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Meditation on brain: Understanding the Power of Meditation


Understanding the Power of Meditation


Tibetan monks meditate for hours upon hours each week. Their devotion to their religious traditions makes them experts in the practice of meditation.

Turns out those experts have a lot to teach us about how sustained mindfulness affects the brain.

Meditation and mindfulness induce a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Various studies demonstrate the practice can help relieve stress — as well as manage anxiety, reduce inflammation, and improve memory and attention, to boot. Such striking results have many doctors, across specialties, prescribing meditation just as they would an anti-depressant or blood pressure medication. But it remains unclear just how meditation confers so many health benefits.

That’s why Bin He, a neuroengineer at Carnegie Mellon University, decided to look at the brains of Tibetan monks. In a previous study, He and colleagues saw that individuals with meditation experience were better able to control a computer cursor with their mind than those without it. Since Tibetan monks spend years of their lives engaged in the practice of meditation, He was curious to see if there might be any significant differences in brain activation that might offer a hint into how meditation leads to so many beneficial effects.

“We went to Tibet and measured activity in the brains of monks who had, on average, 15 years of meditation experience — between five and 35 years,” he said. “We then compared those results to native Tibetans who had never meditated before.”

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Prefrontal Cortex

Using electroencephalography (EEG), a series of electrodes placed on the scalp to measure brain activity, He and his colleagues found that long-term, active meditative practice decreases activity in the default network. This is the brain network associated with the brain at rest — just letting your mind wander with no particular goal in mind — and includes brain areas like the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex. What’s more, the longer a monk had been practicing, the bigger the reduction in activity the researchers observed.

“It seems the longer you do meditation, the better your brain will be at self-regulation,” said He. “You don’t have to consume as much energy at rest and you can more easily get yourself into a more relaxed state.”

He suggests that meditative practice helps to “optimize” how the brain uses resources. Pioneering neuropsychologist Michael Posner from the University of Oregon, who first outlined how the brain’s attention systems work, says that makes sense. His own work, with Yi-Yuan Tang, has shown distinct changes to the white matter, or the nerve fibers that allow different brain regions to more efficiently communicate with one another, surrounding the anterior cingulate, a part of the brain heavily involved with managing attention, with meditation practice. Using diffusion tensor imaging, a special kind of neuroimaging technique, Posner and colleagues found increased levels of myelin, sometimes referred to as brain “insulation,” after only a few weeks of regular meditation practice — and that increased insulation helps improve connectivity by letting different brain regions communicate faster and more efficiently.

“This is a major node of attention in the brain — and we can see these changes after only two to four weeks of practice,” he said. “Those changes are linked to improved attention in different tasks. And as the anterior cingulate has vast connections to the limbic system, or emotional system, it helps us understand why meditation can help improve mood and reduce anxiety, too.”

Such results are especially promising considering the participants in Posner’s study didn’t have to join an order of Tibetan monks in order to gain a variety of benefits. Participants improved on tasks measuring attention and problem solving in as little as five days. They also showed reductions in cortisol, a hormone commonly used to measure a person’s stress level, Posner said. Improved cognitive skills and lower stress levels are certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says he is not surprised that so many neuroscience studies are elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying meditation’s beneficial effects. He says, taken together, there is strong evidence that a regular, consistent meditative practice offers a lot of direct benefits to the brain — and, by extension, to your psychological and emotional well-being. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if your primary care provider starts mentioning mindfulness techniques at your next yearly check-up.

With several studies backing up the idea that meditation is beneficial for your brain and body, what kind of practice can offer these advantages if you aren’t able to take up the same kind of regimen as your average Tibetan monk? There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done to understand the type and amount of practice required to get an effect — and it likely will be different for each person. And with so many ways to do so — from workshops to smart phone apps — Davidson says the best kind of meditation is simply the one that you are most likely to stick with.

“Think of it as a form of personal mental hygiene — almost like tooth brushing,” he said. “Humans didn’t evolve brushing their teeth twice a day. It’s a learned skill. Your brain is just as precious as your teeth. So, it’s important to take the time to learn a practice and stick to it.”

This content was created with support from the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute.

About the Author

Kayt Sukel

Kayt Sukel is a science and technology writer based outside Houston, Texas.


Cassady, K., You, A., Doud, A., & He, B. (2014). The impact of mind-body awareness training on the early learning of a brain-computer interface. Technology, 2(3), 254–260. doi:10.1142/S233954781450023X

Jiang, H., He, B., Guo, X., Wang, X., Guo, M., Wang, Z., Xue, T., Li, H., Xu, D., Ye, S., Suman, D., Tong, S., and Cui, D. (2018, November). Brain-Heart Interactions Underlying Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Meditation. Brain Wellness and Aging: Systemic Factors and Brain Function. Symposium conducted at Neuroscience 2018, San Diego, CA.

