How Can Meditation Change the Brain: 15+ Things to Know

You may be aware already of the fact that meditation does wonder in altering your mindset but did you know that it is instrumental in changing the way your brain functions and processes various things?

Researchers have now, with the aid of their advanced imaging technologies, proved this conclusion.

Here are some of the ways Meditation actually changes the brain for your good:

Meditation is seen to change structures in your brain

A study conducted by a team of researchers at Harvard University showed that eight weeks of a training program called MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), increased the hippocampus’s cortical thickness, the part of the brain that regulates memory and learning, and also plays an important role to control your emotions. This program was carried out using brain scans.

It was seen that the mindfulness meditation program increased the volume of the hippocampus, which in turn led to improved emotional control. 

Meditation protects the brain from aging

Preliminary research suggests that meditation proves beneficial in preventing your brain from aging.

A team of researchers from UCLA suggested that regular meditators have lower age-related degeneration in their brain’s white matter. This was even published in the journal named NeuroImage.

These researchers compared the brains of meditators and non-meditators from the past 20 years and found out that, in the case of the meditators, the decline of gray matter is comparatively less.

Meditation shrinks the Amygdala

Being the emotional center of the brain, the Amygdala is responsible for making us feel certain emotions like fear and anger, and to even understand these emotions in other people.

As a result, you can clearly understand that a larger Amygdala corresponds to greater anxiety issues in people. 

Research has shown that regular meditation in combination with proper rest is beneficial in shrinking the Amygdala and thus, lessening the levels of anxiety. 

Meditation enlarges the prefrontal cortex of the brain

The frontal lobe of the brain is covered by the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational decision-making. 

Scientists have shown that regular meditation increases the grey matter in this region of the prefrontal cortex which means extra brain cells in this region and enhances your ability to make better rational decisions.

Meditation engages various parts of the brain

Meditation makes the frontal lobe of the brain, the most evolved part of the brain which helps you in making rational decisions, reason out, plan certain things, control emotions, go “offline”.

The parietal lobe, which is necessary for evaluating sensory information, and the thalamus, which transmits motor and sensory information to the cerebral cortex, are all regulated by meditation as it ensures the prevention of other signals from firing.

Meditation increases your Grey Matter

The grey matter is the tissue, which contains unmyelinated axons and other brain cells and is responsible for decision-making, controlling of emotions and speech, and most importantly for muscle control. 

Researchers have shown that regular meditation can increase this tissue known as the grey matter which further leads to increased processing power in these specific areas.

Meditation is instrumental in enhancing the activity of various brainwaves

Brainwaves are essentially electrical impulses, generated in the brain when the brain cells communicate with each other.

Various brainwaves are related to various communications like gamma waves which are of high frequency. These gamma waves occur at the time of higher virtues, love, a state of altruism.

Research has shown that people who take part in meditation regularly and have been meditating for a long time, have an increased activity of these gamma waves.

How meditation helps in addiction

Meditation helps in stress regulation

Researchers hired 35 such adults who were looking for employment and were under considerable stress and pressure.

The participants were grouped into two. One group underwent mindfulness meditation whereas, the other group underwent a “fake” meditation practice.

At the end of the program, it was found that the participants who had undergone the real meditation program were much more expressive in the areas of the brain related to the resting state. This was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Meditation can improve concentration and make you more focused

Researchers compared the brains of regular and long-time meditators to the people who were new to the practice of meditation.

They paid specific attention to the DMN (Default Mode Network), the part of the brain associated with wandering thoughts. 

These researchers concluded that the DMN was effectively reduced when the participants practiced various forms of meditation, as a result, this led to lesser distracted thoughts than the amateur meditators. 

Meditation helps you to superpower your brain

The various folds on the outer surface of your brain are formed to smoothen up the communication of brain cells and increase their pace. This process is called gyrification. The brain undergoes gyrification to increase its functional capacity.

People practicing meditation for a long time were found to have a greater amount of gyrification in comparison to the ones who didn’t meditate. This means that the more you meditate, the more efficient your brain will become at evaluating information. 

Which parts of the brain are activated while meditation

Meditation helps you to become better at solving various problems

Multiple studies show that the people who participated in meditation practices performed better on evaluations, that test conflict resolution skills, in comparison to the people that didn’t meditate.

This proves to you why the regular meditators usually have a comparatively lower stress level as opposed to the non-meditators. Their brains are more accomplished at conflict resolutions.

Meditation boosts your creativity

Experiments conducted by the Harvard Business Review show that 10-12 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily can be enough to boost your creativity.

The majority of the participants who were an integral part of this experiment reported an increase in their creativity and that it even enhanced their focus. 

Mindfulness meditation is essential in getting those stored ideas, or even the new ones, flowing directly to the neocortex of the brain, the place where the creative processes take place. 

Meditation helps to kill anxiety and delivers peace

The scans of the brains of participants, who took part in a meditation program at the Wake Forest University, revealed that meditation enabled them to get rid of anxiety issues a great deal by activating a part of the brain, known as the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps in controlling worries.

Scans also prove a significant decrease in the grey matter of the amygdala, the part of the brain that gives rise to anxiety and stress.

Requirements for meditation

Meditation helps to enhance self-control

It is quite common for many of you to indulge in various kinds of addiction. Addictions such as cigarettes or drugs or alcohol. A study showed that smokers, who practiced 5 hours of meditation daily, were able to reduce smoking by up to 60%, which is indeed a great improvement.

This is because mindfulness meditation activates the prefrontal cortex region and the anterior cingulate parts of the brain. These are the parts of the brain related to self-control.

Meditation grants you an overall sense of pleasure and happiness

A study conducted in July 2015 involved 12 well-trained meditators and 11 elite runners. When the results of the study were out it was seen that both the groups had significantly enhanced levels of endorphins. 

The pleasurable effects of their corresponding endorphins were further measured and it was found that the meditation group had greater levels of pleasure.

Meditation strengthens the Pons

Pons is a very important and rather busy part of your brain. This is the part that deals with the production of various neurotransmitters, that initiate brain activities.

The Pons is essential for carrying out various functions like sleep, evaluating sensory inputs, facial expressions, basic physical functions of the body. Regular mindfulness meditation helps in strengthening the Pons.

Meditation regulates the Tempo Parietal Junction (TPJ)

Various qualities like compassion and empathy, which make us “good” human beings, are associated with the TPJ.

Meditation helps to strengthen the TPJ. A stronger TPJ along with other meditational benefits like lower anxiety and stress levels can help you become the person you wish to in the future.

Verdict

To conclude the points, one should incorporate meditation into their daily routine alongside all other physical and recreational activities.

With so much going on, life is trying to pull you in so many different directions, it is quite easy to go astray. Meditation adds that hint of pleasure to your daily monotonous life and brings about changes in your brain patterns.

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation