Meditation is in vogue today; however, it is an ancient practice that has been practiced for centuries.
In recent years, many people in the West have chosen to immerse themselves in meditative practice for its benefits both mentally and physically, and is meditation becoming a great alternative in these times, as it helps to stay in there? ‘here and now, connected with ourselves. and with a relaxed mind, away from this busy world, away from unrealistic expectations.
Science approves of its practice
The goal of meditation exercises, and even some forms of yoga, is to control breathing to induce a state of calm and focus. Paying attention to and controlling the breath is a basic component of many meditation practices (and also of mindfulness). Research in this area suggests that this practice has multiple advantages: it induces a general feeling of well-being while reducing anxiety and improving sleep, for example.
The benefits of meditation are obvious, but what exactly happens to the brain during meditation? Neuroimaging studies in humans have shown that brain regions involved in attention (frontal lobe) and emotions (limbic system) are affected at different stages of meditative practice. In addition, a new study conducted in mice and recently published in the journal Science, shows that brainstem neurons are also involved in the link between breathing and the state of calm characteristic of meditation.
New scientific evidence
In fact, what this study did was based on previous research, one of which was conducted by scientists at the University of California in 1991, who discovered the pre-Bötzinger complex, an area that contains neurons. . which are rhythmically activated with each breath. It is a kind of respiratory pacemaker, very different from the pacemaker, and which presents a great variety of different rhythms, for example in case of yawning.
Researchers at Stanford University have found that this region is significantly activated during meditationAnd Mark Krasnow, professor of biochemistry at that university and co-author of the study, states that “this is not an area that simply supplies air to the lungs, but these breaths are also associated with social cues and emotional “. A group of neurons in this area are the ones that are activated every time we inhale or exhale, like a respiratory pacemaker. Meditation helps us have more control over our breathing and makes us feel great when we have the will to do so.
Other research findings
In addition to the previous study, there is a lot of research that has been done to try to find out what exactly is going on in the meditator’s brain. A study published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging states that people who meditate 30 minutes a day for eight weeks gain a higher density of gray matter in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy or stress reduction. This gray matter is mainly located in the hippocampus, an important area of learning and memory.
Britta Hölzel, psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and research director, explains that “the main idea of meditation is to connect with oneself, with the here and now, with bodily sensations. , emotions or breathing. the key is to find the connection between body and mind, and that is what we have shown. “
Also, Sara Lazar, scientist of this study concludes that through meditation:
- The thickness of the cingulate bark increases, As well as part of the limbic system. These regions influence emotions, attention, learning, memory, and the perception of physical and emotional pain.
- Gray matter in the tonsil decreases, Reduce anxiety, fear and stress.
- The left area of the hippocampus, Which is responsible for learning, cognitive abilities, regulation of memory and emotions, also increases its size.
- The temporoparietal junction, Who is involved in social relations, shooting, empathy and compassion increases its proportions.
Benefits of meditation
All of these changes in the brain are responsible for the fact that meditation is beneficial for humans. However, these changes do not happen instantly, as meditation takes practice, willpower, and of course, effort.
Unfortunately, many people think of meditation as just sitting down and breathing; but, especially in the early stages, you struggle with the resistances of the body, and until you realize that this is part of the process, you may not enjoy its full benefits.
However, the good meditator benefits remarkably for several reasons. Meditation helps:
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Improve the ability to concentrate and control attention.
- This allows you to sleep better.
- It helps to know yourself better and to find inner peace.
- It promotes empathy and improves social relationships.
- Increases tolerance to pain.
- Increase memory and learning.
- It encourages positive and optimistic thinking.
You can read more about these benefits in detail in our article: “Science-backed Benefits of Meditation”