Meditation is described as a practice in which an individual uses a specialized technique, such as focusing on a single object, or clearing the mind, to achieve a mentally or emotionally calm state. Learning how to meditate can help you better understand your mind and control the way you react to various situations. Similar to fitness, meditation is an approach to training your body. Research conducted over the past few years has shown a strong connection between meditation and positive changes in the brain.
Meditation benefits you neurologically, enhancing the connection between critical parts of your brain. Some recent studies report that the benefits of meditation include anxiety and depression relief, while improving your attention span and sense of wellness. Your brain is the most important organ in your body and taking care of that organ is essential. The following sections go over the physical and emotional benefits of regular meditation.
Studies conducted on long-time meditators have found that the practice may help preserve grey matter in the brain. Regular long-term meditators have more grey matter in their brain on average than people who rarely or never meditate. Although older individuals had less grey matter than younger individuals, those who meditated still had more grey matter than their non-meditating counterparts.
More grey matter is a significant health advantage, as it contains most of the cell bodies in the brain as well as the regions of the brain involved in muscle control and sensory perception. Although the exact role of grey matter is not yet well-understood, it appears to correlate with skill development. Additionally, the loss of grey matter may be associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Therefore, preserving and developing grey matter through meditation may reduce someone’s risk of memory loss as he or she ages.
One of the additional medical benefits of meditation includes an increasing the thickness of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is related to memory and emotional regulation. It also decreases the thickness of the amygdala, a portion of the brain associated with fear, stress and anxiety. Therefore, meditation may create long-term changes in the brain that prevent memory loss and decrease anxiety in those who meditate regularly.
One of the medical benefits of meditation is some evidence that it can be an effective treatment for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. This may be because of its effect on the amygdala. Some studies in meditation have found that meditating regularly is just as effective for treating the symptoms of mental illness as antidepressants are. Many therapists recommend mindfulness meditation to patients seeking relief for depression or anxiety alongside or instead of medication. Just a few minutes of daily meditation can have a significant effect on an individual’s well-being and state of mind.
Different forms of meditation can treat different forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety or performance anxiety. For example, mindfulness meditation involves regulating your brain’s emotions and mental state. It is a way of training your brain to calm down when you need it to. By focusing on the sensations and reactions within your body, you can effectively control your physical reactions and reduce your levels of stress.
Related Article: 8 Health Benefits of Meditation
Another helpful form of meditation is loving-kindness meditation, which prioritizes thinking positively about yourself. This teaches your brain new patterns of thinking that have a markedly positive effect on your mood. As a result, your unconscious thoughts become more positive. Both mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation have a positive effect on your brain, reducing stress levels and improving self-esteem when practiced regularly.
Some studies suggest that regular meditation can help control wondering thoughts, a common source of anxiety. According to a Yale study, health benefits of meditation regularly can reduce activity in the default mode network (DMN), the part of your brain that controls thoughts when you are not focused on anything in particular. This includes self-referential thoughts and daydreaming. This background chatter in your brain has been linked to distress, anxiety and sadness. Wandering thoughts can easily become nervous thoughts if you have anxiety, leading to an increase in overall stress.
Meditation helps by quieting some of this activity, reducing wandering thoughts that can lead to anxiety. Meditating allows you to focus on reinforcing positive thoughts and conscious thinking. This can quell some of the more unpleasant feelings and thoughts that may be generated by activity in the DMN.
One of the best benefits of meditation is an increased ability to focus. Along with reducing wandering thoughts, regular meditation also encourages practitioners to carefully direct their conscious thoughts. Meditation often involves consciously focusing on specific sensations, moods and emotions as well as intentionally transforming them.
For example, those who learn how to meditate may focus on the sensation of breathing and ignore all other thoughts. This helps individuals practice concentrating. Breathing meditations are so popular, the Apple Watch has a built-in feature to encourage it. When the watch detects that a wearer’s heart rate has increased, it prompts the user to conduct a breathing exercise.
Regular meditation trains the brain to carefully direct and redirect its own thoughts. As a result, practitioners report improved concentration in general. Some studies have found that as little as two weeks of meditation can improve someone’s memory and focus. It can help everyone from young children to college students to workers reduce stress and focus on the task at hand.
Meditation isn’t just helpful for increasing focus and reducing anxiety. Multiple studies have found that the benefits of meditation can play a key role in helping individuals recover from specific addictions. According to those studies, meditators are more likely than their non-meditating counterparts to successfully overcome a substance addiction. This may be because of meditation’s widespread impact on important regions of the brain associated with addiction and habit.
Some studies suggest that those who learn how to meditate properly can separate the desire to partake in their addiction from the act of partaking itself. Instead of giving in to cravings, meditators learn to feel their cravings in their entirety until the desire passes. As a result, they can avoid giving in to their impulses. Additionally, other studies suggest that meditation can provide a natural dopamine fix. Over time, individuals may learn to seek pleasure through meditation rather than through their addictions.
Related Article: Today’s Most Effective Solutions for Substance Abuse