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How Does Meditation Work Scientifically?

by | Nov 17, 2018

Meditation is capable of changing lives.  By changing the state of mind we operate in, we can alter the way our days unfold.  This truth is and has always been constant.

How does this work exactly?  How is it that breathing and being still can have some many life altering effects?  Lets dive deeper to see how meditation works scientifically.

First, when we meditate, our brain waves change.  This change alters our state of mind or being. Meditation brings our brain state to the theta state.

This state of mind is very healthy because it is a place where we are not carrying resistance and tensions in our being.  This state is associated with being peaceful, calm and relaxed. When the body enters this state, healing and regeneration can take place.

The speed of our breath can determine our state of mind.  Speeding up the breath will result in very high rates while slow breathing will lower the rate of the brain.

How Does Meditation Work On The Brain?

Your brain operates at different rates depending on the activity you are engaging in.  Heart rate, respiratory rate, muscle tension, ect all effect the rate of your brain waves.  Biofeedback headsets measure your brainwaves using EEG (Electroencephalography). 

Your brain waves determine your state of being.  Learning the different states and how to enter each can empower you to take control over your life.  

The Gamma state is associated with hyperactivity and active learning.  Gamma represents when the brain wave activity is above 40 Hz.

The Beta state ranges from about 13-30 hz.  This state can be associated with being alert, planning, analyzing, and categorizing.  This is where the majority of working people spend their days.

The alpha state ranges from 9-13 Hz.  This state relates to the calm, peaceful, and stable state of mind.  Imagine leaving a yoga class, or finishing a long walk in nature.

The theta brain state is from 4-8hz.  This is where meditation brings you. Visualization and deeper states of awareness are associated with this state.  This state is a stress free zone.

Delta state ranges from 1-3hz.  This is associated with deep sleep.  Most people are not aware during this state even though Monks have entered this state with awareness.  

Does Meditation Change the Brain?

Meditation Change Brain

According to Scientific American, MRI scans shows that after an 8 week course of mindfulness mediation practices, the amygdala (fight or flight center), appears to shrink. The amygdala is associated with emotions.   Psychology Today refers to it as the “alarm system of the brain.”  Mediation shrinks this region of the brain meaning that emotions are much more balanced.

The Prefrontal Cortex gets thicker.  This region of the brain is associated with cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior. 

It is also said that the connection between these regions of the brain actually get weaker while the connection between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger.

According to Psychology Today, if you mediate on a regular basis, many positive things will occur.  The tight and strong connection between the medial prefrontal cortex and the bodily sensations/fear center centers begin to weaken.

As these connections weaken, you will no longer feel that bodily sensations or fear means something is mistaken in you.  You’ll be able to differentiate yourself from the problem.  This gives a piece of the reason why anxiety decreases when you meditate.  The neural pathways between those upsetting sensations to the medial prefrontal cortex are weakening.

How Long Does It Take For Mediation To Change The Brain?

Each breath you take in meditation is changing your brain.  Your mind and body are building new neural pathways that will only get stronger with consistency.

Many individuals across the world report receiving noticeable improvements after only 1 week.  Of course, different people try various forms of meditation – some for only 5 minutes while others may do 20-30mins.

The Massachusetts General Hospital did a study and noticed that after 8 weeks, mindfulness meditation made measurable changes in the brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.

Results

Result of Study Performed by Harvard University where 16 people participate in 8 weeks of mindful meditation practices.

Photo Taken From Yang Shen

Conclusion

Meditation works because it simply slows down the mind.  When the mind is slowed down and the body can relax, this alters how we feel and function in everyday life.

We can adjust our own states of being. Knowing this truth can reveal the true responsibility we all have each and every day.  It is our job to make sure we operate from a balanced state of mind so that our choices can bring us to a more desirable outcome.

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