Meditation has shown time after time to positively impact health and vitality. It’s also been shown to reduce pain (Time Magazine-11/12/2015). I wrote a blog post about it!
Okay, I could be speaking to the choir. And maybe, I am. But, what I learned while researching this post has made me want to step up my game a bit. I bet it will do the same for you too. And, if you currently don’t have a meditation practice, it’s never too late to start.
Yes, you can make significant changes in only eight weeks. Just ask Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. According to Lazar you can change your brain in a very short period of time: “Our data shows changes in the brain after just eight weeks.”
The website for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health lists numerous benefits including assisting with: pain, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, irritable bowel syndrome and smoking cessation. According to the source: “Some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.”
Looks like they are on to something. Sara Lazar is one such researcher who has discovered that meditation may in fact physically change the brain. The Washington Post published an article (May 2015) about Lazar and her findings. Lazar used brain scans to document what, if anything, happened to the brain as a result of meditating.
Her first study looked at long-term meditators. She discovered that long-term meditators had more gray matter in several regions of the brain, such as the frontal cortex area. This is the area associated with our memory. Another interesting finding was that 50-year olds who meditated had the same amount of gray matter in the pre-fontal cortex as 25-year olds.
What makes this noteworthy is that over time our cortexes typically shrink resulting in the inability to remember as well or figure things out like we used to do.
Looks like there is hope for me after all!
Another study reporting similar findings and published in January 2015 from UCLA reported that long-term meditators, those who had been meditating for at least 20 years, had more grey matter volume throughout the brain.
Supporting the idea that one can make changes in the brain in only eight weeks, she found in subjects who participated that cortical thickness increased in the hippocampus. This region of the brain is where learning and memory functions are housed. On the flip side, there were decreases in brain cell mass in the amygdala, which governs how we react to fear, anxiety and stress.
If you need more evidence to convince you of the importance before beginning your own practice, there’s plenty out there.
Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt …
If meditation has never worked for you, maybe you haven’t had the right teacher or taken the right approach. There is more than one way to do it. You might be helped by adding binaural beats to your practice. I am a long-time user of Hemi-Sync meditation exercises. I also have taught others how to effectively use the technology for many years.
I have included the steps outlined below before, but find it useful to reprint here.
Sign me up!
Convinced? Then you might be wondering now what? If you only heard bad things about mindfulness meditation, relax, it’s just not true! Don’t buy into the fact that to be mindful means “sitting” for hours minus any thoughts. Below are simple ways to begin.
- Don’t start by trying to meditate for one-hour a day. Set shorter periods of time. One minute. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Or, if you do want to “try” for extended period of time, use audio recordings of binaural beats or affirmations.
- Start with simple activities such as noticing your heart beating or your breathing.
- Don’t be too critical of yourself. Just make the effort to be more mindful in all that you do, especially when you find yourself stressed or upset by external forces. The more you can become the “observer” the more detached to the outcome you will be.