How does Meditation help us?
So we’ve all been told that Meditation is the bee’s knees…but what does that really mean? Why? How does Meditation help us? Meditation is one multifactorial healing entity! Meditation positively affects the brain by promoting the strengthening of neural connections (neuroplasticity) in the brain to enhance memory, cognition, adaptation, and decrease stress, anger, anxiety and trauma.
How Meditation Positively Affects the Brain
Here is a brief overview of the biomechanics to which this happens:
Meditation dynamics and positive affirmations have been increasing with scientific research to determine the mechanism of actions behind the traditionally used action (4). Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, adapt the mind, and significantly affect worldly/perceptual processing (4). There are varietal meditative practices; focused attention meditation (FAM), open-monitoring meditation (OMM), and loving-kindness meditation (LKM), all working systemically, however, has been shown to target different neural areas of the brain (4).
Meditation has shown to improve conflict resolution by strengthening network efficiency within the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) associated with self-regulation, errors and overcoming impasses (4). Meditation has proven to significantly increase hippocampal grey matter volumes, local radial distances and enhanced white matter fibre integrity; particularly with increased meditative time/experience (5). White matter is compounded of axons and connecting tissue to help neural signalling conduction, whereas grey matter contains cell bodies, dendrites, synapses and neuronal axon terminals (5). The hippocampus is a central regulator for memory encoding and retrieval processing, and the subiculum is correlated to episodic recollection and how individuals re-experience past events (5).
The increased subiculum in meditators may contribute to reduced reactivity in every day and traumatic occurrences, and the ability to innately choose mindfully how their behaviour will impact their outcome (5). The hippocampal-amygdaloid transition area also showed statistical importance with meditative stress reduction. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis reduced prolonged glucocorticoid synthesis, neurotoxicity and potential neurogenesis promotion (5).
Meditation reduces the amygdala, a neural component of the brain associated with the positive and negative encoding of; emotion, ambiguous stimuli, safety/threats, appraisal and emotionally significant events (1)—the amygdala increases upon dispositional negativity and decreases in emotional regulation of reappraisal, and cognitive distancing. Mental health disorders can impair this; stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.(1). The amygdala correlates with spontaneous emotional reappraisal and suppression, with the former positively impacting interpersonal psychological well-being (1).
A 2013 randomised controlled study reviewed regular mindfulness meditation over an 8-week period concluding a statistically relevant reduction in anxiety, distress ratings, stress, social stress, and negative self-statements (2).
Meditation positively affects the Brain overall through mindfulness. Meditation is an important part of healing and nourishing the neural pathways for psychological welfare. Meditating for just 10 minutes per day can have profound effects on your mental clarity. What have you got to lose?