Every time we get done dealing with all the pressures, tensions and stresses from work or whenever we feel so tired doing our day to day chores, we often tend to look for something worth indulging to treat* oneself. And I am sure that you are going to agree with me that having a relaxing body massage in a spa is one great way to do it. It is relaxing, it is so relieving and it is such a revitalizing experience. But guess what? Today, there is one interesting activity that we are going to share to you. This is something that has been proven as helpful in easing the physical pain, mental worries and anxieties of every individual. We only mean one thing in here, that is, the mindfulness meditation. Although I personally haven’t started doing it yet, learning about how it works and how it actually contributes to boost* brain is something that we think is worth doing and worth sharing to you.
Its Effects To The Brain
There has been numerous studies that revolves on how the human brain is being affected by the act of doing mindfulness meditation and the trend of conducting studies is increasing* through time.
One famous study is the one led by Doctor Sarah Lazara from the group of neuroscientists in Harvard University. To take an objective result on the proof of the meditation to the brain, an experiment was conducted to two groups of subjects. One group composed of 16 individuals was called as the meditation group. They went through a mindfulness meditation for around 25 minutes for eight weeks while the other group, composed of 17 individuals did not do such meditation.
All subjects from the two groups had a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans at the start of the experiment.
While the subjects from the meditation group constantly performed their 27-minute mindfulness activity every day, the observed effects to their behaviour was also being documented through the questionnaires accomplished by the participants themselves. Data from the questionnaire were consolidated which yielded an over-all improvement to their mindfulness manifested through memory processing, emotional disposition and the like. This might sound a bit subjective but the study did not just end up with this result. After the eight week program, another anatomical MRI scanning was done. The image below depicts the differences in the brain structure of the subjects at the start of the experiment and how it evolved after the meditation program.
So the shown image simply means one thing, that there is a lot of changes in the gray matter concentration inside the brain region. By the way, the gray matter in the brain is a reflection of the intelligence level of the brain. So since there is an increase* of the gray matter, then there is also an increase* in the intelligence level of the individuals who regularly performed the mindfulness meditation.
To be specific, the gray matter concentration increased in the following parts of the brain, as mentioned in the conducted study:
- Left hippocampus which is responsible in the formation of new memories.
- Posterior cingulate cortex that is linked to spatial memory and configural learning.
- Temporo-parietal junction which is another essential part in memory retention.
- Cerebellum that has an important role in motor control.
All of which contributes to a better performance of the body.
How Mindfulness Meditation Works?
Mindfulness meditation comes easy yet very powerful. It is believed that doing the meditation is effective in overcoming suffering and bring out the natural wisdom at the same time. The basic lies in the conditioning of your body, breaths and thoughts all focusing on what is happening at the present. The “now” state will bring peace and knowledge of your natural self. Mindfulness, as shown in the diagram on the left side, is a cycle.
To start it up, you must condition your body into a comfortable state. This will help lessen and overcome the distractions along the way. The next phase is to focus oneself on the object of the meditation. There is no need to complicate things, just focus and notice how the mind wanders away. As soon as this happens, acknowledge that the mind travels so there is then a need to first recognize the occurring distractions in order to let go of them. During this state, putting your attention on breathing becomes very helpful. Again, there is no need to complicate so do not manipulate your breath. Breathing naturally and comfortably until stability is reached will let good thoughts arise. The good plans, great dreams, beautiful past, brilliant ideas will surface. When you notice that the thoughts are becoming overwhelming, this could possibly lead to another stage of wandering and so you need to go over with the entire cycle again. This is how it all work to bring out the natural wisdom in you.
Knowing all these, then there is no harm in performing a meditation that has evidently shown positive effects to those who have been doing it. Keeping our brain in a good state is also good as having a better mind condition. This will further be shown through an organised thoughts, a well handled emotions and wiser decisions. Although in most cases, a meditation practice has been proven as a great contributor to a healthy lifestyle and to one’s peace of mind, the scientific studies only provided a clearer and much objective evidence to this matter. So if a mindfulness meditation can prevent or slow down the deterioration of your brain, would you not consider trying it today?
- Lazara, S.W. et. al. 2011.”Mindfulness practice leads to increases* in regional brain gray matter density”. Psychiatry Res DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006.
- Maddock, R.J. et. al.2001. “Remembering Familiar People: The Posterior Cingulate Cortex and Autobiographical Memory Retrieval”. Neuroscience.104(3):667-676.
- Saze,R., Kanwisher,N. 2003. “People thinking about thinking people: The role of the temporo-parietal junstion in “theory of mind” ”. Neurolage.19(4).1835-1842.
- Wolf, U. et.al. 2009. “Evaluating the affective component of the cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome”. J. Neuropsychiatry Clinic Neuroscience. 21(3):245-253.