Posner, M. I., Tang, Y. Y., & Lynch, G. (2014). Mechanisms of white matter change induced by meditation training. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1220. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01220

Tang, Y.-Y., Hölzel, B. K., & Posner, M. I. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(4) 213–225. doi: 10.1038/nrn3916

Change Your Mind: Meditation Benefits for the Brain

In today’s hyper-connected, fast-paced environment, the challenge more than ever is to have the discipline to slow down. Modern-day technology also inundates your life with distractions that draw your focus outward. It’s possible to mask chronic stress and other unhealthy psychological states, but society has begun to recognize the need for a counter movement.

Taking a “brain break”—relearning how to slow down and go inward—has become increasingly popular. That may be due, in part, to recognized meditation benefits for the brain.

Meditating is a great way to ease the frantic state of mind many find themselves in. Once thought to be an enigmatic practice, meditation has gained traction in recent years. One study shows regular meditation by adults tripled from 2012–2017. The growing literature on the benefits of meditation is expansive and promising.

The practice of cultivating mindfulness through meditation can be achieved in many ways. Put simply, it’s being aware of where you place your conscious attention. What comes up may be pleasant or unpleasant. But as you practice this inward dive with nonjudgmental attention, you’ll be able to access an inner peace that already exists within you.

Anyone can start a mindful practice of meditation to find a new level of calm. It’s all about the discipline of sitting down and going inward.

Big Brain Benefits

Meditation benefits for the brain are abundant. Meditating strengthens neural connections and can literally change the configuration of these networks. With regular practice, you can cultivate a more resilient neurobiology that:

And with practice, meditation can also help you develop empathy and be more compassionate.

Sound amazing? Read on to reveal even more meditation benefits for the brain.

Mindfulness to Manage Your Mood and Well-Being 

Like exercise for your body, meditation helps to condition your mind. Confronting and letting go of unwanted psychological states, like anxiety and fear, releases their hold and the associated conditioned response. Studies now prove control over your internal experience, once thought to be fixed, can be altered with the simple practice of mindfulness.

Though not a cure for chronic emotional and psychological stress disorders, meditation has many extraordinary benefits for mood and overall well-being. A few minutes of mindfulness and meditating can help hold off overwhelming emotion and guard against the powerful thought patterns that fund unproductive worries.

Here’s a small slice of the research backing mindfulness and meditation benefits for the brain:

  • One randomized controlled study found mindfulness-based therapy over 56 weeks significantly reduced the period of time before relapse of episodes of low mood. It also helped with long and short-term healthy mood maintenance. Participants reported experiencing a better quality of life.
  • Another study showed eight weeks of mindfulness-based therapy improved participant’s mental health scores. This lead to important conclusions, like relief of anxiety in the mind from meditation being tied to the regulation of self-referential thought processes. Anxiety is a cognitive state that occurs when you’re unable to control your emotional state due to perceived threats.
  • After an eight-week mindfulness course, participant MRI scans showed a reduction in the brain’s fight or flight center associated with fear and emotion. The amygdala—a part of the brain that controls your body’s stress response during perceived danger—is a key biomarker of stress in your body.

Tune into Greater Attention and Focus

Everyone’s mind gets distracted. It could be putting off homework, losing track of your words mid-sentence, or thinking about work while your significant other tells you about their day. Humans developed selective focus as a coping mechanism for dangerous threats in the ancient past.

Today, there are fewer physical threats to worry about. Instead, people ruminate psychologically, letting worry and anxiety overtake the present with past emotional pain or future anxiety.

Your brain naturally, easily slides into boredom, so it may welcome distractions. A default-mode network of neurons is associated with mind wandering—also called the “monkey mind. ” But scientists have found that abnormalities in this system of the brain can lead to anxiety, depression, attention disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meditation allows you to be in the present moment, a timeframe associated with feelings of happiness. It can increase your attention span and combat mind wandering and excessive self-referential thoughts. With over-activity, these unhealthy states of mind can lead to a state of unhappiness.

Mindfulness helps you focus and ignore the distractions around you. It also helps to hone your ability to notice more in your environment. This gives you access to the present moment with a fuller perspective of your experience. Managing your monkey mind through daily meditation is a simple and easy first line of defense for endless modern-day distractions.

Play the Long Game: Aging and Brain

Free to all, meditation is a fountain of youth for mental aging. The human brain naturally begins to deteriorate in your 20s. Maintaining a healthy brain can be supported with the powerful practice of meditation.

