4 Ways Meditation Can Positively Change the Brain
Meditation involves training the mind to increase attention, awareness and achieve emotional calm. The practice of sitting and following your breath may seem simple, but its effects are far-reaching. Meditation not only calms the mind and body in the present moment, but when practiced regularly, can also change the brain for the better. Studies from Harvard have found measurable changes in the brain after an eight-week program. Lean on the power of the present moment to receive these positive impacts.
1. Improves Concentration
It’s harder than you’d think to solely focus on your breath without your thoughts wandering off. However, the more you meditate, the easier it becomes to focus on the present moment, and this skill can improve your concentration in other daily tasks. In a Harvard Medical School study, brain scans showed increased gray matter in parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and emotional regulation. If you’re someone who wants to sharpen your focus, meditation can help shift your attention to the present moment.
2. Pain Relief
Research suggests that meditation can improve pain tolerance. There’s a direct correlation between negative thinking and the level of pain experienced, and this vicious cycle triggers negative thoughts that can amplify pain. Meditation teaches us that everything changes, which can help your mind trick your body into increasing its pain tolerance. Whether you’re suffering from chronic or acute pain, this alternative pain management strategy helps you remain aware of what you’re experiencing in the present moment without having to accept or reject it.
3. Reduces Anxiety & Depression
The amygdala is the center of the brain that controls emotions and produces feelings of fear, stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that meditation builds a connection between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex, which plays a role in regulating emotion. This affects our “fight or flight” responses and can also impact anxiety and depression. Mindful meditation is especially good for those with social anxiety disorder.
4. Enhances Empathy & Compassion
By calming your nervous system and expanding your inner awareness, meditation makes you more aware of your emotions. Being more in-tune with your feelings helps you experience emotions that don’t necessarily belong to you. Brain scans have also shown that during meditation the anterior insular cortex, or empathy part of the brain lights up.
To reap these profound meditation benefits, it’s best to start small! Start by meditating for a few minutes every day and work your way up to more extended periods.