Meditation used to seem like torture for me. Sitting quietly with my own thoughts? I certainly had no time for that!
Turns out, once I got a life threatening diagnosis, it was a wake up call that time was running out. There was only the present for mindfulness.
Yoga was my gateway “drug” into meditation. Once my type A, left brained mind was able to make a mental shift, I was able to embrace the stillness. I learned that meditation is “not about emptying the mind, but observing the mind”. This explanation allowed me to focus on my breathe without expectation – I didn’t have to be perfect at clearing my mind, I only had to be mindful.
When I started my practice of meditation I deepened my breathing, opened my heart, and became present. Most importantly, meditation allowed me to tap back into my belief system that I could heal myself. This is why I recommend meditation for the clients that I work with, so they too can reconnect with the belief system that will guide them to recovery.
Here are 7 ways meditation changes the brain and guides you to better health.
1. Helps preserve the aging brain. In a study comparing the brains of meditators and non-meditators, meditators were found to have more grey matter volume throughout their brains, while non-meditators had pronounced grey volume loss.
Grey matter is home to tissue responsible for processing information.
Mediation has also been shown to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory. With meditation and brain preservation, memory and processing speed are increased.
2. Prevents a wandering mind. Your practice will decrease activity in the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts.
Mind wandering is associated with ruminating and worrying, putting an extra stress into your day. Meditation will quiet your mind and snap you back to center.
3. Eases depression and anxiety. Meditation is an active training of your brain, allowing you control over your emotional state. It induces relaxation on everything inside your body, lowering blood pressure and balancing your mood.
It also decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and stress.
A recent study that looked at the relationship between meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain found that the effect size of meditation on depression is equal to the effect size of antidepressants.
4. Produces less stress hormones. Most of our days are spent in beta brain waves – alertness, logic, high concentration and focus, and STRESS.
In contrast, alpha brain waves are associated with relaxed alertness, enhanced learning, creativity, peak performance, imagination, and intuition.
Spending more time in alpha during the day will stop the brain from producing stress hormones and start producing healing hormones
The alpha state isn’t always enough because we don’t focus and think as quickly as when in beta. We need both brain waves and the trick is to be able to shift between beta and alpha, whenever you need to!
How do you shift into alpha when you’re on in a stress freakout? Meditation!
5. Improves concentration and attention. One of the central aims of meditation is a strong focus of attention on an object or idea. The strong focus you gain in practice follows you over to other tasks.
I’m an example of this! My ADD has improved tremendously by training my brain to focus on one thing at a time. It has been so much easier to push away any distractions.
6. Helps with addiction. Because of its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can help curb cravings. Meditation helps you decouple the state of craving from the act of smoking, drinking, etc. This disassociation trains your mind that one doesn’t have to lead to the other.
Sugar is the infamous cancer enabler, so this is great for any sweet cravings you may have!
7. Boosts the immune system. Taking slow, deep breaths not only helps you relax, but it carries oxygen to your body and your cells. Oxygen is crucial in fighting cancer because your cells are oxygen deprived.
When you are in ‘fight or flight’ mode, your body starts to shut down. Meditation keeps you in a calm place and carries oxygen to help protect and optimize your immune system so it can do whatever it needs to fight.
A new season is a great time for a new change! Meditation has been my savior so if you need any encouragement to get your practice on its way or have any other health related concerns please reach out to me.