5 Ways Meditation Upgrades Your Brain
Meditation is often labeled as a “new age” practice that’s been made popular by celebrities like Oprah, Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney. However, meditation is far from new and has evolved over hundreds of years to become more accessible to anyone who wants to cultivate calmness, improve mental health and feel happier.
Over the past 20 years, science has revealed what happens in our brains when we meditate and why this has so many positive effects. Keep reading to learn about 5 ways meditation helps your brain!
1. Calms Anxiety
A study found that healthy adults who practiced mindfulness meditation for 20 minutes daily over the course of 4 days experienced a significant reduction in their anxiety levels. These benefits were seen via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in each participant’s brain.
Researchers in this study found that meditation engaged specific areas of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), anterior insula and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). These areas are responsible for empathy, awareness of self and a reduction in negative emotions. They also found that meditation helped to calm activity in the fear response center of the brain, also known as the amygdala.1
2. Improves Memory
The hippocampus is the region of our brain that helps us to process and recall memories. Researchers found that long-term meditators had larger left and right hippocampal volumes compared to those who did not meditate.2 Additional studies found that people experiencing memory loss problems showed improvements in their memory scores after only 8 weeks of meditating.3
3. Slows Signs of Aging
As we get older, our brains actually shrink in size, particularly in the frontal cortex– the area of the brain that’s largely responsible for planning, decision-making and developing our personality. A 2005 study found that a consistent meditation practice was associated with greater thickness in areas of the brain related to processing information and that regular meditation may slow age-related thinning seen in the frontal cortex.4
4. Boosts Creativity
Companies like Nike, Google and Walt Disney Studios have been known to promote meditation in the workplace to help boost creative output. Research found that cyclic meditation (CM) improved creativity by strengthening the connection between the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain– regions responsible for important aspects of creativity including preparation, incubation and illumination.5
5. Uplifts Mood
Our brains create different electrical signals, known as brainwaves, depending on our state of mind. Research has shown that meditation increases gamma brainwaves.6 A study done in 2011 found that the increase in gamma brainwaves seen in the prefrontal cortices of those who practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM) were associated with greater feelings of happiness and love.7
Tips for Building Your Meditation Practice
If you’re new to meditation, it can feel overwhelming to know where or how to start. Even those who are long-time meditators can fall out of practice from time to time and may benefit from some guidance to help them get back on track. Here are a few simple tips to help you along your journey:
- Consistency Is Key
Even 5 minutes every day can have profound effects on your health and how you feel. I always recommend meditating at the same time each day to help build a meditation practice into your life. Most people find that it's easiest to meditate first thing in the morning, before or after brushing their teeth.
If you miss a day, just pick it back up the following day. Remember, it’s about practice not perfection.
- Green Dot Exercise
This is one of my favorite ways to sprinkle more mindfulness into your day. All you need is a green sticker, although any bright-colored sticker will do. Place the sticker somewhere you will see it throughout the day. I usually recommend putting it on or near the bathroom mirror. Every time you notice the sticker, take 5 deep breaths. I recommend moving the sticker to a new location every couple of weeks, so you don’t ignore it.
- Tech Support
For those who prefer guided meditations, there are lots of online videos and apps that offer anywhere from 2-minute to 90-minute meditations that you can easily follow. Apps like Headspace, Calm and Smiling Mind make it easier than ever to follow along with guided meditations using your phone.
Do you meditate? Tag us on Instagram @liveTrulyfe and tell us what you love about it!
1. Zeidan F, et al. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Vol 9, Issue 6; June 2014 (751-759). DOI: https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/9/6/751/1664700
2. Luders E, et al. Human Brain Mapping. 2013 Dec; 34(12): 3369-3375. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4084509/
3. Newberg A, et al. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 2010;20(2):517-26. DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20164557/
4. Lazar S, et al. Neuroreport. 2005 Nov 28; 16(17): 1893-97. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/
5. Shetkar R, et al. International Journal of Yoga. 2019 Jan-Apr; 12(1): 29-36. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329224/
6. Braboszcz C, et al. PLoS One. 2017; 12(1): e0170647. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5261734/
7. Rubik B. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011 Feb; 17(2):109-15. DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21303197/