Meditation is shown to thicken the pre-frontal cortex. This brain center manages higher order brain function, like increased awareness, concentration, and decision making. Changes in the brain show, with meditation, higher-order functions become stronger, while lower-order brain activities decrease. In other words, you have the power to train your brain.

Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist from Harvard Medical School, found consistency with meditation is key. In her study, she discovered that experienced meditators 40-50 years old had the same amount of gray matter as an average 20-30-year-old. In this older group, the health of the frontal cortex was maintained.

Brain Structures and Neuroplasticity 

Mindful meditation can create physical changes in the brain through neuroplasticity.

This increasingly popular concept refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize and change continuously throughout your lifespan. Behavior and lifestyle are major influencers on the brain. So, your life makes your brain constantly create new neural connections. That’s because neurons (nerve cells) actively adjust to compensate to changes in your environment.

Brain cells go through a process of reorganization, dynamically adapting by creating new pathways inside the brain. How you think and feel changes these neural structures. By flexing the muscle of thoughtful attention, again and again, you effectively change the “physique,” or shape, of your brain. And it’s doesn’t take much time, either.

Studies have shown it only takes eight weeks to change the shape of your brain, including an increase of gray matter volume. Gray matter is found in your central nervous system, and makes up of most of your brain’s neuronal cell bodies. This type of tissue is particularly important in areas responsible for muscle control, sensory perception, emotion, memory, decision-making, and self-control.

Through neuroplasticity, you can create and improve the connections between neurons as you alter the density of gray matter. You can effectively change your brain in just a few minutes a day.

Seeing the Brain Through Meditation

The gray matter in your brain tells a lot about what happens as you sit down for brain training. The many meditation benefits for the brain triggered by daily practice are staggering. But what happens, exactly, to produce these exciting effects?

During the first few minutes of your meditation session, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is the first area to light up. This part of the brain filters experiences through a self-referential lens. As you ease into a meditative state, your brain is still bouncing from thought to thought—the monkey mind active in the trees. Thoughts that surface can be exaggerated outcomes due to your lived experience.

When you’re able to rein in your attention, the lateral prefrontal cortex activates. Regardless of the method you use—a mantra or breath—this shift can help you override the “me” from moments earlier. Thoughts during this phase are more rational and balanced, helping you see a more neutral perspective. Now you’ve settled into the sweet spot of meditation.

Practice for several weeks (8 to 12) activates the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. In this state, empathy can develop, and compassion easily arises. This range of activation in the brain becomes stronger the longer you practice. The dedicated practice creates a gateway to a dynamic, gracious life.

Release Chemical Helpers with Mediation

Your brain naturally releases key neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that help regulate the balance of vital hormones. They influence systems throughout the mind and body.

Studies show practicing meditation can directly impact the level of these crucial neurotransmitters produced in the brain. Mindfulness can have a measurable impact on these brain chemicals:

  • Serotonin—increases this “feel good” chemical to help regulate mood
  • Cortisol—decreases this stress hormone
  • DHEA—boosts levels of this longevity hormone
  • GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid)—improves the calming effect of this major inhibitory transmitter in your central nervous system (CNS)
  • Endorphins—increases the “natural high” of this overall happiness neurotransmitter
  • Growth Hormone—elevates levels of this youth-preserving chemical that naturally declines with age
  • Melatonin—boosts this “sleep hormone” responsible for restful sleep and helps with mood regulation

Moving Towards Alpha

Your bustling brain is a continuous source of electrical activity. It makes sense. Neurons communicate with each other through electricity.

Brainwaves convey information through a rate of repetition—oscillations so powerful they can be detected. An electroencephalogram (EEG) machine measures five basic types of brainwaves, at different frequencies, slow to fast. Corresponding to Greek letters: delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma. As you might guess by now, meditation allows you to manipulate the frequency of your brainwaves.

Meet the 5 Main Types of Brain Frequencies

  1. Gamma brainwaves: The fastest measurable brainwaves detected by EEG. This quick, oscillating brainwave is associated with heightened mental activity including perception, learning, consciousness, and problem solving. They’re active when your brain is processing information from different regions simultaneously.
  2. Beta brainwaves: Detected during active, alert, and busy thinking. They are present at times of concentration, conversation, or when you focus on a task.
  3. Alpha brainwaves: Identifiable when the mind is in a calm, relaxed, yet alert state. They are present during creative activities, found right before you fall asleep, and increase during meditation.
  4. Theta brainwaves: Measured during deep meditation, day dreaming, or REM sleep. They can also be detected while performing automatic, repeated tasks that disengage the brain, like showering or washing dishes.
  5. Delta brainwaves: These slow brainwaves occur during deep, restorative sleep where you lose body awareness altogether.

