What Does Meditation do for the Brain?
Many people who have never meditated ask what does meditation do for the mind and body? There have been many scientific studies documenting how the brain changes during meditation and also in its resting stage after meditation is completed. Thanks to MRI scans we can now actually see the visual changes in a person’s brain compared to a non-practitioner.
What happens when you meditate on a nonscientific level is an entirely personal experience. You do not need brain scans, sweat tracking and heart rate monitors to feel the benefits. Everyone goes through different experiences but for most people there are certain benefits that have withstood the test of time and have been preached by the early adopters of meditation.
What happens when you Meditate? The benefits
- Increased Peace of Mind
- Increased Awareness
- More loving feelings
- Increased Relaxation
- More Happiness
Meditation for the Brain
The use of meditation on the brain according to many studies shows the increase of grey matter. The grey matter increases in thickness in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain. This grey matter is responsible for positive emotions, increased mental alertness, and emotional mastery. During emotional mastery, you will not find your emotional states going through peaks and valleys. You will be more calm, equanimous, and easy going.
These studies are proving what people have been saying about meditation for 1000’s of years. The positive emotions like inner peace, love and equinimity are directly associated with the increase of grey matter.
Further, to that point MRI scans from multiple studies show what happens during meditation and the results are absolutely astounding. The MRI scans show a decrease in beta waves and that we process less information while meditating as opposed to all the noise we create in our brains during our regular lives. It is actually us that creates the noise and not the events and circumstances of our lives.
What are Brain Waves?
Medical equipment such as EEG can be used to measure the electrical activity in the brain when it is active or resting. The millions of neurons in the brain produce electrical activity when they communicate with each other.
5 Most Common Brain Waves
Delta– This state is known as the DEEP, DREAMLESS SLEEP STATE. People who practice for many years can reach this state with awareness and alertness. 1-3 HZ
Theta– DEEP RELAXATION AND VISUALIZATION. Many reach this state during meditation and daydreaming. The brain transitions from problem-solving and thinking to awareness. 4-8 HZ
Alpha– RELAXED, CALM AND NOT THINKING. Many people will reach this stage also in meditation but their relaxation will not be as calm and peaceful as in theta. You can also reach this stage after going for a walk, listening to soothing music or after moderate exercise. 9-13 HZ
Beta– ALERT & NORMAL WAKING CONSCIOUSNESS. This is where most people spend most of their time. This is the stage where our brains are quite active planning, problem-solving, analyzing and categorizing. 13-30 HZ
Gamma– HYPERACTIVITY AND ACTIVE LEARNING. This is the optimal stage to learn new information. You can reach this stage be doing a light physical activity before learning. You can also reach this stage with caffeine intake. The downside of this is that if you are too alert then the feeling turns to anxiety and becomes difficult to manage and stay focused on learning.
It is interesting to note that a study using neuroimaging at Dartmouth College stated that even during the brains resting state that the brain still produces thoughts, images and memories spontaneously from within. The brain does not need to be induced by sensory input in order to be active. I found this to be quite remarkable. We can just sit there and watch our brains play a movie.
What happens when you Meditate?
I can only answer this from a personal perspective. No sessions are really the same. You can have phenomenal sessions but that will not happen each time. I have had sessions where I noticed my brain activity was very active and this was after meditating for a year. There will still be times when you don’t have control over your thoughts and that is ok.
This is Your Body on Meditation
Meditation for the body has helped people the following ways:
- Decreased Anxiety
- Lowered Stress
- Lowered Chronic Pain
- Improved Heart Health
- Increased Mood
In most cases stress is related to thinking patterns and mindfulness meditation can decrease the amount of stress that a person goes through. The awareness gained through constant practice will also help you relax more. Studies have shown when a person is more relaxed he/she will have lower blood pressure, healthier heart rate, and healthier metabolism.
In a nutshell, your body will start to feel more invigorated and energized. You still need to eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise but meditation is just another helpful tool to give you the edge.