The brain is a miraculous thing. For a long time, it was believed that you were born with a set potential from birth. This is not true; your potential is created through strengthening different regions of your brain to make you who you are today. You ultimately have the capacity to train your brain. The brain is neuroplastic, meaning it can change. Meditation is one of the many ways to strengthen your brain as it works on many different parts of your brain at one time. Let’s discuss different key regions in the brain and how meditation can help build a stronger brain. Bear with us, this blog has a lot of technical terms and science that explain more about our brain and WHY meditation is so beneficial to us.
Meditation helps people feel connected and battle that ever so stubborn loneliness. Human connectedness is just as important as sleep, nutrition, and exercise. We are social beings who desire to connect with others. When we are feeling lonely and isolated, the parietal lobe becomes overused and worn out. Meditation takes on the role of connecting one with their self and everything around them. That connection of self provides relief from loneliness as the person no longer feels disconnected. Defeating the feeling of loneliness allows the parietal lobe to slow down and work normally.
Your brain is made up of two hemispheres, the right and the left. The corpus callosum encompasses both hemispheres. It has been believed that most of us rely heavily on one side over the other. More recently, it has been determined that highly creative and successful people tend to use both sides of their brain rather than just one. A balanced brain is a stronger brain. Meditation can assist with building a more balanced brain. During meditation, both hemispheres are utilized equally by integrating harmony between the two. With increased harmony comes better focus, thought, memory, and mental health.
Depression is a word everyone knows, through their own experience or someone they know. Depressed people tend to have a smaller hippocampus in their brain, which is the center of emotion. Studies have shown that after 8 weeks of meditation, the hippocampus had increased in size and general thickness. This means that meditation has the ability to help battle and reverse the effects of depression.
The hippocampus works on more than just emotion, it is also related to memory. Time is inevitable and is ever compromising to our memory. Meditation helps battle the effects of time on our brain. Meditation increases the cortical thickness of the hippocampus that acts like a barrier to decrease memory leakage from your brain. This makes it harder for memories to leave and easier to learn new information and skills.
It is thought that people gain true happiness by receiving and achieving, but this is not true. It is believed that true happiness comes from practicing compassion. Caring about others gives life meaning and purpose. The anterior insula plays a part in happiness as it is part of emotional regulation and pleasure center of the brain. Studies have shown that when people give to charity, their pleasure center lights up. There is a general since of pleasure when people do good for others. Meditation helps to bring to light our compassion consciousness. Being more conscious of the joy one feels from helping others increases the likelihood they will continue to do so.
Anxiety is another feeling most people have experienced in their life. Stress and fear play a large part in many lives preventing people from reaching their full potential. The amygdala is part of the fear center of our brain. Our brains are wired to react to dangerous situations with our flight or fight response. Today, our brains are reacting to stress, relationships, financial problems with the same flight or fight response. This hyperactive stress response is changing the way our brains work, and ultimately leave us anxious and withdrawn. Meditation fights the overactive amygdala by decreasing its size, volume and electrical activity. With the brain no longer responding to every stimulus with the fight or flight response, there is less anxiety, fear, and stress.
With so many benefits of meditation on the human brain, why doesn’t everyone meditate? If you are reading this and you have never meditated regularly before, I challenge you to try. Set aside 4 weeks to consistently meditate once a day. A free version of the app Calm is a great place to begin. Contact me for tips. Tell me how it goes!