What is meditation? Meditation is the process of observing the mind. Meditation doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t be thinking anything but rather observing the mind as it wanders and traversing it gently back to the breath or to the area of focus and eventually quiets the mind. Meditation is observing the thoughts without judgment and eventually better understand them. Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.
Nowadays, more and more people are into meditation and attesting that it really has done something good for them may it be making them more focus, more calm, more grounded, more wisdom among others. Since meditation has become more popular so studies about it have also been conducted to know more what really are the effects and benefits of meditation. Numerous studies have been conducted over the past years and have shown different benefits of meditation practice. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits. Below are some amazing benefits of meditation:
Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain
A study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter (handles things like processing and other cognitive functions) volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators.
Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center”
Study at Yale University found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down.
Meditation is good for Depression and Anxiety
A study at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.
Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain
A Harvard University team found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well.
Meditation Improves Concentration and Attention
One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points, which is nothing to sneeze at. Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation should help people’s cognitive skills on the job.
Meditation Can Help with Addiction
One study for example, pitted mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking (FFS) program, and found that people who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training, and at 17 weeks follow-up, than those in the conventional treatment. This may be because meditation helps people “decouple” the state of craving from the act of smoking, so the one doesn’t always have to lead to the other, but rather you fully experience and ride out the “wave” of craving, until it passes.
In conclusion, living amidst this chaotic world, it’s necessary and it’s one’s responsibility to find balance, harmony and clear our minds from all these negativities around and meditation might be one of the actions we can let ourselves embrace into to live a more blissful and contented life and to respond better to life’s adversities by knowing ourselves within that is understanding our being and our very existence in this universe.