This is how meditation transforms your brain (and the science that proves it)
As you read this article today you might perhaps find yourself somewhere remote trying to enjoy a few days off…
You’ve probably slowed your pace right down…
You’re indulging in a few moments of rest and relaxation …
You may even have the opportunity to pause between activities and read that book that you have been wanting to read for so long!
Because you know only too well that as soon as summer ends, it‘s all over.
On September 1, you’ll have no choice but to resume that frenetic pace that we are so accustomed to, every day.
Schools, projects, business, social networks, stress, anxiety ….
And all that precious serenity you enjoyed during the holidays will once again be lost in your very fast daily routine.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, it should not be that way.
Because if you continue with that very fast pace always, not only will you burn your engines sooner than you can imagine.
If you continue with that very fast pace always, you will miss all that wonderful landscape that’s part of your daily life.
Yes, all those little things…
But, that’s impossible, Ainhoa …
I need to take care of everything and everyone …
I know what you mean.
But, it’s also important that you take care of yourself.
That’s why I’d like you to do something very simple.
I’d like you to pay attention.
Yep, that’s it.
I’d like you to bring attention to your life, in the form of meditation.
What is meditation?
That is the same question a disciple asked his Zen master.
What is meditation, Master?
“Meditation is attention” answered the master with certainty.
Could you expand on your answer? said the student, perplexed.
“Yes, of course: meditation is attention and attention.”
The student, unsatisfied with the answer, insisted.
And the teacher replied with a smile on his face: “Of course. Meditation is attention, attention and attention. “
While that answer might seem silly to many, it accurately reflects the essence of meditation.
With meditation, we learn how to pay attention to become more aware of our environment and our feelings.
Meditation teaches us how to focus on our present, without judging our thoughts: accepting them as what they are – thoughts, not our reality.
In addition to slowing down your pace and your impulses, meditation has many other health benefits that have now been demonstrated.
Still unsure about meditation?
Do you still think meditation has no place beyond a Hindu Ashram or a hippy commune?
If you doubt how much meditation can do for you, read on.
Meditation can change your brain: neuroplasticity
Dr Sara Lazar and her team of psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital wanted to demonstrate what many had long suspected – that the practice of meditation provokes a positive biological response in our brains.
In other words, Dr Lazar wanted to confirm that meditation generates a process of neuroplasticity in our brain that increases the number of neurons we create and improves the quality of communication between them.
With the goal of answering the question “can meditation change the structure of our brain?” this team of researchers recruited a group of volunteers in Boston who practiced meditation for 30 to 40 minutes each day. These people were by no means Buddhist monks or long terms practitioners of meditation.
The study consisted of comparing their brains to those of people who had never meditated by using magnetic resonance imaging.
Did they identify any differences?
They certainly did, the most remarkable of them being that fifty-year olds who meditated presented the same amount of prefrontal cortex as any twenty-five-year olds non-meditators.
This indicates that the practice of meditation can prevent or delay the natural deterioration that takes place in the cortical structure because of aging.
Unfortunately, Dr Lazar’s study was not very well received.
The critics questioned whether the food eaten by the meditators or any other relevant factors
had been taken into account in the study.
Faced with such a degree of criticism, Dr Lazar decided to repeat the study this time, however, focusing on volunteers who had never meditated before.
What happened after eight weeks of meditating for 30 to 40 minutes each day?
Some parts of the participants’ brains had changed in size and quality:
1. The hippocampus was larger – this is the area in our brain where learning takes place and emotions are regulated.
2. The size of the amygdala – the part of the brain that makes us react immediately to danger – had decreased. This is indeed positive because the smaller our amygdala, the lesser our stress levels will be.
In addition to the neuroplastic reaction demonstrated by the Boston team in 2011, other benefits of meditation have been demonstrated over time.
Other Demonstrated Benefits of Meditation
- Anti-Depression and Anti-Anxiety. Many studies have focused on meditation’s capacity for combatting depression and pain. One of the most interesting studies – conducted by the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland – found out that meditation has the same ability to reduce a patient’s symptoms of depression or pain as an antidepressant.
- It has also been shown that a specific type of meditation – stressed based mental meditation – reduces stress levels (both physical and mental), as well as anxiety.
- Better cognitive abilities: concentration, memory and learning. We also know that just by practicing meditation at least a couple of times a week we can increase concentration and the ability to avoid distractions considerably – something which is very positive, especially when our brains are exposed to so many distractions and problems every single day.
- Help against addictions. According to many scientific studies, meditation directly affects those areas of the brain that contribute to our self-control. That’s why is so effective in controlling addictions as tobacco or alcohol.
Keen to try it?
You’ll see how, the benefits of practicing meditation today will be long-lasting to the point that you can even slow down your brain’s natural aging process!
Besides, nothing like taking advantage of that “serenity” you’re now enjoying while on holidays to start a totally transformative practice like meditation!
Here you can listen to a 5 minute meditation. Download it and start your practice.
And if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to solve them.
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