Meditation Can Rewire the Brain

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Courtesy of Garrett LeSage (Flickr CC0)

For years, researchers have been conducting studies on whether or not meditation could actually rewire a person’s brain. This could be a useful tool to use especially in a time of such traumatic events as the pandemic and mass shootings. The loss of life and freedom seems to be never-ending.

Author of “A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas,” Monica Vermani, is a clinical psychologist based in Toronto, Canada. She believes, “Mindfulness is a collection of practices nowadays, aimed to help most of us cultivate moment-to-moment awareness.”

You’re not only aware of your body; you’re aware of your surroundings and your world,” she added. “It forces you to pay attention to life (rather) than get caught up in your head with anxious thoughts, worries and ruminating about the future

Meditating is a practice of mindfulness and does not have a single universal definition. In a study called “Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study” they state that “It has been suggested that the practice of meditation is associated to neuroplasticity phenomena, reducing age-related brain degeneration and improving cognitive functions,” according to the National Library of Medicine.

meditation
Courtesy of Treefort Music Fest (Flickr CC0)

The research adds that neuroimaging studies have shown brain connectivity changes in meditators. There have been several studies that show consistent meditation can induce neuroplasticity phenomena. These studies include the improvement of cognitive functions and the reduction of age-related brain degeneration. Additionally, the studies showed the effects of meditating in close correlation to improvements in working memory, spatial abilities, long-term memory, and attention.

Meditation helps a person with their concentration and memory, helps to manage stress better, and increases resiliency, stated Vermani. She added, “In relationships if you’re busy in your mind, you’re reactive. And when you’re mindful and you’re grounded, you have a tendency to respond versus react, meaning to pause and reflect before letting things go out of your mouth that are sometimes hurtful, or negative or judgmental.”

Those who practice meditation through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction have been less likely to have unhelpful emotional reactions or negative thoughts when faced with stressful situations.

Meditation and practicing other mindfulness techniques could benefit the body as well as make possible changes to one’s brain. It can also help regulate the autonomic nervous system.

Whenever a person is anxious or rushing around they “do short and shallow breaths,” stated Vermani. “When you do that, your muscles tighten up, your brain tends to get foggy, overwhelmed; you might ruminate.”

Vaile Wright, a psychologist and senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association, acknowledged that breathing meditation can reduce a person’s muscle tension and heart rate. Meditation can leave a person feeling calm and relaxed.

Vermani said this could be due to the delivery of more oxygen to the brain and body people experience when they practice deep breathing meditation.

Researchers are continuously searching for the best way to study the benefits that meditation has on the brain and body. Some have used cognitive neuroscience methods like magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to determine what’s going on before and after meditating in participants’ neural networks.

Meditation should be used to help one relax and stay calm, it should not be used to cover over traumatic situations. It is okay to use it to help one therapeutically, however, it is not healthy for a person to completely block out the experiences. One should learn to process what happened so they can lead healthy prosperous lives.

Written by Sheena Robertson

Sources:

CNN: How meditation could change the brain
Forbes: 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain
PsychCentral: How Meditation Changes the Brain
National Library of Medicine: Mindfulness Meditation Is Related to Long-Lasting Changes in Hippocampal Functional Topology during Resting State: A Magnetoencephalography Study

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Garrett LeSage’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Treefort Music Fest’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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