How Meditation Changes The Brain, Exterminates Depression

By Tiffany Harper

Meditation is an old spiritual exercise, commonly associated with Oriental spirituality. The method involves mindfulness, relaxation, and breathing patterns. The goal is to achieve a general state of well-being, specifically a psychological one. Today, meditation is a widespread wellness practice. You can find through meditation tutorials in books, on Youtube, or by taking classes.

So, chances are you tried meditation at least once. Therefore, you can agree that meditation is undoubtedly an excellent way to relax and unwind. But does it have real scientifically proven benefits on the brain? In this article, you’ll find out more about how meditation changes the brain and exterminates depression.

Meditation Against Depression And Anxiety

Mindful meditation is just as powerful as antidepressants. According to some research, the subjects experienced less anxiety, pain, and depression after practicing meditation. The result was incredible: meditation had a 0.3 effect on the subjects (moderate), which is just as much as the 0.3 of antidepressant medicines. Moreover, meditation can help reduce social anxiety. A precise type of meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which focuses on stress, showed significant results in research. The participants took a course of MBSR for eight weeks, and the results were reduced physical and mental anxiety and stress. Furthermore, the effects lasted over the years. Lastly, meditation was found as a solution to social anxiety disorder: mindfulness reduces the activity of parts of the brain associated with unhappiness.

Meditation Improves Focus

A common problem among the global population is the difficulty to focus. Meditation was found to help increase concentration and attention. In one study, participants had meditation training for a few weeks. Then, they were tested for cognitive skills, including focus. The results revealed that they improved by 16%. This means that people who teach, work, or use their intellectual power for tasks can tackle their jobs better.

Likewise, kids were tested for their concentration skills since they are often associated with a lack of focus. In this case, meditation had a massive impact on developing minds. It can help with cognitive skills as well as emotional skills. Some schools implemented short meditation breaks, which brought an increase in GPAs and attendances, and a decrease in suspensions.

Meditation Helps Against Brain Aging

UCLA conducted a study that linked meditation to brain aging. They compared the brains of participants who meditated regularly to participants who didn’t. The results proved that the brains of the subjects who meditated still aged. However, they had more gray matter volume than the others. Even comparing old participants with young ones proved that meditation could slow the aging process of the brain while reducing the loss of gray matter.

Meditation Decreases The Activity Of The DMN

The Default Mode Network (DMN) consists of various parts of the brain that regulate self-referential and mind-wandering ideas. These thoughts are associated with unhappiness, worrying, and anxiety. A study by Yale University proves that meditation quiets the DMN. The participants who meditated could switch back to the present moment, while non-meditators would get lost in negative and worrying thoughts easier.

Meditation Positively Changes The Brain

A Harvard study showed that meditation could change the volume and dimensions of various brain parts. The research studied the participants in the eight-week program of MBSR:

  • The subjects had increased hippocampus thickness, which means that they improved their memory, emotional control, and learning skills.
  • The subjects showed diminished amygdala, which means that they are less likely to be afraid, anxious, and stressed.
  • The subjects showed a different perception of moods and emotions.

Meditation Against Addictions

Since meditation is centered around self-control, it was found to be useful against a variety of addictions. One research study proved that smoking addicts were more likely to give up smoking after meditation training. So, mindfulness showed even better results than the “Freedom From Smoking” program (FFS) after the 17-week follow-up. The reason behind the study’s success is that meditation helps people resist temptations, withdrawals, or cravings because it interrupts the connection between those and the addiction itself.

How To Effectively Meditate

Now that we know how many benefits meditation can bring, it’s time to practice it. At first, meditation can seem a challenging activity to do, or that requires special techniques and training. Nevertheless, meditation is a simple method to refocus the brain on the present moment, thus reducing stress, anxiety, brain aging, and other issues. Initially, it may seem impossible to quiet the mind. Still, after a couple of sessions, you may improve your cognitive skills.

Here is a simple guide to meditation:

  • Find a peaceful place in your home. It could be your living room, or even in your backyard. You can light up some candles or open up the window to create a pleasant atmosphere. If you’re going to focus on your breathing, you might want to have fresh or lightly scented air in your space. You also might want to play some calming music, especially if the environment you’re in isn’t quiet enough.
  • Find a good position. You can sit upright on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed. Alternatively, you can lay on the bed or a mat and blanket. Just make sure that you’re comfortable and that your back is straight. If you’re sitting horizontally, make sure that your belly’s facing the ceiling.
  • Close your eyes. If you wish to work with your mind, you might want to rest your eyes to focus better.
  • Start to breathe slowly. You can inhale for four seconds and exhale for four. Take as many as you need to ease into it.
  • Observe your thoughts rather than thinking about them. Your brain will inevitably want to wander off and think about chores, fears, and feelings. Please don’t beat yourself up for it. Just try to observe them and gently come back to your breath.
  • Continue breathing and observe every sensation in the body.
  • Try to reach a mental state where you’re focusing on your sensation and your brain instead of thinking thoughts.

Keep coming back to your senses and breathing every time you get distracted.

  • Accept that your mind may not want to settle down. Just keep trying.
  • Once you reach a calm state, continue to breathe.
  • When you’re satisfied with your session, bat your eyelashes open and slowly return to your day.

Conclusion

The spiritual practice of meditation has a myriad of benefits, from reducing brain aging to improving mood, focus, and self-control. If you want to start meditating, find a quiet place in your home to focus on your breath with your eyes closed. The first day you may not be able to concentrate on your breath well. Nonetheless, if you keep trying, you’ll get there.


Author Bio
Tiffany Harper is a freelancer and blogger from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She specializes in psychology, natural remedies, and wellness topics. Tiffany is also a yoga lover, so every Saturday if she is not working as a consultant with an essay writer from Write My Essay, she spends her free time meditating in the local park. Please do not hesitate to contact her on twitter


Sources:
1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/
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