How Meditation Changes the Brain
By Lindsay Leimbach
Meditation is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Meditation over time changes the mind, similar to exercise over time changes the body. This is great news because it means that we can take responsibility for developing our mental health, similar to how we know we need to take responsibility for our physical health. Meditation allows us to be more resilient when facing stress.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley summarized the several of latest research benefits of meditation.
In your brain, regular meditation increases gray matter (neuronal cell bodies and synapses) in the:
Insula – Handles interception (sense of your own body); self-awareness in general; empathy for the emotions of others
Hippocampus – Key role in personal recollections, visual-spatial memory, establishing the context of events, and calming down both the amygdala (the alarm bell of the brain) and production of stress hormones like cortisol
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) – Supports the executive functions, self-control, and guiding attention
Regular meditation also:
Increases activation in left PFC, which lifts mood
Increases the power and reach of very fast, gamma range brainwaves, which promotes learning.
Preserves the length of telomeres, the caps at the ends of DNA molecules; longer telomeres are associated with fewer age-related diseases. (This was found in a three months retreat and may not apply to meditation in general)
Reduces cortical thinning due to aging in the insula and PFC.
Meditation is the quintessential training of attention. Since attention is like a vacuum cleaner – sucking its contents into your brain through what’s called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity” – getting better control of your attention is the foundation of changing your brain, and thus your life, for the better.
With the development of improved Mental Health, you can have the capability to be calmer, clearer, creative, and reduce your stressful thinking.