Your brainwaves are just one aspect of the complex processes in the mind that produce your experience. And meditation can help you control them.

As you meditate and turn attention within yourself, alpha and theta waves increase. Producing alpha waves helps you tap into the voluntary onset of rest and relaxation. This wave comes over you when you’re not focusing with effort on anything in particular.

Dipping into alpha oscillation through meditation can also fuel your creativity. A 2015 study showed a surge in creativity induced by producing more alpha waves. Moving towards alpha waves isn’t a magic elixir, but it’s a promising start to accessing a calmer, more imaginative life experience.

Your Mindful Destination

For a beginning practitioner, developing mindfulness takes dedication. But as you deepen your craft through physical repetition and mind-body connection, you’ll experience the mediation benefits for the brain. Increased research on meditation presents proven benefits for well-being, enhanced memory and attention, a boost in serotonin, and the list keeps growing.

Training your brain to still fluctuations is easier than it sounds. If you haven’t tried it, meditation is simple. It requires no extra equipment, no previous training. Simply sit in a comfortable position, either in a chair on the floor, and begin to focus on your breath. When your attention strays, gently bring your thoughts back to your breath.

Countless methods exist to practice creating a healthy brain and body through meditation.

Try varying your technique by trying out vipassana, breathwork, transcendental meditation, chanting, focused attention, and moving meditation, to name a few. Each of these can be guided or silent.

Seek out the method that’s best for you. But just trying it on for size is the important part. Step off life’s crazy ride for a few minutes each day to go deeper into the mechanics of your own mind. With regular training, you’ll bring resilience to your mental state, better manage high levels of stress, and become more agile in the face of distressing thoughts, anxiety, and distraction.

Meditation, just like exercise, can transform your brain. As a more mindful individual, you’ll create a more whole, conscious experience with more meaningful connection. It’s within your power to change your brain—start today.

Meditation: Process and effects

Ayu. 2015 Jul-Sep; 36(3): 233–237.

Hari Sharma

Center for Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Center for Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Address for correspondence: Dr. Hari Sharma, OSU Center for Integrative Medicine, 2000 Kenny Road, Columbus, Ohio 43221, USA. E-mail: [email protected] : © AYU (An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda)

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License, which allows others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as the author is credited and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.


Meditation has become popular in many Western nations, especially the USA. An increasing body of research shows various health benefits associated with meditation and these findings have sparked interest in the field of medicine. The practice of meditation originated in the ancient Vedic times of India and is described in the ancient Vedic texts. Meditation is one of the modalities used in Ayurveda (Science of Life), the comprehensive, natural health care system that originated in the ancient Vedic times of India. The term “meditation” is now loosely used to refer to a large number of diverse techniques. According to Vedic science, the true purpose of meditation is to connect oneself to one’s deep inner Self. Techniques which achieve that goal serve the true purpose of meditation. Neurological and physiological correlates of meditation have been investigated previously. This article describes the process of meditation at a more fundamental level and aims to shed light on the deeper underlying mechanism of the beneficial effects associated with meditation. Research on the effects of meditation is summarized.

Keywords: Ayurveda, consciousness, meditation, Veda


The practice of meditation has become popular in many Western nations, especially the USA. An ever-increasing body of research shows various health benefits associated with meditation and these findings have sparked interest in the field of medicine.[1,2,3] The practice of meditation originated in the ancient Vedic times of India and is described in the Vedic texts. [4,5,6,7] Meditation is one of the modalities used in Ayurveda (Science of Life), the comprehensive, natural health care system that originated in the ancient Vedic times of India.[8] The term “meditation” is now loosely used to refer to a large number of diverse techniques. These include contemplation, concentration, use of nature sounds such as the ocean, guided meditation, meditative movement exercises such as Yoga and tai chi, qigong, breathing exercises, and Mantra. These techniques work at different levels such as the senses, mind, intellect, and emotions. Some techniques are easy to learn and practice, while others are more difficult and can result in participants giving up the practice rather quickly. According to Vedic science (the knowledge of the Vedic texts of ancient India), the true purpose of meditation is to connect oneself to one’s deep inner Self. Techniques which achieve that goal serve the true purpose of meditation.

The neurological and physiological correlates of meditative experiences have been investigated previously. [8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16] This article describes the process of meditation at a more fundamental level and aims to shed light on the deeper underlying mechanism of the beneficial effects associated with meditation. Research on the effects of meditation is summarized.

