Meditation is a very beneficial health and lifestyle practice. Emerging research points to the healthfulness of meditation and research indicate that mindful meditation can actually rewire the brain to respond differently to stress. So how does meditation lead to improved mindfulness? Find out more about your mind and meditation.
Meditation triggers important changes in your brain, not simply by reducing the mental effects of stress, but by literally rewiring your brain to help you think differently. Talk about getting a fresh perspective!
Rerouting the “Me” Center
One of the most important conclusions from meditation research shows that meditation actually causes the brain to reroute thoughts, including sensory receptors that interpret fear, away from different portions of the brain that are “me-centric.” The brain’s default mode network, which controls wandering self-centric thoughts, gets a bit of a reboot during meditation. When you’re at rest, your default thoughts wander into daydreams. These wandering thoughts can lead to depressive thoughts and worry about the future. Meditation channels your resting thoughts away from your default mode network and helps to quiet the sometimes loud, distracting and wandering thoughts. Meditation brings about a mindfulness that channels your quiet energy to more positive thoughts.
Grow Your Grey Matter
The brain is a responsive organ that is impacted by the decisions that you make and activities that you engage in. Due to this nature, repetitive meditation can have an actual physical effect on your brain itself. Studies show that consistent meditation over the course of eight weeks or longer has a profound effect on the cortical thickness of the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that controls memory and learning.
While reducing stress is probably the number one reason that people initially get into meditation, it’s been difficult to prove until recently. Brain scans of individuals who meditate regularly show a decrease in the amygdala, which is responsible for processing fear and stress. The scans alone did not prove any reduction in the stress levels and anxiety of participants. However, in self-reports from study members, these individuals indicated emotional improvement and an overall feeling of lessened anxiety.
The impact of meditation has also been studied in children to determine whether the practice is ideal for the younger set. Overwhelmingly, the answer to this question is “yes”. Children and adults who practice meditation improved their cognitive abilities to reason and comprehend reading material. Meditation also helps to improve overall concentration that helps to combat the natural edginess and distraction that accompany disorders like ADD and ADHD.
Make a Personal Connection
Because it helps to direct thoughts from the me-centric portions of the brain and reduces stress and anxiety, meditation has been shown to help people connect better with others.
Develop an Open Mind
In conjunction with directing thoughts from the parts of the brain that facilitate self-destructive thinking and anxiety, meditation opens new channels to the assessment center. This part of the brain categorizes your experiences realistically and better. For example, the assessment center helps you to contextualize off-putting comments from others rather than internalizing them as insults or personal slights. This type of nuanced thought process, which emphasizes reality and downplays your own natural diversion into wandering and unbidden thoughts, gives you an improved understanding of others. Understanding others is the first component of developing tolerance and compassion for those who differ from you. Understanding, in turn, is critical to forming long-lasting and worthwhile relationships.
Reduce Social Anxiety
As with the propensity that meditation has for helping individuals to reduce their general anxieties, it can also help to reduce social anxiety in those who suffer from it. Reduced stress and rerouted thoughts give those who practice meditation an improved sense of confidence in social situations. This helps to open doors to new friendships and relationships, both with other mindful individuals and others you encounter in day-to-day life.
Proper Meditation Makes a Difference
Using proper meditation techniques is essential for unlocking the benefits of improved mindfulness. A meditation coach or guide can help you to better understand your body and teach you the proper ways to relax and engage in the act of meditation. Improper meditation can inhibit your ability to fully experience the benefits of meditation, so proper practice is definitely crucial.
In addition to proper practice, you need to implement a regular schedule for meditation. Daily meditation is best, if at all possible. Engaging in meditative practice allows you to enjoy the benefits of renewed mindfulness and keeps the new brain pathways in good working order. When you neglect regular meditation, your brain will inevitably revert back to its original thought processes due to brain plasticity. Regular meditation keeps brain pathways sharp and ingrained.
Daily meditation gives you the power to unlock all kinds of new brain potential. From reducing anxiety to increasing your overall mindfulness, proper meditative practices can unlock for you a whole new world of understanding.
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