For centuries, people around the world have experienced the benefits of meditation. But over the past few years, these ancient benefits have been confirmed through EEG and fMRI studies. Recent studies have shown that meditation can have significant effects on the brain, including measurable changes to its shape and function.
Meditation can slow down the brains aging process.
According to a study done at UCLA earlier this year, the brains of frequent meditators were better preserved upon aging than those of individuals who did not meditate. The amount of grey matter was higher in long-term meditators. Florian Kurth, author of the study, expected to only view changes in those brain regions that are used during meditation. He ended up actually observing the widespread effects that meditation had on the entire brain.
Meditation increases memory retention and focus.
By practicing focused awareness over a long period of time, the left and right brain barrier is significantly diminished. More fluid “cross talk” between the two hemispheres leads to high memory retention as well as increased focus. In 2011, a team from Harvard found that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for eight weeks or more increased the cortical thickness of key brain regions including the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory functions.
Strong focus is one of the main goals of meditation, so it should come as no surprise that practice can greatly increase attention span. In a study carried out on recent graduates, scientists found that after only a couple weeks of meditation, scores on the GRE improved by about 16 percentile points. That means that meditation not only increases levels of focus, but it can also improve language and verbal areas of cognition.
Meditation can help with addiction.
During serious addictions, the frontal cortex, which is the seat of willpower, decreases in size and function making it harder to avoid “cravings”. Studies have shown that through meditation, the link between the actual drug and the craving is greatly weakened. Individuals also report that the practices of self-control allow for stronger resilience to irrational thoughts surrounding addiction.
A 35-year-old male highlighted the benefits of meditation in overcoming his porn addiction. He said, “Before I started the current run, I was relapsing every week and I couldn’t make it any longer. Using meditation helped me a lot. It gave me that bit of extra mental control that I need to keep the thoughts under control.”
Is meditation really worth it?
Those who practice meditation regularly attest to the good that it can do if done regularly. Successful millionaires, including stars like Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons and Richard Branson, have made it a point to include meditation in their busy schedules. If the research is right, meditation could have a profound impact on your life. So give it a shot: dedicate a small amount of time each morning to silence instead of checking your emails. The results may be better than you could have predicted.