Meditation is good for you.
For one, meditation makes you smarter. That’s right, meditation makes you more intelligent, creative and mentally sharp. The brain is like a muscle that can be strengthened, trained and enlarged. You might wonder, does size really matter? When it comes to your brain, science says, yes.
Meditation has proven to increase cortical thickness. The cerebral cortex is the most developed part of the human brain. It’s responsible for many “higher order” functions, such as planning and organization, problem solving, memory, cognition and comprehension. Neuroimaging research indicates that general intelligence is positively associated with cortical thickness.
Meditation: A Wheelhouse for Happiness?
Many contemplative traditions teach that “living in the moment” increases happiness. But is this really true? According to scientists, the mind wanders 47% of the time. Buddhists call this default-mind-state, “the monkey mind.”
Research shows that people are less happy when their mind is wandering than when they are present with what they are doing even if it’s in a traffic jam.
The ability to examine the past and imagine the future is integral to human nature. However, allowing the mind to wander without self-observation or supervision can unleash unpleasant feelings of anxiety, fear and dread.
Allowing the mind to wander on pleasant thoughts is good medicine. But, negative mind-wandering releases a cascade of stress related neurochemicals that diminish health and happiness.
Researchers at Yale University discovered that meditation de-activates this non-present mind-state among meditators, across all types of meditation. Furthermore, the study revealed that meditators demonstrate stronger neural connections in brain regions associated with self-monitoring, awareness and cognitive control both at baseline and during meditation.
According to happiness researcher, Matt Killingsworth, PhD., “We’re often happiest when we’re lost in the moment.” And on the flip side, he says, “The more our mind wanders, the less happy we can be.”
Meditation: The New Fountain of Youth?
The greatest contributor to symptoms of aging is not time. It’s stress. Chronic stress causes your body to release chemicals such as cortisol that cause inflammation, weight gain, and compromises the immune system.
A study published in the Biological Psychiatry Journal reveals that subjects who practiced meditation for three consecutive days showed calmer brain activity in the regions responsible for stress-related reactions. Blood samples associated with systemic inflammation showed significant improvement as well.
Meditation: The Best Way to Build A Better, More Resilient Brain?
Harvard Neuroscientist, Sara Lazar found dramatic structural changes in the brains of subjects who meditated for 27-Minutes per day for 8 Weeks. These visibly significant structural changes correlated to the subjects’ anecdotal reports of experiencing more peaceful states of mind and increased overall well being.
Before and after, Magnetic Resonance (MR) images revealed increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, associated with learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation. In addition, the images showed a decrease in grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain associated with emotional responses of stress, anxiety and fear, also known as The Stress Response.
Meditation: How long before I notice results?
Some scientists say that 10 to 20-Minutes per day is enough. The key is to just do it.
Meditation is like exercise, (but much easier). The more regularly you do it, the sooner you’ll experience life-changing results.