The study on meditation and the brain has been slowly accumulating for a couple of years, with fresh research demonstrating a new advantage of meditation almost every week.
The practice seems to offer a wide range of neurological advantages, including changes in grey matter volume, decreased activity in the "me" regions of the brain, and improved connection across brain areas.
Here are several of the most intriguing research published in the last several years that demonstrate that meditation does, in fact, generate quantifiable changes in our most vital organs.
Obviously, skeptics may question, what good are a few brain alterations if the cognitive impacts are not also demonstrated? Fortunately, there is solid scientific proof for these benefits as well, with research indicating that meditation reduces subjective levels of anxiety and sadness, and improves focus, concentration, and psychological well-being altogether.
Meditation Aids in the Preservation of the Aging Brain
UCLA researchers discovered that long-term meditation practitioners age differently than non-meditators. Older meditators still experienced some volume loss throughout the brain compared to younger meditators, although it wasn't as apparent as in non-meditators.
We anticipated only minor and clear impacts. Instead, we detected a broad impact of meditation throughout the brain.Florian Kurth.
Meditation Minimizes Activity in the "Me Center" of the Brain
One of the most intriguing recent research, conducted at Yale University, discovered that mindfulness meditation reduces activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thinking, sometimes known as the "monkey mind." When we're not pondering about something specific, our brains wander from idea to idea, the DMN is "on" or active.
The Effects of Meditation Rival Antidepressants for Depression and Anxiety
Research at Johns Hopkins discussed mindfulness meditation's capacity to relieve melancholy, anxiety, and pain last year. Meditation's impact size was 0.3, according to researcher Madhav Goyal.
If this seems low, remember that antidepressants also have an effect size of 0.3, making meditation sound excellent. Meditation is brain exercise. People think meditation implies sitting still, says Goyal. "Nope.
Various meditation regimens teach the mind to improve awareness in different ways. Meditation isn't a cure-all for depression, but it may assist in controlling symptoms.
Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain
Sara Lazar and her Harvard team revealed in 2011 that mindfulness meditation changes brain anatomy. Eight weeks of MBSR increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which affects learning and memory, and in regions of the brain that regulate emotions and self-referential thinking.
Meditation lowers brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress. These changes matched the individuals' self-reported stress levels, demonstrating that meditation impacts our subjective experience and emotions as well.
Follow-up research by Lazar's team demonstrated that following meditation training, alterations in brain regions connected to mood and arousal were linked to increases in participants' psychological well-being.
For anybody who argues active blobs in the brain doesn't signify anything, our subjective experience – enhanced mood and well-being – seems to be transformed by meditation.
Attention and Concentration Can be Sharpened With Only a Few Days of Training
Problems concentrating impact millions of adults, ADD-diagnosed or not. Meditation enhances attention and focus. Recent research indicated that two weeks of meditation improved concentration and recall on the GRE verbal reasoning part.
The score rise was 16 percentile points, which is impressive. Since meditation focuses attention (on an item, concept, or action), it's not unexpected that it improves cognitive abilities at work, but it's wonderful to have research corroborate it.
Meditation Relieves Anxiety
Many people meditate to reduce stress, and there's excellent evidence for this. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), created by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts' Center for Mindfulness (now accessible nationwide), attempts to alleviate physical and emotional stress. Even years after the original 8-week course, it reduces anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation, unlike focusing on the breath merely, may lower anxiety, and these changes appear to be mediated by self-referential ("me-centered") thinking. Stanford University researchers revealed that MBSR changed brain areas linked to attention and relieving social anxiety responses.
Related Resource: How Student Stress Can Cripple Your College Experience
Meditation Aids Addiction
Meditation's effects on the brain's self-control areas have been found to aid patients to recover from addiction. In one research, mindfulness training was compared to the American Lung Association's freedom from smoking (FFS) program.
People who acquired mindfulness were several times more likely to have stopped smoking at the conclusion of the course and at 17 weeks of follow-up. Meditation may help individuals "decouple" need from smoking, so one doesn't necessarily lead to another.
Instead, you completely feel and ride out the "wave" of craving, until it passes. Different studies have demonstrated that mindfulness training, MBCT, and MBRP may cure other addictions.
Meditation Breaks Can Help Schoolchildren
Meditation offers as much potential for growing brains as for adults. Educators and researchers are interested in introducing meditation and yoga to school pupils who face stress inside and outside school.
Zoom meditation classes are what most schools have incorporated into their education system since the pandemic took place. This has been beneficial to students and educators as this ensures their safety and well-being. Meditation has cognitive and emotional advantages for kids, but more research is needed before it's widely accepted.
Meditation isn't a panacea, but it can help frequent practitioners. Some studies warn that meditation might be detrimental under some conditions (the "dark night" phenomena), but for most individuals – particularly with a skilled instructor – it's helpful.
If you have a couple of hours in the morning or evening (or both), try calming your mind instead of switching on your cellphone or browsing the internet. Several minutes of meditation can be beneficial, according to the study.