If you’re still wondering whether to start meditation or not, start immediately because it causes neuroplastic changes to your brains gray matter, which is a good thing.Have you been struggling with “monkey-mind”? Does your brain feel a little restless, unsettled, whimsical, capricious, inconstant, indecisive, uncontrollable, confused or fanciful? Then you need meditation.
Research by Neuroscientists has shown that mind training and meditation can lead to great neuroplastic changes to your brain’s gray matter. A group of them from Harvard, who were interested in the study of mindful meditation, reported that it only takes eight weeks of meditation for the brain structures to change. In a press release, their study senior, Sara Lazar, Ph.D. stated that,
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day.”While testing this idea, 16 people were enrolled in a mindful-based stress reduction course for a period of eight weeks. The course was supposed to reduce their levels of stress and improve their mindfulness and well-being. The 16 each received 45 minutes audio recordings that contained guided mindfulness exercises. They included yoga, body scan and sitting meditation. They were given instructions to practice on a daily basis at home. In order to integrate mindfulness in daily activities, they were taught how to practice it when walking, eating, taking a shower, washing the dishes and many more. In a day, they spent an average 27 minutes practicing mindfulness.
Their brain Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI scans) were taken just before and immediately after they finished the training. A control group that didn’t undergo the meditation course, also had their MRI’s taken. The group reported that after the course, they noticed significant improvement in their measures of mindfulness. They could now act with awareness and were non-judgmental.
The shocking discovery was that their MRI scans showed that the group that underwent the course, increased the concentration of gray matter within the posterior cingulate cortex, the cerebellum, left hippocampus and the temporo-parietal junction. These brain regions are involved in emotion regulation, learning and memory, perspective taking and sense of self!
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life. “said Britta Hölzel, the papers lead author.
According to Sarah Lazar, the study “demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”