Do you hold long conversations with people when they are not around? Did you have a bad day at work and go over it all in the car on the way home? Do you create more stress for yourself by focusing on all the bad things that happened to you? Sometimes we wake up and remember a dream we were having about an event that made us angry or hurt. Everyone stresses and does mental rehearsals of what they could have done or said. When this stress starts to bring on anger, and the introspection focuses on the negative, which creates more stress, then it’s time to look into ways to relieve that stress.
Your brain does not function well on stress. When you brain has trouble it affects your memory and other mental functions, and that leads to physical problems as well. By relieving stress your brain is able to function better.
At one time meditation was thought of as the “hippy,” or holistic way to de-stress by making your mind go blank. Scientists have not been jumping on the holistic bandwagon, believing it is not “medically sound.” Now, according to the National Academy of Sciences, meditation is emerging as the hottest new area in neuroscience.
Experienced meditators have been shown by research to have “less activity in the brain’s ‘default mode network’ when then brain is engaged in focused thought.”
A Yale University study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hooked up 12 experienced meditators (with an average of over 10,000 hours of mindfulness mediation experience) and 12 healthy beginner meditators to a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI). The volunteers were asked to practice three different types of meditation — attention to breath (concentration); wishing well being (Love-kindness); and focus (choiceless awareness).
The experienced meditators showed less activity in the default mode network, less mind wandering, and “increased connectivity between certain brain networks” than those of the beginners — during meditation as well as when they were not meditating. “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing, they have an altered default mode network,” said Dr. Judson Brewer, medical director of the Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic and lead author of the study. “We were pretty excited about that, because it suggests that these guys are paying attention a lot more.”
The results of this and other studies show the beneficial implications from meditation, as well as to improve the outlooks of those who suffer from depression and other forms of anxiety, pain or substance abuse. “Putting all those together, we might be able to start get at what the mechanisms of mindfulness are,” Brewer said.
“Emerging data from our group and others suggests that some things thought to be result of meditation might be cause of meditation,” said Dr. Charles Raison, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. If the latter is true, then the Buddhist belief that our Karmic path is preordained and some people are simply better suited than others in keeping their minds from wandering. The question should be: Does meditation change the brain, or are there people who already have these brain patterns built in just happen to (or are pre-ordained to) get interested in meditation?
About the author:
Ron White is a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.
CNN Health – How meditating may help your brain: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/21/how-meditating-may-help-your-brain/?hpt=hp_c3
Belief Blog – Can meditation change your brain? Contemplative neuroscientists believe it can: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/26/can-meditation-change-your-brain-contemplative-neuroscientists-believe-it-can/