Meditation calms and relaxes us. It can enhance our ability to sleep and reduce our anxiety. However, the positive feelings of meditation that we experience in the moment are only a small part of the benefits of this practice. The effect of meditation is clear. Here are the top six.
Balancing the Corpus Callosum
[~increase creativity~] Most of us heavily favor one side of our brain. This is evident in our dominant hand preference. Yet both sides of our brain are conscious systems that perceive, think, remember and reason. Some have described ‘left-brained’ people as being more logical and ‘right-brained people’ as being more imaginative. Yet, the most highly creative people use their ‘whole’ brain in a more balanced way. The Corpus Callosum is a ‘bridge’ between our two brain halves. The effect of meditation editation increases the density and connectivity of this bridge thus enhancing our ability to balance left and right brain thinking and thus improves creativity.
Reducing Activation of the Parietal Lobe
[~lower loneliness~] We may not be expecting a benefit by reducing the activity of a brain area, but this part of the brain is associated with our feelings of loneliness. When we experience feelings of exclusion and isolation the parietal lobe of our brain becomes highly active. Meditation creates within us a sense of oneness by reducing our sense of an isolated self. This deactivates the parietal lobe and reduces feelings of social anxiety and loneliness.
Strengthening the Hippocampus
[~reduce depression and improve memory and learning~] What is not used in our body shrinks. This is true of muscles and this is also true of brain matter. Those with chronic depression have atrophy in their hippocampus. The good news is that in one study they found that in only 8 weeks of meditation, participants had significant growth in the thickness, density, and overall size of their hippocampus. Not only can this reverse depression in those who suffer from it, meditation also guards against developing depression. The hippocampus is also critical to learning and memory. The effect of meditation grows this part of our brain and with that we rebuild ourselves a brain that can learn and remember better.
Strengthening the Right Anterior Dorsal Insula
[~increase our kindness and compassion~] This part of the brain is associated with emotional awareness, empathy and self awareness. It is believed to be responsible for emotional feelings. It becomes highly active when we meditate. MRI studies have found this part of the brain to be significantly thicker in people who meditate.
Reducing Activity in the Amygdala
[~reduce fear, stress and anxiety~] This part of the brain is considered our ‘fear center’ and for our stone age ancestors it was an important part of staying alive. It produces our automatic ‘fight or flight’ response when stimulated. Unfortunately we live in a modern world with modern stresses and the constant activation of this part of our brain leads to problems such as anxiety. Studies have shown that 8 weeks of meditation by novices caused substantial reduction in the size and volume of their amygdala. This leads to feeling less stressed, being less fearful and having less anxiety.
Strengthening the Prefrontal Cortex
[~enhance intelligence and health~] When we want to physically evaluate someones intelligence we look at this area of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is considered the brain’s main planner, thinker and high level decision maker. The effect of meditation increases the neural density, thickness, folds and electrical activity of our prefrontal cortex. The more meditation we experience, the more highly developed this area of the brain.
If this has peaked your interest and you would like to explore meditation please check out my meditation class on Tuesdays at 6:15pm.
Your first class is free and we cover a different meditation topic and technique each week.