WRITTEN BY TAMARA JOHNSON | PUBLISHED DECEMBER 26, 2022
Raise your hand if you've had a hard time meditating. It's a common struggle for many of us. We live in a world that has normalized overstimulation, and it can be hard to find the time and space to just sit and be still. It's no wonder that so many of us find ourselves constantly thinking, unable to turn off our brains. But here's the thing: your brain is doing exactly what it's supposed to. It's constantly processing information and trying to make sense of the world around us. Just like you recharge your cell phone, meditation can help recharge your brain. It allows you to take a break from the constant stream of thoughts and find some much-needed rest and relaxation. In this blog post, we'll explore the benefits of meditation and the positive effects it has on your brain.
Meditation is a practice that has been used for thousands of years to promote mental and physical well-being. In recent years, numerous scientific studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of meditation on the brain, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
One of the key benefits of meditation on the brain is that it can help to reduce stress and anxiety. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that regular meditation can lead to significant reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms. In particular, the study found that participants who practiced mindfulness meditation for eight weeks experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and an improvement in their ability to regulate their emotions.
Another benefit of meditation on the brain is that it can improve focus and concentration. In a study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, researchers found that participants who practiced meditation for just four days showed significant improvements in their ability to focus and maintain their attention. This effect is thought to be due to the fact that meditation helps to quiet the mind and eliminate distractions, allowing the individual to focus on the task at hand.
In addition to reducing stress and improving focus, meditation has also been shown to have a positive impact on overall brain health. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers found that regular meditation can lead to an increase in gray matter density in the brain. Gray matter is responsible for processing information, so an increase in gray matter density can lead to improved cognitive function, but let's go a little deeper and learn about the parts of the brain that control your nervous system and emotional state.
THE CORPUS CALLOSUM
Have you ever heard of the corpus callosum? It's a large bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and it plays a crucial role in allowing the two hemispheres to communicate and work together. This part of the brain can lie dormant from the age of 8 years old, but recent research has shown that meditation can reactivate it.
Remember how flexible you were as a kid? It was common for me to sit in a full split and watch TV. As we age, our brains and bodies become less flexible and more rigid, but meditation can help to reverse this process.
Recent research has shown that meditation can have a positive impact on the corpus callosum and the brain's hemispheres. In a study published in the journal Psych Neuroendocrinology, researchers found that regular meditation can lead to an increase in the size and density of the corpus callosum. This, in turn, can improve communication and coordination between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Another study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, found that meditation can also lead to increased activity in the brain's hemispheres. The study found that individuals who practiced meditation regularly showed increased activity in both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, indicating that meditation can help to balance and harmonize the brain's hemispheres.
One of the key ways that meditation activates the corpus callosum and brain hemispheres is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment and is a key component of many meditation techniques. By focusing on the present moment, mindfulness helps to quiet the mind and reduce the constant chatter of thoughts and distractions. This, in turn, allows the corpus callosum and brain hemispheres to work more efficiently and effectively.
By practicing meditation regularly, individuals can improve the communication and coordination between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, leading to improved cognitive function and overall well-being. Now let's discuss the amygdala and how meditation can regulate your emotional state.
Have you ever watched someone constantly jumping with fear in scary movies, while others barely react at all? Or have you ever witnessed someone lose their temper over the smallest frustration, while others easily dismiss or simply ignore what frustrates them? It's interesting to think about how different people's emotional responses can be, and it turns out that a lot of this has to do with the amygdala. The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure located deep within the brain. It is part of the limbic system, which is responsible for controlling our emotional responses and processing emotional memories.
One of the key functions of the amygdala is to regulate the body's stress response. When we encounter a situation that is perceived as threatening or dangerous, the amygdala sends signals to the hypothalamus, which activates the sympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into the body.
Cortisol and adrenaline are known as "stress hormones," and they play a crucial role in preparing the body to respond to a perceived threat. Cortisol helps to increase the body's blood sugar levels, providing a quick source of energy that can be used to "fight or flight" from danger. Adrenaline, on the other hand, increases heart rate and blood pressure, and dilates the airways to improve breathing and oxygen delivery to the muscles.
Together, cortisol and adrenaline help to mobilize the body's resources and prepare it to respond to a threat. However, if the stress response is triggered too often or for too long, it can have negative effects on the body, leading to chronic stress and an increased risk of health problems. While this response can be helpful in the short-term, chronic activation of the stress response can have negative effects on the body.
In conclusion, scientific evidence clearly shows that meditation has a wide range of benefits for the brain. By practicing meditation regularly, individuals can reduce stress, improve focus and concentration, and support overall brain health. To find out more on how to get started with meditation, please visit our blog posts here and here. Also, access free chakra meditation sessions via our virtual yoga studio here.
Tamara Johnson is owner and founder of Enso Apothecary, a lifestyle brand that takes a 360 approach to holistic self-care. To find out more about her and her work, please visit here.
Photo credits: Meditation photos by Cactus and Petal; Brain Diagrams, are from the NeuRA Library and Spectrum News, respectively.
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