7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain
Meditation is an age-old practice that has been used for centuries to improve mental health and wellbeing. It has gained traction among modern generations in recent 5 years, and science is just starting to understand how exactly meditation affects the brain.
Anyone who has developed a strong relationship with meditation in Dubai can vouch for the improvement it brings to mental and physical wellbeing, although it may be difficult to explain how.
While scientific research about the meditation and brain connection is still emerging, one thing is certain – there is definitely a positive effect of meditation on the brain.
On that note, here are 7 ways that meditation can actually alter the brain:
1. Less Loss of Grey Matter
Gray matter consists primarily of neuronal cell bodies, and the regions of the brain with grey matter are responsible for controlling muscular and sensory activity. Simply put, the more grey matter in the brain, the healthier and better functioning it will be.
As we age, we tend to lose grey matter volume. However, studies have shown that the loss of grey matter in adults that practice frequent meditation is considerably less than those who do not. This indicates that meditation can keep brain function in good shape and preserve our brain’s volume of grey matter.
2. Increased Volume of Hippocampus
The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, learning, and emotional regulation. Research conducted by Harvard University has found that an eight-week mindfulness meditation training program increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus. This can mean positive things for our brain’s ability to learn, process memories, and regulate emotions effectively.
Moreover, many cases of PTSD, depression, and anxiety are correlated with decreased volume and density of the hippocampus. Making meditation a daily habit, or at least attending frequent meditation retreats in Dubai, can therefore help increase hippocampus volume and thereby prevent stress-related illnesses.
3. Decreased Volume of Amygdala
The amygdala is the region of the brain that controls our fear response. It is therefore the part of the brain that is responsible for fear, stress, and anxiety. Studies have shown that meditation can actually help reduce the volume of the amygdala, which can be correlated with a decrease in sudden “fight or flight” or anxiety responses.
What is interesting is that many people report that meditation has helped relieve their stress, anxiety, and depression. This indicates that meditation retreats not only change the brain structure to reduce the amygdala volume, but that its stress-relieving effects are actually profoundly felt by individuals.
4. Thickened Prefrontal Cortex
The prefrontal cortex, or PFC, is the attentional control center of our brain. It is responsible for planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior. Basically, it helps us plan and organize.
Our prefrontal cortex thins with age. Stress can also cause a premature thinning of the PFC. However, meditation has been proven to help thicken the prefrontal cortex and protect it from aging.
5. Controls Default Mode Network Activity
The default mode network (DMN) is the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts. In short, the DMN is active when we are not actively thinking about anything, and it often responsible for the mind-wandering and overthinking that causes stress and unhappiness.
Mindfulness meditation is all about quieting our intrusive thoughts and helping us focus on the present moment. In other words, meditation can help control your default mode network activity, thereby helping you become a more conscious individual.
6. Improved Activity in Temporo-Parietal Junction
The temporo-parietal junction is the area of the brain involved in compassion, empathy and perspective taking. Studies have found that meditation retreats can actually trigger an increase in activity in the temporo-parietal junction and other areas of the brain that are related to compassion and empathy.
Individuals with a greater sense of compassion and perception tend to have an overall better wellbeing. This is because they are able to understand the universe and people in a deeper manner. Hence, this benefit of meditation can also improve your happiness and wellbeing.
7. Meditation Effects are Similar to Antidepressants
Meditation is often celebrated for its ability to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress. Interestingly enough, studies have found that the effect that meditation plays on the brain is similar to that of antidepressants. This means that attending meditation retreats are a natural and effective way to combat depression, in a way similar to actual medication!
These are just a few ways that meditation can positively affect the brain. And this is just the beginning! Research will continue to show us the amazing and mind-boggling benefits of meditation for our physical and mental health.