If you meditate on a daily basis, several positive things happen. By charting new pathways in the brain, mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety, ease pain, and instil a state of calm.
Here are 7 positive ways meditation can change your brain.
7 Powerful Brain Benefits of Meditation
1) Reduces Anxiety and Depression
The study which examined 15 participants with no prior experience in meditation revealed that mindfulness meditation might be on par with antidepressants in treating depressive symptoms. Over the course of four days of meditation training, participants experienced significantly less anxiety.
2) Improves Concentration
Having trouble concentrating affects millions of people all over the world. It is a known fact that regular practice of mindfulness meditation improves concentration and attention.
In a 2012 study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers examined individuals with no previous meditation experience. A few of them received 3 hours of mindfulness meditation training and were asked to meditate for 10 minutes each day for 16 weeks. During tasks that involved attention to detail, those who meditated showed more control over executive functions involving concentration than non-meditators.
3) Reduces Stress
There is a slew of scientific studies which suggest mindfulness meditation reduces stress. In fact, not only does it reduce stress following a stressful episode, but it has the ability to mitigate stress in the moment.
In a 2013 study at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, it was revealed that people who practiced mindfulness meditation showed lower brain arousal in response to highly unpleasant images compared to people who didn’t meditate. This suggests that mindfulness changes how stress-related emotion centers in the brain are activated.
4) Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease
Meditation may also slow brain aging and degeneration that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
In a pilot study published in 2013 at Wake Forest, it was revealed that in adults with mild cognitive impairment, participants who practiced mindfulness meditation showed less atrophy or shrinking in the hippocampus, a brain region that is altered in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, compared to the control group.
5) Prevents Cold and Flu
Mindfulness meditation may help boost immune function.
In a 2012 Annals of Family Medicine study of adults aged 50 or older, researchers showed that mindfulness meditation is about as effective as exercise for reducing the occurrence of acute respiratory infection, which includes colds and seasonal flu.
6) Improves Learning and Memory
Several studies over the last decade have shown that mindfulness meditation increases gray matter in the brain which in turn improves learning and memory.
In a 2011 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, researchers scanned the brains of participants who had no previous experience with mindfulness training. The participants then completed an 8 week MBSR course, and researchers scanned their brains again. Individuals who took the meditation course showed significant increases in gray matter.
7) Eases Pain
Practicing meditation while experiencing episodes of pain can reduce unpleasantness by altering the context for pain through cognitive control and emotional regulation.
In a 2011 study at Wake Forest, it was revealed that with just 4 days of mindfulness meditation training, meditating during episodes of pain reduced unpleasantness by 57 percent and pain-intensity ratings by 40 percent. The researchers also identified specific brain regions that appear to be involved in the experience of pain and how it is modulated through meditation.
Daily practice of mindfulness meditation offers health benefits that are too good to be ignored. Make sure you’re devoting at least 5-10 minutes daily to mindfulness meditation. If you want to experience the aforementioned brain benefits of meditation, regular practice is a must.
- 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain (Forbes)
- How the Brain Changes When You Meditate (Mindful)