Your Brain on Meditation
Meditation can help to relax you and regulate your emotions, among many other benefits, but mindfulness can also physically change your brain and how it reacts to stimuli.
Experienced meditators have highly developed regions in their brains that are connected to memory, emotional control and self-awareness. However, many years of experience isn’t necessary to see changes in the brain. Some studies suggest that people new to meditation show growth in these areas of the brain in as little as eight weeks after practicing for 20 minutes a day.
And that’s just the beginning. Keep up with your meditation practice, and here are all the incredible ways mindfulness can change your brain for the better:
Your Grey Matter Can Grow
A Harvard study found that people who meditated increased gray matter density in their hippocampus — the part of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.
Your Amygdala Can Shrink
MRI brain scans have revealed reduced gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to fear, anxiety and stress, in participants that meditated at least 30 minutes a day for eight weeks. At the same time, their brains showed thickening in the prefrontal cortex (associated with awareness, concentration, and decision-making).
Your Mood Can Brighten
Research has shown that meditation leads to amped up production of serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), all neurotransmitters associated with heightened satisfaction and lessened anxiety.
Your Brain Can Rewire Itself
Regular meditators appear to have increased connectivity between certain regions of the brain, such as those associated with attention and focus.
You’ll Be Able To Remember More
Regular mindfulness meditation may slow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex, which means less forgetfulness over the years. Meditation also improves memory recall because the brain is better able to regulate the brain waves that block out irrelevant information.
You Can Deal with Pain Better
Meditation can help reduce distress from chronic pain and depression relapse. Your brain’s prefrontal cortex still registers the pain but manages to uncouple itself from the part of the brain associated with the unpleasantness of pain.
You’ll Develop More Folds in Your Brain
Studies show that meditators have more folds in the outer layer of the brain, which is known to boost how well and quickly the brain processes information.
Your Brain Will Age Slower
The cortex is the part of the brain that shrinks as we age, but in this study, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter in this region as people half their age.