Meditation is the buzzword of this century! Many motivational and spiritual speakers are inspiring people to take a break from their busy schedule and get into a peaceful headspace. Meditation is the practice of shutting the world out and concentrating on one’s inner peace. But, spirituality apart, there are scientific reasons behind the many benefits of meditation.
What Actually Happens In The Brain?
In a study, MRI images of various candidates showed drastic change in beta-wave activity in their brain after 20 minutes of meditation. Here is how the various parts of the brain get stimulated with meditation:
- Frontal lobe: This part of the brain helps us plan, reason, emote and be aware of ourselves. This lobe tunes off during meditation, thereby detaching our mind from ‘self’.
- Thalamus: The thalamus co-ordinates our senses and channels them from different parts of the body to the brain. It has been found that meditation slows down the rate of this channeling of sensory information.
- Parietal lobe: This lobe processes the data handed in by the thalamus, and gives you a sense of time and space. Meditation slows down the processing activity.
- Reticular information: This is essentially responsible for putting the brain on alert, based on what stimuli it receives. This part also slows down during meditation.
Benefits Of Meditation For Brain:
During meditation, the brain shows predominantly theta waves. These waves are associated with a relaxed state of mind as compared to alpha waves, which are associated with an aroused state of mind.
Let’s have a look at the benefits of meditation for brain:
1. Grey Matter:
Although there is no conclusive scientific proof of this, some studies have shown that meditation is linked to the larger amounts of grey matter in the frontal areas of the brain. More grey matter can increase focus and emotional stability in an individual. An MRI study conducted at Harvard University showed that meditation leads to thicker grey matter in the parts of the brain, which are associated with compassion and self-awareness.
Numerous neural pathways emerge from the medial prefrontal cortex of our brain. These pathways connect to the brain’s fear and bodily sensation perception centers. When you are in an upsetting situation, the prefrontal cortex makes you feel scared or anxious. Meditation essentially loosens these taut connections, so that such a strong reaction isn’t triggered in the prefrontal cortex. Meditation reduces the pangs of anxiety. Instead, it allows us to evaluate the situation more rationally.
Some researchers at the Wisconsin-Madison University took MRI images of Tibetan monks and discovered that meditation and resilience have a deep-rooted connection. The study shows that meditation helps the amygdala (which is associated with emotion and emotional memories) recover quickly from trauma or stress.
Reduced stress level is one of the biggest benefits of deep meditation. In 2012, researchers split a study group into three and they are:
- One group practiced mindful meditation
- Another group took body relaxation training
- The last group were not given any training at all
A multitasking, stress inducing test showed that those who meditated showed less stress than either of the other groups.
At Leiden University, Netherlands, researchers found that people who practiced open-monitoring meditation performed better at tasks, which demanded new ideas. However, the same study indicates that the boost of creativity is not prevalent in those who practice the focus-attention meditation.
However, creativity is not an easy thing to research as it is immeasurable physically. A lot more research is required to actually confirm the effectiveness of meditation in creativity.
According to a research conducted by the Osher Research Center and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, people practicing mindful meditation could adjust the brain waves to tune out distraction. This increases productivity and easy incorporation of new information and thus boosts memory.
Mediation offers benefits not just for the brain, but also helps in the growth and nurturing of the body. It is never too late to learn meditation and reap the many health benefits that it offers.
Do you meditate? What kind of meditation do you prefer? Share your views with us in the comments section below.