Dr. Sarah Lazar was one of the first scientists to test about the benefits of meditation and positive thinking, and according to her, meditation can really change your brain.
More and more people are now learning about the significant benefits of meditation for mental health and are starting to try it. “Positive meditation is like exercise,” Dr. Lazar told The Washington Post. “It’s a mental exercise. Just as exercise improves health, helps us cope better with stress and prolongs our lives, meditation can provide some of the same benefits.”
Using modern techniques such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans, scientists have gained a more comprehensive understanding of the changes that occur in our brains when we meditate. Meditation has a variety of amazing benefits for the nervous system and translates into how we see things, how we interact with others, and how we approach life.
Here’s what a growing body of scientific evidence tells us about meditation and how it changes the way our brains function
1. Meditation reduces the brain’s “self-centered” activity
Research on the effects of meditation on the brain has found that the prefrontal cortex (sometimes called the “ego center”) of the brain thickens in participants who practice meditation.
The ego center is responsible for complex thinking, attention and personality. It processes information about ourselves and our experiences.
Writer Belle Beth Cooper says, “Normally, the neural pathways from the body’s senses and the brain’s fear center to the egocenter are very strong.” “When you experience a scary or depressing feeling, it triggers a strong response in your ego center that gives you fear as well as the feeling of being attacked.”
Meditation weakens this neural connection while strengthening the connection between our assessment center and our physical sensory and fear centers. As a result, we are able to view disturbing or stressful situations more rationally.
2. Meditation can help people recover from various addiction problems
The effect of meditation on the self-control area of the brain. A growing body of research has tested whether meditation can be an effective recovery tool for people fighting addiction problems. For example, one study evaluated the long-term efficacy of positive meditation relapse prevention (MBRP), a type of group-based psychosocial care, in reducing relapse to substance abuse. At 12-month follow-up, positive relapse prevention participants reported significantly fewer days of substance use and a significant reduction in heavy drinking.
3. Meditation can reduce anxiety and social anxiety disorder
Positive meditation can reduce anxiety and can also help people who suffer from social anxiety disorder. A Stanford University study found that positive stress reduction can change brain regions associated with attention and ease the symptoms of social anxiety. There are also a variety of apps available for download that can help people with generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder learn daily meditation. Headspace and the Calm app are both good options for beginners who want to incorporate positive thinking into their lives.
4. Meditation can improve your concentration and memory
Because meditation requires concentration during practice, it can still help us improve our focus and attention, even when we are not meditating. Studies have found that positive thinking exercises can improve working memory and reduce wandering. After just two weeks, people who took the GRE found that their attention and memory improved and their scores increased by 16 points – a significant improvement.
5. Meditation can help you reduce stress
Meditation is known for its ability to achieve stress reduction, and science confirms this. Recent studies have shown that meditation can significantly reduce stress after just eight weeks of practice. In another study, researchers found that meditating before a stress-inducing event reduced feelings of stress during the event.
Are you ready to change your brain?
So how long do you have to meditate to notice changes in your brain? According to Dr. Lazar, how often do people practice meditation to reap the benefits, and more research is needed to determine this. Practicing for just 10-30 minutes a day can bring some subjective benefits, but be sure to avoid meditation misconceptions.