You may have read that meditation may be able to bring fantastic benefits with practice, but you feel sceptical. How could sitting and doing nothing have all these benefits? The good news is that now numerous scientific research articles prove many of the benefits of sitting down and calming your mind through meditation. So much so, that they're arguing that meditation rewires the very structures of your brain. Here are some findings that show how meditation rewires the brain.
A study done by Harvard affiliated researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrated that after just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation participants saw measurable changes in brain regions associated with stress, empathy, memory, and sense of self.
Increased grey matter in the hippocampus (learning and memory)
The study showed that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation, the amount of grey matter within the hippocampus seemed to increase. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated with learning and memory.
Decreased amygdala size (reduced anxiety and stress)
Studies have shown that the amygdala, the region of the brain associated with anxiety and stress, may reduce in volume in people that meditated.
Increased grey matter in the prefrontal cortex (problem-solving)
The grey matter appeared to accumulate in areas such as the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with problem-solving and emotional control.
In a summary of the study written by the Harvard Gazette, Britta Hölzel (first author of the paper) noted: "It is fascinating to see the brain's plasticity and that, by practising meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life."
Now that you know that meditation may be able to change the grey matter in your brain, what benefits can this bring?
A study from Butler University showed the correlation between meditation and creativity more specifically, how mindfulness meditation promotes divergent thinking, which is associated with creativity. Divergent thinking is roughly defined as a cognitive process in which a person generates many new, unique, creative ideas. It's used in thought processes involving brainstorming sessions. Meditation may make you more creative, which could give you more success in business or just more happiness in general.
Through meditation, you may be able to control your emotions better. As you meditate, you may develop the ability to merely watch emotions as they pass through your body in a detached, non-judgemental way. Instead of reacting and nurturing strong emotions, meditation aims to allow you to sit back and observe them. This may help you better control your emotions by bringing yourself back to the present moment.
Scientific research is starting to demonstrate that with a regular meditation practice, you may be able to change the structures of your brain. More research is being conducted to shed more light on the subject. However, at this current time, we know that meditating consistently for eight weeks seems to show how meditation rewires the brain.
If you are new to meditation, the blog post understanding meditation for beginners is a good starting point. It aims to dispel some common meditation myths, give further benefits and give you a quick and easy way to meditate for beginners.