The brain is an organ that is more complex and important than we can imagine. Whether sleeping or meditating, it actively changes and develops at every moment, and electrochemical bonds are formed and disassembled between neurons. In addition to all these, it is of great importance to keep our most important organ fit in the rush of the modern world. This is exactly why scientists set out to investigate the effects of meditation on the brain.
We have mentioned “The Benefits of Meditating regularly”, but nowadays, with the increase in its popularity, the effect of meditation, especially on stress, has become a well-known fact. Scientists have increased their studies on the effects of meditation, and they have done lots of research to find the most basic reasons for these effects. Because although it is still considered a religious practice by some, meditation is a scientifically proven practice today. Research in the field of psychology has confirmed that meditation is good for the body and mind. So, how does science, especially neuropsychology examining the brain and its working mechanisms explain the effects of meditation on the brain?
Does Meditation Improve the Brain?
Recent scientific evidence confirms that meditation nourishes the parts of the brain that promote well-being. Scientists studied various brain regions during meditation and after 8 weeks of regular meditation training via scanning technology. Changes were observed in each of these regions and therefore in the different abilities of individuals.
As a result of these investigations, a thickening was observed in the gray structure in the center of the brain. The development of this structure means increased positive emotions, emotional resilience, and increased focus and concentration in daily life. In other words, the positive effect of meditation that we feel in our daily lives has a scientific counterpart in us.
In fact, this development in the center of the brain also reduces the cognitive losses that come with age, and meditation somehow manages to slow down aging. So yes, the potential positive effects of meditation on the brain are quite high and it is an accepted fact that it improves the brain and even helps your brain not to age and lose its functionality.
The Benefits of Meditation for the Brain
As a result of scientific findings, it has been proven that meditation leads to changes and development in the brain. When we examine it more closely, we can see its benefits to our brain in many ways.
1. Less stress
Recent studies have investigated how the brain activities of regular meditators change during situations they encounter in daily life. It has been observed that the activity in the amygdala, the part of our brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response, which can take over our body like emotional stimuli and an emergency signal in sudden and tense moments, has decreased, or rather stabilized. Meditation also lowers the cortisol (stress hormone) rate. This means that in the face of bad scenarios, stressful situations, or panic, our brain manages to stay calm and has emotional resilience thanks to meditation.
2. Fights Depression and Anxiety
Information about ourselves and our experiences are processed in the middle prefrontal cortex, a part of our brain called “The I Center". The sad, traumatic events and fears we experience form strong nerve bonds in this region. When you encounter a similar situation in daily life, your anxiety is stimulated by this region and makes you feel under attack and must face your fears..
Meditation loosens these strong neural bonds. Just as it protects your mood in stressful situations, it also protects you from the little things that will stimulate your “I Center”. While loosening and breaking of ligaments may sound bad, it contributes to the well-being of our brain. Because the breaking of these ties in the “I Center” also leads to more objective thinking instead of subjective thinking. Therefore, we feel safer in the face of an event, and we begin to approach it more logically instead of looking at it with selfish feelings.
3. More Compassion
The amygdala, the part of our brain that controls mood, develops a different response to regular compassion meditation. As a result of more synchronized and regular activities during meditation, the amygdala develops in two different ways. While reaction to stress and vulnerability to anxiety decreased in “The I Center”, it begins to develop empathy and compassion towards the world, those around us, and other people.
The Mindfulness Research Collaboration, created by Harvard scientists, supports with their research that this two-way effect is the lasting and beneficial effects of meditation on our brain’s processing of emotional information.
4. Better Focus
Today’s busy, rushed and distraction-filled life makes it harder to keep our attention and focus. Therefore, the effect of meditation on focus is particularly important. Mindfulness meditation allows you to focus on the moment, and the development of this feature in your brain as a habit contributes to increasing our focus in daily life.
A Harvard University School of Medicine study found a link between mindfulness practice and new information processing in the brain. The development observed in the gray structure in the center of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and emotional regulation also affected the focus in a good way.
Another study, published in the journal of Psychological Science shows that mindfulness meditation reduces distraction and improves cognitive performance. This study proves that even a 2-week course of meditation training can have an impact on focus.
Focus can be strengthened through exercise, like a muscle and one of the most effective exercises is meditation!
You can get more detailed information in our article “Meditation and Focus”.
5. It Strengthens the Memory
Researcher Catherine Kerr’s findings show that meditation has been shown to enhance memory, like its focus-enhancing effects. By reducing and regulating distracting brain waves, meditation succeeds in increasing the productivity of the brain and especially improving the ability to remember in a short time.
There is a close relationship between memory and learning in the functioning of our brain. Meditation connects exactly these two phenomena.
The Hippocampus region of our brain, which is a layer of gray matter, is associated with memory and learning. Meditation not only increases gray matter density but also increases the cortical thickness of the left hippocampus, helping to improve learning and cognitive skills.
6. Increases Creativity
Creativity is a very difficult and abstract skill to be researched. However, we may encounter some tasks from time to time, which can be much more challenging compared to the ones we automate and don’t think much about anymore. While we need to come up with creative solutions to these, maybe we spend more time than necessary.
Like the famous director David Lynch, artists whose job is to be creative can also get stuck sometimes – they may even experience burnout because of this. While David Lynch emphasizes the importance of expanding comprehension and understanding in the creative process, he states that meditation is an undeniable factor behind his creativity. This comment made by Lynch as a meditation practitioner is also supported by scientists.
Danny Pennman, in his book “Awareness for Creativity”, explains how meditation increases creativity and emphasizes that mindfulness meditation opens the mind to new ideas. This feature allows you to broaden your perspective and to think more clearly. It also nurtures feelings of awareness, courage, and resilience. It seems inevitable that all these gains will develop creativity.
Mindfulness meditations allow us to develop our brains! The primary purpose of mindfulness meditation is to give our minds the ability to adapt to the present moment and keep it in harmony with the moment. Awareness is the ability to adapt to the moment without judgment, regret, or expectation, and to observe the emotions and feelings that appear in the flow of mind as they are, without any identification and explanation concerns. Therefore, if you notice that you have a thought or emotion during the practice, it is important that you let them go by themselves without judging yourself.
The benefits of the 8-week meditation program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn on the brain have been proven and 8 weeks has become a standard. Every minute you meditate, you are making a direct intervention in improving your brain. Because just as sports exercise can change the body, meditation exercise changes our brain.
With meditation, you have the power and will to change your brain as a more conscious individual.
If you don’t know where to start, Innerjoy is always with you, and you can start meditating effortlessly with the free 7-day Meditation Fundamentals 1 Program.