How Meditation Reshapes Our Brains
BRAIN SCANS SHOW MEDITATION ACTUALLY CHANGES THE SIZE OF KEY REGIONS OF THE BRAIN. Meditation increases grey matter in areas of the brain which improve memory, empathy, compassion and resilience under stress.
NEUROPLASTICITY. Your brain is able to rewire from cradle to grave; engaging in repeat behaviour or using visualisation and meditation leads to changes in the brain. Neurons actually changing how they link and communicate with each other with experiences, either real or imagined.
MEDITATION SLOWS AGING. Meditation slows down the usual aging process of the brain. MRI scans show 50 year old meditators retain the same amount of frontal lobe grey matter as 25 year olds.
The benefits of 8 weeks of meditating for 30 minutes per day were studied by comparing MRI scans of meditators with non-meditators.
Areas of Meditators Brains That Changed After 8 Weeks
MEMORY AND LEARNING.
1. The Hippocampus increased, an area which assists with learning, and converting short term memory to long term memory. (The Hippocampus grey matter is reduced in people with depression or PTS (Post- traumatic stress.)
2. The Temporo-Parietal Junction grey matter is thickened. This area is responsible for perspective taking, empathy and compassion.
3. The Amygdala became smaller, this is the centre for activating stress responses, ‘fight or flight’. Meditators decreased the size of their amygdalae, not because of reducing stress in their lives, but because they deal with stress differently.
"Meditators feel better, not just as a mood change, but because there is actual neurological change in their brains that makes them feel better." Sara Lazar, Neuroscientist
RODENT EXPERIMENT — ENLARGEMENT OF THE AMYGDALA IN RESPONSE TO STRESS, Chattarji et al.
Rats were exposed to stress for 2 hours a day for 10 days, afterwards, the size of their amygdalae were found to be substantially increased; with increased abilities to produce the stress response. The rodents were then treated well for 21 days in a non-stressful environment. And here’s the really interesting part, 3 weeks after the stressful stimulae their amygdalae were still enlarged.
WE DON’T NOTICE INCREASING STRESS, BECAUSE WE SIMPLY GET USED TO IT.
Stress doesn’t naturally settle down once exposure stops and may rack up through our lives. As each small increase in stress exposure is maintained we get used to it as a new normal.
In meditators amygdalae shrinkage allows increased stress resilience taking individuals further & further away from feelings of overwhelm.
AND WHO WOULDN’T WANT THAT?
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