We all know that a daily meditation practice has a wide range of benefits, such as feeling less stressed and anxious, sleeping better, reduced physical pain, increased patience, better focus and clarity, feeling more relaxed and calm, and having a better overall quality of life.
But wait, there’s more…
A well-known Harvard neuroscientist became interested in the benefits of meditation once she started experiencing those benefits first-hand. Dr. Sara Lazar began studying the effects that a regular meditation practice might have on the brain.
Her first study found that long-term mindfulness meditators, when compared to a control group, showed thicker brain regions (more gray matter) associated with attention and sensory processing. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, the increased prefrontal cortical thickness was especially pronounced in older study participants, “suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning.”1
Okay, this is huge. What this study suggests is that instead of losing gray matter, as meditators over the age of 50 we can have the same amount as people half our age!
To make sure that there was no study participant bias, Dr. Lazar conducted a second controlled study with beginning meditators using Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) “to investigate pre-post changes in brain gray matter concentration attributable to participation in an MBSR program.”
After only eight weeks of meditation, “results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”2 In addition, the area of the brain associated with the fight, flight, or freeze reaction, the amygdala, shrank in size, resulting in reduced stress levels in the participants.
Have I got your attention yet?
You don’t need to meditate for hours each day. Studies show that you can enjoy these benefits in as little as 15 to 20 minutes of meditation each day. Ready to expand your brain? Start today by being still, quieting your racing thoughts by focusing on your breathing, and bringing your attention back to your breathing when your mind wanders. That’s all it takes. You can start with one minute and add a minute each day until you are up to 15 or 20. Then practice daily. Is it worth it? From my personal experience, I can tell you it is definitely worth it.
When you’re ready for more ways to meditate, check out my book called In This Moment: The Art of Managing Stress Through Meditation. Questions? I’m here.
1 Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness, Sara W. Lazar, et al., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/
2 Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density, Britta K. Hözel et al., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/