The process of meditation

To truly understand meditation, one has to understand how the human being is viewed by Vedic science – the knowledge of the Vedic texts of ancient India.[4,5,6,7] The human being consists of three aspects, with their associated functions:

  1. Physical body

  2. Inner faculty: The working consciousness, which is constantly changing. This consists of:

    • Mind: Processes sensory perceptions; has the quality of duality, as seen in pairs of opposites, for example, pleasure and pain, good and bad, hot and cold, etc.

    • Intellect: Analyzes, discriminates, decides, and judges

    • Ego: Doer and experiencer

    • Chitta: The storehouse of all memories and impressions of life

  3. Deep inner Self: The nonchanging pure consciousness, which has the quality of unity and witnesses the activity of the inner faculty. The deep inner Self is the source of all knowledge, intelligence, creativity, and all natural laws that govern existence.

According to Vedic science, the deep inner Self activates the inner faculty (working consciousness), which in turn activates the physical body. A feedback loop is provided by meditation, in which a conscious connection is made with the deep inner Self. This view of the human being correlates with the scientific view of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the body. On the cellular level, DNA creates and controls all activities in the body. Information from the DNA proceeds to ribonucleic acid (RNA), then to the amino acids, through which proteins are formed. A feedback loop to the DNA starts a new cycle to provide whatever is needed for the activities of the cell. In meditation, the feedback loop to the deep inner Self (the seat of knowledge, like DNA) provides inner peace and bliss, which removes the accumulated stresses of life and improves overall health.

Human beings routinely experience three states of consciousness:

  • Waking

  • Dreaming

  • Deep sleep.

When the inner faculty is in the waking state of consciousness, it is aware of the physical body and is involved with the outside objective world. In the dreaming state of consciousness, it is aware of the inner dream world, but is not aware of the physical body. In the deep sleep state of consciousness, the inner faculty is not functioning at all and is not aware of anything. In this state, dualities such as pleasure and pain, good and bad, etc., are not experienced. There is no experience of stress, anxiety, guilt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, etc. The only experience in this state of unity is peace and bliss. This is why deep sleep or a “good night’s sleep” feels so good.

The deep inner Self is always witnessing, or watching, the activity of the inner faculty. The experience of watching one’s thoughts or daydreams occurs when the deep inner Self witnesses the activity of the waking state. During the dreaming state, this is experienced as watching one’s dreams. During the deep sleep state, however, the inner faculty is asleep and not functioning on the level of duality. This is experienced as the peace and bliss of unity, and upon waking one feels refreshed from a good night’s sleep.

There are various forms of meditation. The meditation process described herein attains the goal of meditation described in the ancient Vedic texts. This meditation process takes the mind from the outer realm of the objective world to the inner realm of the inner faculty (which includes the mind, intellect, ego, and Chitta – the storehouse of all memories and impressions of life), and finally goes beyond both the outer and inner realms to reach the deep inner Self. This deep inner Self is nonchanging pure consciousness, which witnesses the activity of the inner faculty. The inner faculty is the working consciousness, which is constantly changing. Going beyond the changing inner faculty to the nonchanging pure consciousness provides inner peace and bliss, which removes the accumulated stresses of life. This results in energizing the body and improving overall health.[7]

In deep sleep, the unity of the deep inner Self is experienced. In the process of meditation, one experiences the unity of the deep inner Self while aware and not sleeping. This experience of the peace and bliss of unity modifies the inner faculty. The properties of the deep inner Self begin to extend into the inner faculty, and since the deep inner Self is the source of all knowledge (which correlates with DNA on the physical level), the benefits of this process extend to all aspects of life – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.

Effects of Meditation

During the process of meditation, accumulated stresses are removed, energy is increased, and health is positively affected overall.[7] Research has confirmed a myriad of health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. These include stress reduction,[1,2,17,18,19,20] decreased anxiety,[1,17,19,21,22] decreased depression,[1,17,18,23,24] reduction in pain (both physical and psychological),[2,25,26] improved memory,[2,27] and increased efficiency. [12,28,29,30] Physiological benefits include reduced blood pressure,[2,31,32,33] heart rate,[2,16] lactate,[15,34] cortisol,[35,36,37] and epinephrine;[38] decreased metabolism,[15] breathing pattern,[39,40] oxygen utilization, and carbon dioxide elimination;[15,41] and increased melatonin,[42,43] dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S),[44,45] skin resistance,[15,16] and relative blood flow to the brain. Meditation increases regional cerebral blood flow in the frontal and anterior cingulate regions of the brain,[46,47,48,49,50] increases efficiency in the brain’s executive attentional network,[12,28,29,30] and increases electroencephalogram (EEG) coherence.[13,14] A study on the effect of meditation on the executive attentional network found that meditators were faster on all tasks.[12] With aging, the brain cortical thickness (gray matter, which contains neurons) decreases, whereas meditation experience is associated with an increase in gray matter in the brain.[11,26,51,52]

