Meditating is a foreign concept for many people.
Let’s face it, to some it seems like a practice reserved for those interested in Eastern philosophy and yoga.
As a matter of fact, the earliest record of meditation goes as far back as 1500BCE, so in no way are its benefits a new fad.
To put it simply, mounting evidence shows that meditating regularly improves your mental health immensely.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the study Harvard University conducted in connection with meditation. It’s one of the most compelling studies performed to date.
16 participants spent 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises. MRIs were performed before and after, revealing incredible results!
After only 8 weeks participants showed significant changes in their grey matter!
So Why Is Meditating Important?
Grey matter plays a very strong role in the central nervous system.
It provides nutrients and energy to your neurons. Simply put, the well-being you feel while meditating comes from structural changes that actually occur in the brain.
The Harvard study published the following findings:
- Increased grey matter was found in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that regulates self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
- Increased grey matter was also found in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for executive functioning.
- There was also a decrease in the size of the amygdala, the area of the brain that regulates the stress response.
It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.” Dr. Britta Holzel, an author of the study.
Incredible Changes Can Occur
The brain structures of people who meditate are significantly different from than those who don’t.
Consequently, meditating alters your perception of everything from your sense of self to how you view unfolding events.
These findings are truly quite amazing!
In 1992 the Dalai Lama offered neuroscientist Richard Davidson a challenge. He asked him to study the minds of people who cultivate a positive outlook during their lifetime.
8 Buddhist practitioners were chosen to participate. Each logged more than 34,000 hours in mental training before the study. Over the course of the study, Davidson asked the participants to transition from a meditative state to a neutral state while being monitored by an MRI.
“When we did this, we noticed something remarkable,” Davidson said. “What we see are these high-amplitude gamma-oscillations in the brain, which are indicative of plasticity”—meaning that those brains were more capable of change, for example, in theory, of becoming more resilient. The Buddhist and the Neuroscientist, The Atlantic
Researchers noted that an area of the brain called the anterior insula was activated during meditation. This part of the brain governs social emotions. It’s the point where mind and body are integrated. In conclusion, Dr. Davidson found that the brain scans showed “compassion is a kind of state that involves the body in a major way.”
Not only are our brains not static, as was once believed, but we are no longer banished to live lives weighed down by “inherited” characteristics. It so exciting to see these antiquated beliefs overturned by research.
It’s now clear that the mind changes with regular mental exercise. In a nutshell, you can cultivate happiness and well-being by rewiring your thought process.
The future holds so much promise for each and every one of us if we harness the power of meditation.
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