How does the idea of sitting alone in a quiet space with your eyes shut sound to you? Perhaps, a little strange? Well, actually it’s not! Here, we are talking about meditation, which strives to give our brain a much-needed break from all the hustle and bustle of routine life and worries. In fact, just a few minutes of meditation every day can reap benefits like lowered stress levels, enhanced focus, and creativity as well as an overall positive outlook. All of this is only possible because this practice of mindfulness directly affects our brains and changes it for the better.
According to scientists, here is how each part of the brain is affected when we meditate:
- Frontal lobe – mainly responsible for reasoning, planning, handling emotions and self-consciousness, this part tends to switch to offline mode.
- Parietal lobe – activity in this area is slowed down, hence reducing the flow of sensory information pertaining to the surrounding world.
- Thalamus – This one is the gatekeeper of all five senses and helps to focus your attention by selecting which sensory data to push deeper into the brain. During meditation, the incoming information is reduced to a trickle.
- Reticular formation – In charge of keeping the brain alert and ready to respond to every stimulus flowing in, the activity slows down when you meditate.
Moving away from the technical terms, let’s read in detail about how the activities happening inside the brain get altered as a person begins to meditate. It’s quite interesting and really surprising what a little bit of mindfulness and relaxation can do to such an important organ of your body. Read on!
Meditation enhances Grey Matter in key areas
Grey matter in the brain is known for processing information, and with meditation, key areas pertaining to grey matter are enhanced. These areas are namely the Anterior Cingulate Cortex which is situated behind the frontal lobe of the brain and regulates cognitive flexibility, the Prefrontal Cortex which regulates emotions while simultaneously taking care of planning and problem solving, and the Hippocampus which is an important part of the limbic system and therefore stimulates learning and memory. The Hippocampus is also very sensitive to stress and similar disorders like depression. With meditation, the cortical thickness of this area is seen to improve and come at ease. On the whole, instead of actively processing information as it would in a normal case, the brain sort of relaxes down.
Meditation reduces the size of Amygdala
The amygdala is that part of the brain which basically tackles all the emotions related to fear, stress, anxiousness, and even addiction. It tends to reduce in brain cell volume once you bring meditation into regular practice. What this means is that as the connection between the amygdala and pre-frontal cortex gets weakened, reactivity to negative situations is lessened and instead the focus is shifted towards strengthening areas pertaining to higher order brain functions such as concentration and attention. So in simple words, medication changes our emotions and feelings for the better, leading to an improved mood and overall psychological well-being.
Meditation decreases activity in the “Me-Center” of brain
The default mode network (DMN) is another crucial part of the brain and is often referred to as the organ’s “me center”. It is highly active when our mind wanders from one thought to another without any particular direction or reason. Such thoughts are usually associated to rumination, worrying about the past or future, and generally provoking unhappy thoughts. Meditation comes as a savior to snap you out of such a situation as while practicing mindfulness, this network of the brain gradually stills down. It helps us to take a pause and become more accepting, less reactive and even lesser judgmental to the negativities revolving around us.
On a conclusive note, it can be said that medication helps to improve the overall quality of your life by changing the brain to focus on wholesome thoughts and respond more positively rather than mindlessly reacting to everything that life throws in your way. It’s definitely worth a shot even you have a few minutes to spare! It’s good to take a break from life and technology once in a while and focus instead on helping your mind to quiet down, right? right!