There is growing evidence that meditation can make you healthier and happier. For example, mindfulness meditation (MBCT) is sometimes used to treat depression, and brain imaging techniques show that meditation changes your brain in a number of beneficial ways.
MRI scans have shown that long-term meditation can change the structure of the cerebral cortex, the outermost part of your brain. In addition, brain regions associated with attention and processing emotions have been shown to be increased in those who meditate.
Previous studies have linked meditation to benefits such as better control, memory, speed, creativity and more. Recent studies also show that meditation can help reverse age-related brain loss.
In short, meditation can be seen as a form of brain exercise that strengthens and keeps it “young” for a long time. Some research reveals the benefits of meditation aren’t just for your brain; it also has anti-inflammatory effects and affects gene expression – all of which can promote good health and longevity.
Long-term meditation is linked to reduced brain volume loss
One of the most recent studies1 in this field looked at 50 long-term meditators and 50 subjects between the ages of 24 and 77. Among the controls, aging is associated with brain loss, as expected.
However, those who meditated were found to be free from aging due to old age. According to GMA News:2
“People who said they had been meditating for about 20 years had more brains than the average person…
[T]The study’s lead author told Reuters Health that the team of researchers expected to see more gray matter in certain areas of the brain among long-term meditators. ‘But we see that this has really spread throughout the brain,’ said Dr. Florian Kurth…
[T]The meditators’ brains appear to be better protected than those of the average person of the same age. Also, the researchers were surprised to find a reduction in gray matter associated with aging in the meditators’ brains. “
How Meditation Increases Performance
Meditation expert Emily Fletcher3 offers tutorials and interviews on the differences between the two popular types of meditation, and how they affect your brain.
He also discusses the similarities between meditation and caffeine. All of these have the effect of energizing you and increasing your productivity, but meditation does this without the side effects associated with caffeine.
As Fletcher explained, caffeine is similar to the chemical adenosine triphosphate (ATP), produced by your brain throughout the day. Adenosine makes you sleepy, and caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in your brain, thus preventing your brain from recognizing how tired you are.
Although this may not be harmful in the short term, caffeine also increases the activity of the brain in your brain, which causes the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone adrenaline.
Ultimately (whether you’re drinking too much coffee or not), being in a constant “fight or flight” adrenaline-fueled state can lead to many stress-related illnesses.
Meditation, on the other hand, energizes you and makes you more productive without triggering an adrenaline rush. According to Fletcher, meditation gives your body two to five times more deep relaxation than sleep.
20 minutes of meditation is the equivalent of an hour and a half of sleep, but you won’t have a “light sleep” afterwards. Instead, you will be awake and refreshed, and, as they say, “more aware.”
Meditation lowers your nervous system instead of making it more exciting. This keeps it organized, thereby allowing your system to release pent-up stress. It also makes you more productive.
He also says that many are now beginning to recognize meditation as a powerful tool for creativity. Contrary to popular belief, taking time to meditate can help you get more out of your time than you put in, using it more productively. In previous discussions,4 Fletcher wrote:
“Meditation will help you be more productive, and it will give you energy. But it works very differently than caffeine. What meditation does is it gives your body a rest that is probably somewhere between two and five times longer than sleep. When you meditate, you are relaxing your body which is twice as deep. two or five times more than sleep.
And when you give your body a very deep rest, you are actually not stimulating your nervous system. And when you remove joy, you create order. When you establish a system in your nervous system, then all the problems that we have been taking, over the years of success, can start to leave the house. “
The Benefits of Meditation Go Beyond Brain Health
Stress is a common problem that can promote health across the board, and meditation can relieve stress and have important health benefits. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recently published a study that they claim has discovered a biological mechanism by which memory affects physical health.
Simply put, meditation affects your biology and health through your brain’s “stress reduction mechanisms.” As stated in the press release:5
“When a person experiences stress, the activity in the prefrontal cortex – which controls thinking and planning – decreases, while the activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus and anterior cingulate cortex – regions that cause immediate physical stress – increases.
Research has shown that mindfulness changes these behaviors during times of stress; it increases the background activity, which can control and reduce the slow biological response.
Overuse of the slow natural response increases the risk of diseases caused by stress (such as depression, HIV and heart disease). By reducing stress in individuals, mindfulness can help improve the body’s immune response and ultimately reduce the risk and severity of stress-related illnesses. “
Such results may explain why meditation can help relieve stress-related illnesses such as:
High blood pressure
Sleep disturbances and fatigue
Gastrointestinal disorders and inflammatory bowel disease
Respiratory problems such as emphysema and asthma
Mild depression and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Other studies, such as that of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine,6 has attempted to quantify the benefits of the emotional response by measuring gene expression before and after meditation, and has compared the effects of short-term and long-term meditation.
Among their findings, they found that meditation has anti-inflammatory effects. In another study,7,8 Participants who participated in short-term and long-term meditation, saw increases in antioxidant production, telomerase activity and oxidative stress. The researchers noted that the benefits seem to be related to the dose, and change even after one session.
Two Styles of Meditation
According to Fletcher, there are two common types of meditation:
1. Careful, the habit of looking, the awakening that you continue to bring your attention to the present. It is a single-task practice, which was developed for monks, who focus on the present moment in all situations.
In addition to increasing your focus and improving your mental awareness, mindfulness training has also been found to reduce inflammation that causes stress,9 which can help people suffering from inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, and asthma. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety.
2. Beyond self-indulgence it is a non-discriminating style, in which you reach the fourth consciousness which is different from waking, sleeping and dreaming. Transcendence meditation, which Fletcher teaches, strengthens the corpus callosum, the bridge between your brain’s two hemispheres.
Your left brain is in charge of the past and future, language, math and critical thinking, while your right brain is in charge of the “now,” information, inspiration, communication, creativity and problem solving.
By strengthening the connection between your right and left hemispheres, you are able to find solutions to problems, and increase your productivity without increasing stress.
Fletcher explains the benefits of using a fitness tracker that monitors your sleep, saying that meditation can greatly improve your sleep. A fitness tracker can help you track your progress. I’m a big fan of this type of technology, because it can be difficult to change behavior unless you can see your progress.
When I first started using the fitness tracker, I was trying to get eight hours of sleep, but my Jawbone UP usually recorded me at 7.5 to 7.75. Since then I have increased my sleep time, not just sleep time, but sleep time to more than eight hours every night.
According to Fletcher, meditation can increase your sleep so that you don’t need to sleep for long periods of time, because you can get enough rest in short periods of time without waking up. at night.
Slowing down your breathing through meditation and/or using the Buteyko breathing technique also increases your carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, which has significant psychological benefits.
Less Stress, Do More
Emily Fletcher of @zivameditation, is my friend and meditation teacher. He wrote a book, “Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Special Performance,” and I believe this is something that will make you stick to meditation.
In these pages, he has invested his 12 years of teaching 20,000 high achievers, with the goal of teaching you meditation designed for people with busy minds and busy lives. The book is a USA Today bestseller and reached number 7 of all books on Amazon. It has changed many lives and, perhaps, it will change yours.