Meditation decreases sympathetic overstimulation[53,54] and reduces cholesterol[55,56,57] and smoking. [58,59,60] A study investigating the effects of meditation on exercise-induced myocardial ischemia in patients with coronary artery disease found that meditation significantly increased exercise tolerance and maximal workload, and delayed the onset of ST-segment depression.[61] In a randomized, controlled trial of 201 African-American men and women with coronary heart disease, the effects of meditation versus health education were investigated. After 5 years, there was a 48% risk reduction in deaths, heart attacks, and strokes in the meditation group. There was also a significant drop in blood pressure and significant reduction in psychosocial stress factors.[19] Efficacy of meditation techniques has been found for epilepsy, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and menopausal symptoms.[1] Benefits have been demonstrated for mood and anxiety disorders,[1,17,21,22] autoimmune illness,[1,54] and emotional disturbances in neoplastic disease.[1,62]

Research has shown that a program of comprehensive lifestyle changes (including vegetarian diet and stress management – meditation and breathing exercises) improved health and modulated gene expression in prostate cancer patients who were not treated with surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy. This 3-month study showed changes in more than 500 genes: 48 genes were up-regulated and 453 genes were down-regulated. The down-regulated genes included disease-promoting genes with critical roles in tumorigenesis.[63] There are distinct gene expression changes induced not only by physical influences, but also by psychological, social, and cultural factors, as identified by the emerging field of psychosocial genomics.[64] Meditation and Yoga practices positively affect gene expression.[65,66]

Telomerase is the enzyme responsible for protecting and maintaining the length of telomeres, the protective caps at the end of chromosomes that promote chromosomal stability. Shorter telomeres are associated with accelerated aging and related diseases. Chronic stress reduces telomerase activity and accelerates telomere shortening and premature aging.[67,68,69] Meditation and Yoga practices improve telomerase activity and telomere length.[70,71] A study investigating the effect of meditation on the aging process showed that long-term meditators have a significantly younger biological age compared to short-term meditators and controls. [72] Meditation has resulted in a significant reduction in payments to physicians by a government health insurance agency. Over a period of 5 years, there was a cumulative reduction of 28% in high-cost meditators compared to high-cost nonmeditators.[73]


Meditation, as described in the ancient Vedic texts, is an exercise of consciousness that results in the expansion of consciousness beyond the day-to-day experience of duality. It is an experience of unity, which reduces stress and brings increased creativity and efficiency to the functioning of the inner faculty. This is an exercise that occurs without the mind directing the process. In physical exercise, the mind does not tell the muscles to get stronger; rather, the muscles are strengthened automatically by the exercise process. Likewise, in this exercise of consciousness, that is, meditation, the results are achieved automatically, not by controlling the mind or any other mental manipulation. The process of meditation goes beyond the mind to the deepest level of the inner Self.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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4 Ways Meditation Changes the Brain

1. Meditation Changes Structures in the Brain

Some studies suggest practicing mindfulness meditation can actually change the structures of the brain. A study published in the journal Psychiatry Research that was conducted by a team of researchers at Harvard University used brain scans to determine that eight weeks of a mindfulness training program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) increased the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls learning and memory and plays an important role in emotion regulation.  (1)

While scientists are still working to understand the effects of volume increases or decreases of the hippocampus, it is generally believed that increases correlate to improved emotional regulation, while decreases are a risk factor for negative emotions, like stress. Additionally, several mental health disorders, including major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are associated with decreased volume and density of the hippocampus.

The study also found decreases in the volume of the amygdala, the part of the brain involved with experiencing emotions like fear, stress, and anxiety. What’s more, the observed brain changes matched the participants’ self-reporting of their levels of stress, meaning meditation not only altered structures in the brain, but how those practicing it actually felt.

A follow up study by the same researchers published in February 2014 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience also found that changes in the brain following meditation corresponded to improvements in participants’ perceived level of stress. (2)

2. Meditation and Stress Regulation

A small study published in July 2016 in the journal Biological Psychiatry used brain scans to analyze the effects of meditation on the brain and people’s health. (3)

For the study, researchers recruited 35 unemployed adults who were seeking employment and were under a considerable amount of stress. The participants were put into two groups for a three-day intervention: one that was taught a formal program of mindfulness meditation and one that was taught a sort of “fake” meditation program focusing on distracting oneself from worries, such as with chatter or jokes.

