Meditation and brain research continue gaining popularity worldwide. New studies emerge revealing new benefits of meditation. For some, it’s just ancient benefits now confirmed by science.
The practice seems to have incredible neurological benefits. For instance, it changes the grey matter volume and enhances brain connectivity. How true are these claims?
Here are some of the most amazing studies showing the potential impact of meditation on our brains.
1. Preserves the aging brain
Long-term meditators have more preserved brains as compared to non-mediators with age according to UCLA. The study found that long-term meditation participants had more grey matter volume than non-mediators. However, older mediators had smaller volume loss than young meditators. Nonetheless, it wasn’t as pronounced as that of non-mediators.
The study also found that the effect was not just located on the part of the brain associated with meditation. Instead, it was widespread throughout the entire brain.
2. Reduces mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts
Mind wandering is usually associated with worrying, ruminating and being unhappy. Most people want to dial it down. A study by Yale University discovered that mindfulness meditation reduces the brain network responsible for self-referential thoughts and mind-wandering. Although mind-wandering is often associated with creativity, too much of it is a stress-increaser.
3. Reduces symptoms of depression, pain, and anxiety
Meditation is an essential type of brain training that increases awareness. It’s not just about sitting down in a quiet place and doing nothing. Although it’s not the magic bullet for curing depression, it helps in managing symptoms.
In 2014, Johns Hopkins reviewed the relationship between meditation and its capability to decrease pain, anxiety and depression symptoms. The results showed that the effect of meditation was moderate. In fact, the same effect as that of antidepressants, which is 0.3.
4. Changes in brain structure
Mindfulness meditation can change the brain’s structure. A 2011 Harvard study found that eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) enhances cortical thickness in the hippocampus, part of the brain that regulates learning and memory.
MBSR can also reduce brain cell volume in the amygdala, the part responsible for stress, fear, and anxiety. This shows that meditation can also change our feelings and subjective perception, toward an increase in happiness. In addition, the study also found that after meditation, brain changes improved mood and arousals depending on how participants felt.
5. Improves concentration and attention
Concentration difficulties affect millions of grown-ups worldwide with an ADD diagnosis or not. Meditation enhances concentration and attention. A study published in the Psychological Science Journal showed that meditation training assists people to focus and remember in the verbal reasoning section of GRE.
A strong focus is an integral part of meditation. Therefore, it’s no surprise that meditation can improve people’s cognitive skills at work and in school.
6. Reduces social anxiety
Most people meditate to reduce stress. MBSR mentioned earlier, plays a big role in reducing a person’s stress level both mentally and physically. Mindfulness meditation also helps people with social anxiety disorder, as supported by a study at Oxford University.
7. Helps with addiction
Meditation can also help people recovering from addiction since it affects the self-control parts of the brain. One study suggests that people who learn mindfulness are more likely to quit smoking. It’s safe to assume that meditation would be helpful in kicking bad habits in general.
Although meditation isn’t a panacea, evidence shows that it can benefit those who practice it regularly.