3 Ways Meditation Changes Your Brain
In ancient times, devoted meditation practicants began to tap into a special, internal power. It was as if they had unlocked the secret developing many abilities that 'regular' people found difficult to attain. They experienced benefits like better focus, sharper memory, clearer thinking, a state of calm and detachment, a broad understanding of life, a sense of integration with the universe, patience, and compassion. Some claimed to mastered meditation to the point where they could predict future events, influence present ones, and have profound out of body experiences.
In those times, these capabilities were not easy to explain and were often considered supernatural, strange, or even a scam by the non-initiated. Today however, through the tools of modern science we have been able to disassemble, bit by bit, this meditation puzzle, and understand through brain scans, lab analysis and collective studies what really happens inside the brain during the meditation process. We've gained irrefutable evidence that shows just how dramatically meditation can benefit, change, and enhance our lives for the better.
Here are just three benefits of meditation, that show how this ancient practice can actually change the way your brain looks and functions!
Meditation Benefit 1: Meditation Decreases Beta Waves
In most of our daily activities the brain functions by constantly processing thoughts and signals that come from our sensory organs. That implies a high level of activity in frontal lobe, parietal lobe and thalamus and the generation of beta waves that are specific to analysis, data processing, problem solving and so on. During meditation, the generation of beta waves are considerably reduced. In this way, the conscious part of our mind is shut down, and the subconscious part is brought to surface.
According to eastern meditation writings, the subconscious part holds the greatest hidden treasures of the human consciousness - the intuition, the ability to heal, to access traumas and blocked energy, to work with the energy in the subtile planes, the connection with the universal knowledge and the Divine. The more this part is active, the more these abilities come to the surface and the person is being able to use them in order to regain the beauty and the simplicity of life.
Meditation Benefit 2: Meditation Loosens The Neural Connections That Lead To Anxiety And Stress
In our brain there are certain areas responsible for emotional response and interpretation:
- The amygdala - also called the “fight or flight” or fear center - responsible for perceiving the emotional responses and reactions to stimuli that we consider threatening or dangerous
- The “Me Center” - the Medial Prefrontal Cortex more precisely - processes information related to ourselves and our experiences, our desires, our goals, our integrity.
- The Assessment Center - the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex - the more rational part of the brain, involved in modulating emotional responses received by fear centers, interpreting information, reasoning. Helps us see things in a more balanced and reasonable way.
In normal states of the brain, the exchange of information between Amygdala and the Me Center is overactive. In this state, any external stimulus that triggers an undesired emotion inside of us is automatically interpreted as a threat- to our security, our goals, our person. We often respond to this threat in destructive ways that in time lead to states of anxiety, stress, depression, or bad habits.
After practicing meditation for a while, the link between Amygdala and Me Center starts to loosen. At the same time the link between the Me Center and the Assessment Center starts to become stronger.
When these changes occur we no longer directly interpret any emotion of fear, worry, or unpleasant body sensation as something that will threaten our existence. Instead, we are more rational, balanced, and willing to see these emotions in a broader perspective.
So, instead of reacting uncontrollably, or with a random emergency action, we will tend do ponder things and take more constructive and decisive actions.
Meditation Benefits 3: Meditation Brings More Empathy And Compassion
Data demonstrates that after a sustained meditation practice, links between emotional processing parts that relate to other people (the Insula) and parts of the brain responsible for assessing information about people who we perceive “not like us”(the Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex) begin to strengthen. That means we’re more likely to respond with positive emotions and relate with people who perceive things in a different manner than ourselves. It becomes easier to put ourselves into their shoes and see where they’re coming from, which translates in empathy and compassion.