At the end of the intervention, participants underwent brain scans and found that those who had participated in the meditation training showed more expressive activity in the areas of the brain related to resting state.

At a follow up four months later, those who participated in the meditation group also had lower levels of a marker in their blood tied to unhealthy inflammation, a physical condition closely related to stress.

3. How Meditation Can Help Improve Focus and Concentration

In today’s busy world with its many distractions, everyone has trouble keeping focus from time to time. Perhaps not surprisingly, scientists say there’s reason to believe that meditating can help with that.

A study published in March 2013 in the journal Psychological Science suggests that mindfulness meditation can decrease mind wandering and improve cognitive performance. (4) The researchers found that a two-week mindfulness meditation course helped participants’ focus and memory while completing the GRE. The training led to improved scores and reduced the occurrence of distracted thoughts.

Another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found similar results. (5) Researchers compared the brains of experience meditators to those of people new to the practice and paid particular attention to the default mode network (DMN), or the part of the brain that is active when the person is not focused on the outside world. Essentially, it’s responsible for the wandering thoughts that appear when you’re sitting still or about to go to sleep.

The researchers found that in experienced meditators, the DMN was relatively deactivated while the participants were practicing various forms of meditation, which translates to fewer distracted thoughts than the novice meditators.

4. Meditation and Protecting the Aging Brain

Preliminary research also suggests that meditation may help protect the brain against aging. Research published in the journal NeuroImage by a team from UCLA suggested that people who meditate have less age-related atrophy in the brain’s white matter. (6)

A follow-up study published in January 2015 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that meditation also appears to help preserve the brain’s gray matter, the tissue that contains neurons and is connected by the white matter. (7)

For the study, the same researchers compared the brains of 50 people who had meditated regularly over the course of 20 years with the brains of those who didn’t. Individuals in both groups showed a loss of gray brain matter as they aged, but for those who meditated, it declined less.

The researchers cautioned that the study cannot draw a cause and effect relationship between meditation and preserving gray matter in the brain. Still, they say it is promising, and call for more research to further explore the practice’s potential protective benefits on the aging brain.

What is Meditation & How Does It Affects Our Brains?

Ever since my dad tried to convince me to meditate when I was about 12, I’ve been fairly skeptical of this practice. It always seemed to be so vague and hard to understand that I just decided it wasn’t for me.

More recently, I’ve actually found how simple (not easy, but simple) meditation can be and what huge benefit it can have for my day to day happiness. As an adult, I first started my meditation practice with just two minute per day. Two minutes! I got that idea from Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog, where he points out how starting with a tiny habit is the first step to consistently achieving it. So even thought two minutes won’t make much difference, that’s where I started.

Whether you’re as skeptical as I used to be, or you’re well ahead of me with a meditation habit of several hours, I think it’s always interesting to find out how new habits affect our brains. I had a look into meditation to see what’s going on inside our brains when we do this, and what I found is pretty interesting.

What is meditation?

There are different ways to meditate, and since it’s such a personal practice there are probably more than any of us know about. There are a couple that are usually focused on heavily in scientific research, though. These are focused-attention, or mindful meditation, which is where you focus on one specific thing—it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. The point of this type of meditation is to focus strongly on one point and continually bring your attention back to that focal point when it wanders.

The other type of meditation that’s often used in research is open-monitoring meditation. This is where you pay attention to all of the things happening around you—you simply notice everything without reacting.

What happens in your brain when you meditate

This is where things get really interesting. Using modern technology like fMRI scans, scientists have developed a more thorough understanding of what’s taking place in our brains when we meditate, kind of similar to how scientists have previously looked at measuring creativity in our brains.

The overall difference is that our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would. We start to show a decrease in beta waves, which indicate that our brains are processing information, even after a single 20-minute meditation session if we’ve never tried it before.

In the image below you can see how the beta waves (shown in bright colors on the left) are dramatically reduced during meditation (on the right).

Below is the best explanation I found of what happens in each part of the brain during meditation:

Frontal lobe
This is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness. During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to go offline.

Parietal lobe
This part of the brain processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.

The gatekeeper for the senses, this organ focuses your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals in their tracks. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.

Reticular formation
As the brain’s sentry, this structure receives incoming stimuli and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditating dials back the arousal signal.

How meditation affects us

Now that we know what’s going on inside our brains, let’s take a look at the research into the ways it affects our health. It’s in fact very similar to how exercising affects our brains.

Better focus

Because meditation is a practice in focusing our attention and being aware of when it drifts, this actually improves our focus when we’re not meditating, as well. It’s a lasting effect that comes from regular bouts of meditation.

Focused attention is very much like a muscle, one that needs to be strengthened through exercise.

