Want a Bigger, Stronger Brain? Start Meditating.
Midweek Mental Greening
“In meditation, effort must be applied in a direction opposite to what we are used to. Our ‘effort’ must be to relax ever more deeply. We must ultimately release the tension from both our muscles and our thoughts. When we relax so deeply that we are able to internalize the energy of the senses, the mind becomes focused and a tremendous flow of energy is awakened. Meditation is a continuous process, and can be said to have three stages: relaxation, interiorization, and expansion.” – John Novak, Lessons in Meditation.
Even if you don’t practice meditation – or, like me, you try to but have no real understanding of the different kinds of meditation – chances are you probably have at least a working knowledge of meditation.
And, according to researchers at UCLA, meditation is also a way to build a bigger brain.
Using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate and people who don’t, researchers found that certain brain areas – specifically “the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus” – were significantly larger in people who meditate.
And, those bigger brain parts might actually play a role in long-term meditators’ abilities to grab on to and maintain control of their mindfulness and emotions.
“We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior,” said Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. “The observed differences in brain anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities.”
Because these areas of the brain are closely linked to emotion, Luders said, “these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators’ the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.”
Kind of makes you think twice about scoffing at all those New Age, hippie-types, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, you don’t have to drive around attending classes or spending money (and creating waste) on meditation-related products if you want to learn more about and start practicing meditation. The appropriately titled How to Mediate website provides text and video instructions, and the Meditation Center provides a wealth of information about the basics and benefits of meditation. If you want some extras with your meditation experience, you can find free meditation music to download at Free Meditation Music and eco-friendly incense at places like Scents of India and PaulaWalla.com. (You can even get incense burners made of 100% recycled aluminum at Orion Imaging.)
Want to learn more about mindfulness?
Keep up to date about mindfulness and meditation over at our blog, Mindfuless and Psychotherapy.
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Sparks, A. (2009). Want a Bigger, Stronger Brain? Start Meditating.. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/06/10/want-a-bigger-stronger-brain-start-meditating/