Science finally proves what Buddhist monks have known for millennia; that people who practice meditation daily, can permanently alter the way their brain functions. Because the simple act of shifting your attention to your breath, while sitting quietly, cultivates a regenerative peace of mind. In addition, new scientific studies have proven this ancient practice can bring about a profound change in the way different regions of the brain interact with each other. Therefore, meditation affects the way we feel, and how we think.
The Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Judson Brewer, published a study finding that meditation appears to alter the way the brain works. Specifically, meditators have an advantage, not only with handling stress but also with addressing illness and finding happiness.
“Understanding how meditation works will aid investigation into a host of diseases. We know that meditation has been shown to help in a variety of health problems. These include helping people quit smoking, cope with cancer, and even prevent psoriasis,” says Brewer.
Assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Eileen Luders, found that meditation physically alters the brain. She found that long term meditation practitioners have a larger amount of “folding” of the brain’s cortex. Due to this extra folding, the brain can process information faster.
“The insula in the cortex has been suggested to function as a hub for autonomic, affective and cognitive integration. Meditators are known to be masters in introspection and awareness, as well as emotional control and self-regulation. So the findings make sense that the longer someone has meditated, the higher the degree of folding in the insula.” states Professor Eileen Luders
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Additionally, Professor Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist, compared the brains of 20 long term meditators with 15 non-meditators. The brain scans show that meditation changes the size of brain regions known for improving memory, empathy, and resiliency when under stress. Additionally, the meditators also had increased thickness in the regions of the brain involving sensory processing and attention. The pre-frontal cortex, a region of the brain that normally shrinks with age, was also thicker in elderly meditators. As a result, this suggests that meditation could help delay the aging process.
Indeed, meditation is much more than just a way to calm thoughts and lower stress levels. A combined research study between the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at the University of Oslo, and the University of Sydney, found that during meditation, the brain is able to better process emotions. As a result, this allows for more compassion and a deeper feeling of connection with the community.
Shifting one’s attention to each slow and deep breath, shifts into a peace of mind that allows the ego to quiet. This allows the mind to release its clutter. As a result of this shift in consciousness, is serenity, peace of mind, and creative inspiration.
Science has now proven that through meditation, we can make gains towards better health. Additionally, we can make improvements in the way we think and feel. By learning to focus on the present moment, we can suppress our wandering and egotistical thoughts. These constantly invade and disrupt our consciousness and emotions. A mere twenty minutes spent in mindfulness meditation will give you the power to overcome your problems, allowing you to make a permanent change.