In recent history, it was widely assumed that the brain you were born with was unchangeable. Or worse, that our brains started to deteriorate after our first two decades of life. It’s true, our brains do begin to decrease in volume and weight from our mid-twenties – eek.
But fast forward to today and science is beginning to indicate otherwise. We’re finding that our brains adapt to their surroundings; that they can be shaped and sculpted by the thoughts we feed them and the state of mind that we consciously choose to maintain.
If you’ve ever felt you just have too darn many tabs open in your mind, and this same feeling translates to your work, you’re not alone.
It’s hard to comprehend how this is possible. Especially because a change in our thoughts hardly seems quantifiable, but let it be known: new ways of thinking can change your brain for the better.
By focusing on positive thoughts or affirmations, for example, we can influence the plasticity of our brains, shaping our brains in beneficial and measurable ways. It is this notion of neuroplasticity that gives scientists a foundation to track meditation research, and already some fascinating statistics have been unveiled.
Here are three life-changing and measurable ways that you can change your brain for the better when you practice mindfulness.
Meditation will help you to preserve your ageing brain
In this study, UCLA researchers found that long-term meditators (those who had maintained a mindful approach to life for 20+ years) had far better preserved brains than non-meditators over time, as they aged.
These meditating participants presented a far greater volume of grey matter, meaning they had literally more brain cells, in their brain. Maintaining your brain cells is understandably important from a “thinking straight when you’re older” perspective, but even more so because a reduction of grey matter is accompanied by an increased risk in mental illness and neuro-degenerative disease.
“Cognition seems to be preserved in meditators”, shares Sara Lazar, a researcher at Harvard University.
Meditation decreases fear, social anxiety and stress
Studies have also shown that meditation decreases the size of the amygdala in our brain. The amygdala, two almond-shaped groups of nuclei that sit deep within our brain, are responsible for our fight-or-flight response and are the root of our anxiety, stress and fear.
Meditation not only reduces this stressful amygdala response, but also decreases the amygdala’s ability to communicate this stress with other areas of our brain. This is great for becoming less reactive (or ensuring you don’t overreact!) to your high pressure or anxiety-inducing surroundings, but also provides us with a better foundation for improved concentration and focus.
Learn about Wellineux’s next ‘Mindfulness for Stress Management’ 2-hour workshop here.
Meditation will improve your concentration and focus
According to the Mindful Leadership Institute, we spend, on average, 47 per cent of our time with a wandering mind. If you’ve ever felt you just have too darn many tabs open in your mind, and this same feeling translates to your work, you’re not alone.
A regular mindfulness practice has been shown to calm the activity of our Default Mode Network (DMN), otherwise known as our “wandering mind”. The DMN is active when we are lacking direction, when we’re pondering or ruminating – a practice that is not always conducive to our productivity. Or our happiness, for that matter!
Join Wellineux for their upcoming Urban Retreat. A one-day, inner-city experience where you’ll learn immediately actionable mindfulness and meditation tools that will support you to live your best life, for life. Tickets are limited and on sale here.
This article was originally published at https://collectivehub.com/2017/05/how-does-meditation-change-our-brains/