slows metabolism, calms the autonomic nervous system, and releases beneficial hormones.
On a more fundamental level, meditation helps you stay calm and relaxed because meditation increases blood flow in areas of your brain linked to stress reduction. Meditation also reduces activity in the amygdala involved in fear responses.
Meditation also affects the pons on a chemical basis. For example, meditation encourages better production of serotonin, which is necessary for mental health; meditation stimulates serotonin receptors to decrease depression and anxiety. Serotonin levels increase with relaxation, too, so meditation can help you relax faster once meditation practice ends. Meditation also improves GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) activity by increasing GABA receptor expression; GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that lowers nerve excitability. The pons also controls breathing, meditation can correct erratic breathing, and meditation is even linked to reduced migraines.
Meditation affects the pons by strengthening connections between nerve cells, so meditation is good for anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, brain damage caused by alcoholism or seizures, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sleep apnea / obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), tinnitus.
The Temporo Parietal Junction (TPJ)
The Temporo Parietal Junction (TPJ) is a subsection of the brain located on each hemisphere’s posterior parietal cortex. It’s one of the most recently evolved regions in the brain, found only in mammals and more developed in humans than other primates.
The TPJ makes it possible for us to see ourselves through someone else’s eyes. This section appears to be active when we think about another person’s perspective or situation – their thoughts, feelings, memories, and intentions. BASED ON PERSONAL AND SOCIAL NORMS, the TPJ may also work with our sense of self-identity — who we are or what kind of person we want to be.
A meditation practice increases activity throughout this brain region, which improves self-insight and empathic understanding of others. Recent research on meditation has also shown that meditation reduces stress, increases present moment awareness, and improves our ability to focus attention and creativity.
Meditation research is one of the most popular areas in neuroscience right now, with dozens of new studies being published every month. As meditation becomes an increasingly accepted tool for improving psychological health, meditation apps are becoming more common. But each meditation app is different, so it’s worth trying out a few before opting for one in particular. A recent study showed that Transcendental Meditation led to twice as many positive changes in the brain compared to using an app or listening to music without meditation instructions. Another recent meta-analysis concluded that meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and pain. Other research has shown meditation to help treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
Last month, a study showed that meditation physically grows the brain’s attention and sensory processing areas. Another study from last year found meditation increased blood flow to the left hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory and regulating our biological clock. Meditation might even increase grey matter in the prefrontal cortex – a part of the brain that regulates working memory, decision making, planning, and self-awareness. These are just a few examples of meditation’s benefits.
Meditation is a state of enhanced awareness that goes beyond our daily thoughts and emotions. It enables us to experience a deep sense of physical calmness and mental peace, clarity, and insight. We become more aware of our mind and body through meditation by observing how they work from moment to moment without judgment or attachment. This increased awareness helps us eliminate egoistic clinging and attachments that prevent us from recognizing who we are as spiritual beings living in a human body.
For meditation to be truly effective, it has to help us go beyond the mind and all its thoughts, emotions, and tensions. Meditation is like an inner no-space in which we come into stillness and silence. We are not trying to get rid of our everyday ‘monkey-mind through meditation; meditation helps us let go of identification with the mind. The word meditation has many definitions, but essentially it can be defined as focusing one’s attention on something simple such as the breath or a mantra, thereby creating some space between our usual self-centered thoughts and what we are: spiritual beings having a human experience.