What Is Meditation and How Does It Help the Brain Function?

meditation sunset

In a world saturated with stress (whether work-, home-, school-, or even traffic-related), we find ourselves being lured by people and media ads into trying anything that brings relief. Among all the other stress relief options, there is one thing that stands out and doesn’t seem to cost any money: meditation. It is free and simple, and everyone can participate in it. This article is aimed to point out the different benefits of meditation on a person’s brain functions and how it keeps the brain healthy.

What is Meditation?

WebMD defines meditation as the act of channeling your attention in order to usher awareness and calmness into your mind. When meditating, one needs to assume a seating position and breathe slowly and regularly for 15 to 20 minutes. There are two types of meditation. The first one is concentrative meditation, wherein sound or mantra is spoken or sung in coordination with one’s breathing pattern. The other is mindful meditation, wherein an individual briefs himself with all the emotions and feelings that enter his mind.

Effects on Brain Function

For several years, meditation has been used for treating addiction problems, pain, high blood pressure, as well as hot flashes. Nowadays, more and more studies have been done to support meditation’s beneficial effects on brain function. In his interview with WebMD, Mind/Body Institute founder Dr. Herbert Benson lauded the relaxation response brought about by meditation, which can result to improved brain waves, and better breathing and heart rate.

Benefits of Meditation

Improved Intellectual Performance

One of the greatest advantages of meditation is its positive effects on the mind. In a study done by psychologists Michael Posner and Yi-Yuan Tang, results showed that students who meditated showed lower levels of fatigue, anger, and depression. According to the research, the subjects were seen to have less cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. As a result, they performed better in the examinations, compared to the students who have not meditated prior to the exam.

Sharper Memory

Meditation has been proven to increase brain size, according to a study conducted by Harvard, Yale and MIT academicians. Better memory is associated with the thicker human cortex (known as the thinking cap) developed in people who meditated several minutes every day.

Better Management of Stress and Strong Emotions

Meditation has been proven effective in dealing with stresses and strong emotions. In a study published in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, November 2012 issue, results showed that the MRIs of individuals who underwent meditation training showed decreased right amygdala activation. In other words, their brain scans showed that they respond to stress better because of their emotional stability.

Adjunct Treatment for Mental Health Problems

A 2009 study conducted in China showed that participants who practiced meditation showed better blood flow in the right anterior cingulate cortex, which is responsible for things such as attention, motivation, and emotion.  Research has further shown that decreased blood flow to the said area of the brain have been linked with mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, dementia, and attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

With the many benefits of meditation on a person’s brain functions and other bodily systems, learning it has become more of a necessity than just a mere part of one’s lifestyle. With a session lasting as short as 15 minutes, meditation can prove to be the inexpensive brain booster, stress reliever that you have been looking for.

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