THE EFFECTS OF MEDITATION
Studies have proven that meditation improves:
Focus and self-control – Changes brain structure and function – after just 11 hours of meditation, structural changes around the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in monitoring our focus and self-control improves. Multi-tasking becomes easier because you are able to stay on tasks longer and make fewer task switches. Performance and ability improves as you learn new things which are dependent on the ability to focus. As we improve focus it helps resist distraction which increases our ability to control our impulses, emotions and achieve long-term goals.
Attention and concentration – Improves our ability to sustain attention. It does this because our ability to concentrate on our breath for long periods of time and focus on specific visualisations transfers over to other pursuits. Reduces impulsiveness and hyperactivity, so is good for all ages who have ADD and Hyperactivity Disorder.
Alertness – Changes brain waves, leading to higher levels of alpha brain waves which are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Regular meditation keeps the brain in this alpha state. Increases gamma brain wave activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain which is associated with higher mental activity and heightened awareness.
Academic success – Improves academic success because of controlled impulses and focused attention. Improves our ability to focus under pressure – stress reduces what is called “working memory capacity” – the ability to retain thoughts in our mind and manipulate them. It significantly reduces “disturbance” or noise within the meditators’ brain.
Time management – Improves time performance tasks, useful for anyone who has to work to deadlines.
Relaxation Response – It initiates the “Relaxation Response” whereby the heart rate and respiration slows and the blood pressure drops.
Stress management – Activates the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system, helping with stress management. Increases activity in the prefrontal cortex that help regulate emotions, subsequently reducing stress. Stops our brain from over-processing too much information which is stressful. When beta waves decrease we see a decrease in overloaded information waiting to be processed.
Immune response – Increases left-side brain activity which increases immune response. Stress and anxiety play havoc with our immune system. Regular meditation practice reduces the amount of stress-related chemicals in our body, and prevents us from turning to unhealthy coping strategies.
Fear, worry and anxiety – Reduces the reactivity of the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for triggering fear, worry and anxiety and feeling threatened. Changes in breathing slow the heart and metabolism which ease palpitations and anxiety. Helps with anxiety management across various types of people: from those suffering with cancer, to those with social anxiety disorders and eating issues.
Depression and sadness – Releases chemicals that boost motivation, psychological stability and mood and which also create calm, contentment and security. They help you feel happy and relaxed and help to calm an overstimulated and overwhelmed mind which renders you helpless, powerless, sad and depressed.
Sleep – Relaxes and calms the mind of unresolved problems that inhibit sleep which affects all mind and body processes. Releases chemicals that effect the master biological clock which plays a vital role in orchestrating the circadian rhythms of multiple biological processes.
Emotions and emotional control – Increases activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex that help regulate emotions. Lowers the density of neurons in the amygdala and increases the density of neurons in areas involved in emotional control.
Memory and learning – Brain density increases in areas connected to learning and memory processing. It is the brain’s outer cortex that is responsible for higher mental functions such as concentration, learning and memory. Preserves cognition and prevents dementia by reducing oxidative stress and other neurodegenerative trends (an overactive brain is linked to a number of mood and behavioural disorders, including schizophrenia, depression and autism).
Moods, anger, tension and stress – Higher levels of brainwaves reduce negative moods and feelings including anger, tension and sadness. Positively influences the identification of emotions and the communication of emotions, as well as regulating the expression of anger
Creative, divergent, cognitive thinking, insight and problem solving – Increases head space so aids creative thinking and also helps clear negative self-messaging which blocks creativity.
Reduces cognitive rigidity (an inability to think of different possible solutions to a problem) due to the tendency to be ‘blinded’ by experience and increases insight which helps problem solving. Promotes “divergent thinking”, a type of thinking that allows many new ideas to be generated.
Relationships – Improves our relationships. The more relaxed, grounded and self-accepting we are, the more we are able to relate to others. It helps non-judgmental acceptance and with these changes we are better able to identify and describe our feelings. Helps us to access our true self which is hidden beneath the debris of negative thinking and negative messaging.
Kindness, empathy and compassion – We become mindful and more observant of how we act and show more empathy towards others. Forgiveness, love, compassion and kindness develop from cleansing our minds of negativity.
Self-acceptance – When we meditate, we become more capable of controlling, our thoughts. A key part of meditation revolves around noticing our thoughts without judging them or getting caught up in their stories or meanings. This helps us to develop a different perspective on our internal dialogue, develop a greater understanding of ourselves, and practice noticing our thoughts and feelings without attaching meaning or judgement to them.
Self-confidence – When negative thoughts or feelings about ourselves come up during meditation, we practice simply noticing them in the moment. Over time, this leaves us better able to handle negative internal dialogue outside of meditation too.
Pain – Releases endorphins that reduce pain – these chemicals are far more powerful than the strongest painkillers. Lowers levels of cortisol the stress hormone that causes inflammation. Relaxes and releases stress and tension that cause muscle and headaches.
Health – Activates the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system, (parasympathetic nervous system), helping with stress management. Reduces activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which restores balance and homeostasis. Reduces autonomic nervous system activity, ultimately reducing blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory rate. Helps to decrease blood pressure and regulate blood flow. Deep breathing increases the oxygen in the blood stream which speeds healing to the lungs, the stomach and the vital organs. Reduces blood pressure and regulates blood flow. May help prevent genetic damage as it increases telomere length. Telomeres are protein complexes that protect our genes, and shortened telomeres have been linked to various diseases. Reduced stress could help certain enzymes that lengthen telomeres. Lowers levels of lipid peroxide which can contribute to atherosclerosis and other chronic diseases associated with aging. Affects mechanisms that regulate blood glucose levels and insulin production, and in general can help combat diabetes by influencing the immune system, reducing oxidative stress and managing diabetes side effects. Influences brain chemical activity implicated in causing seizures. Repairs damaged brain structures, and changes brain activity patterns, and so can be an effective long-term epilepsy management strategy for many.
Breathing – Deep breathing increases the oxygen in the blood stream which speeds healing to the lungs, the stomach and the vital organs.
Skin – Keeps the hormone levels balanced which leads to beautiful skin and radiant looks.
Spiritual wellbeing – Helps us to raise our energy vibration to a higher consciousness. The ultimate consciousness being a bliss consciousness. Helps us to access our spiritual being. Feelings of forgiveness, love, compassion and kindness develop from cleansing our minds of negativity.