Mattheui Ricard is a writer and a photographer, but he is also a Buddhist Monk who has spent countless hours meditating. He describes meditation as exercise for the mind. He says it’s similar to weight lifting, because it helps your mind expand in awareness and positivity.
In the video below, Ricard clears up some misconceptions about meditating as he is being suited up with 256 sensors that will detect his brain activity in the study.
While the sensors were in his brain, he began a “compassion meditation” and the gamma wave production went off the chart. Activity in the left prefrontal cortext also went up rapidly, relative to the right half, which indicates a large increase in happiness and unlikeliness for negativity.
These changes are generally related to improvements in learning, attention, memory and consciousness. The study also looked at other monks and they showed significant changes in their brain function.
And it wasn’t just when they were meditating. Their brain activity in a normal state of consciousness looks like a novice person meditating. They are also able to switch off negative thoughts more easily than people who don’t meditate. This is consistent with several other studies. These results are proof that meditation offers profound benefits.
7 ways meditation changes your brain, according to science
It’s clear that meditation has some enormous neurological benefits. Here are 7 ways meditation has been to shown to change the brain.
1) Meditation helps preserve the aging brain.
Last week, a study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged.
2) Meditation reduces activity in the brain’s “me center”.
Mindfulness has been to shown to decrease activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for daydreaming and self-referential thoughts. Constant mind wandering has generally been associated with unhappiness.
3) It’s effect rival antidepressants for depression, anxiety.
A study found that the effect of meditation for anxiety and depression was moderate at 0.3. It might sound low, but it is the same effect size as anti-depressant medication.
4) Meditation may lead to volume changes in key areas of the brain.
There seems to be decreases in the amygdala in the brain which is responsible for fear and anxiety and that areas for learning and memory increases in cortical thickness.
5) Just a few days of training improves concentration and attention.
Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation improves our attention.
6) Meditation reduces anxiety.
Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts.
7) Medication can help with addiction.
A growing number of studies has shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction.
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.