Meditation practitioners have long claimed that daily meditational practice contributes to cognitive and psychological wellbeing, and although meditation does create a sense of peacefulness and relaxation, science has recently proven that meditation in actuality changes the brain.
Harvard-affiliated researchers carried out an 8-week research into how mindfulness meditation affects the brain at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Reports revealed that meditation increases grey matter density in the hippocampus - known for playing a pivotal role in spatial navigation, long and short-term memory.
It is believed the hippocampus is the centre of memory, emotion, and the autonomic nervous system. The hippocampus contains high levels of glucocorticoid receptors making it more vulnerable to long-term stress than other areas of the brain.
Grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in memory and emotion, as well as sensory perception, speech, seeing and hearing, decision making, and self-control.
Grey matters function in the brain is to route sensory stimuli to interneurons of the central nervous system in order to generate a response to stimulus through chemical synapse activity.
Magnetic resonance images were taken of 16 participants brain structure two weeks before and after they engaged in an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness.
Participants met weekly to practice mindfulness meditation, focusing on nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the body, along with listening to guided meditation audio recordings each day.
Group participants reported spending on average 27 minutes of mindfulness meditation each day.
Magnetic resonance images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval to compare results.
“The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection... This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.” - Sara Lazar, the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program
It's exciting to realise that by simply practicing meditation we can play an active role in changing our brain for the better while increasing our quality of life, and sense of wellbeing.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness meditation or hypnotherapy, drop me a line here. Alternatively, you could attend my Visualise Guided Meditation class.