Less anxiety

This point is pretty technical, but it’s really interesting. The more we meditate, the less anxiety we have, and it turns out this is because we’re actually loosening the connections of particular neural pathways. This sounds bad, but it’s not.

What happens without meditation is that there’s a section of our brains that’s sometimes called the Me Center (it’s technically the medial prefrontal cortex). This is the part that processes information relating to ourselves and our experiences. Normally the neural pathways from the bodily sensation and fear centers of the brain to the Me Center are really strong. When you experience a scary or upsetting sensation, it triggers a strong reaction in your Me Center, making you feel scared and under attack.

When we meditate, we weaken this neural connection. This means that we don’t react as strongly to sensations that might have once lit up our Me Centers. As we weaken this connection, we simultaneously strengthen the connection between what’s known as our Assessment Center (the part of our brains known for reasoning) and our bodily sensation and fear centers. So when we experience scary or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally. Here’s a good example:

For example, when you experience pain, rather than becoming anxious and assuming it means something is wrong with you, you can watch the pain rise and fall without becoming ensnared in a story about what it might mean.

More creativity

As a writer, this is one thing I’m always interested in and we’ve explored the science of creativity in depth before. Unfortunately, it’s not the most easy thing to study, but there is some research into how meditation can affect our creativity. Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands studied both focused-attention and open-monitoring mediation to see if there was any improvement in creativity afterwards. They found that people who practiced focused-attention meditation did not show any obvious signs of improvement in the creativity task following their meditation. For those who did open-monitoring meditation, however, they performed better on a task that asked them to come up with new ideas.

More compassion

Research on meditation has shown that empathy and compassion are higher in those who practice meditation regularly. One experiment showed participants images of other people that were either good, bad or neutral in what they called “compassion meditation.” The participants were able to focus their attention and reduce their emotional reactions to these images, even when they weren’t in a meditative state. They also experienced more compassion for others when shown disturbing images.

Part of this comes from activity in the amygdala—the part of the brain that processes emotional stimuli. During meditation, this part of the brain normally shows decreased activity, but in this experiment it was exceptionally responsive when participants were shown images of people.

Another study in 2008 found that people who meditated regularly had stronger activation levels in their temporal parietal junctures (a part of the brain tied to empathy) when they heard the sounds of people suffering, than those who didn’t meditate.

Better memory

One of the things meditation has been linked to is improving rapid memory recall. Catherine Kerr, a researcher at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Center found that people who practiced mindful meditation were able to adjust the brain wave that screens out distractions and increase their productivity more quickly that those that did not meditate. She said that this ability to ignore distractions could explain “their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.” This seems to be very similar to the power of being exposed to new situations that will also dramatically improve our memory of things.

Less stress

Mindful meditation has been shown to help people perform under pressure while feeling less stressed. A 2012 study split a group of human resources managers into three, which one third participating in mindful meditation training, another third taking body relaxation training and the last third given no training at all. A stressful multitasking test was given to all the managers before and after the eight-week experiment. In the final test, the group that had participated in the meditation training reported less stress during the test than both of the other groups.

More gray matter

Meditation has been linked to larger amounts of gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain. I didn’t know what this meant at first, but it turns out it’s pretty great. More gray matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability and heightened focus during daily life.

Meditation has also been shown to diminish age-related effects on gray matter and reduce the decline of our cognitive functioning.

Getting started with Meditation

Here’s a great infographic that gives an overview of the different kinds of meditation and some tips for fitting in meditation at work.

An awesome app to get started with meditation – Getheadspace

Note from Leo: One of the best apps I’ve come across to help you get started with Meditation is called Headspace. Invented by a former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, this is meditation geared towards busy people like you and me.

The way it works is that Andy guides you through 10 minutes of simple meditation every day. You don’t have to do anything, just sit down and turn on the app and let Andy’s calm voice (his voice is truly amazing – the app is worth trying just for that!) explain to you how to approach meditation.

The best part about the app is of course that it’s completely free! For any beginning meditator, this is the best option I’ve come across to start reaping the amazing benefits of meditation and start on a new path to a happier life.

Over to you now. Have you played with the thought of meditation or have you been doing it before? I’d love your comments on the topic below, you can also email me or find me on Twitter at @BelleBethCooper.

Image credits: Free Meditation, Suzanne Morgan Yoga, Keith Ramsey

Science of Mindfulness: What Happens to Your Brain When You Meditate

Is it in our power at all to make changes to our own brain? Pexels

There are 80 to 100 billion neurons in a human brain, and every single one of them can form thousands of connections with other neurons, leading to a complex network of hundreds of trillions of synapses that enable brain cells to communicate with each other.

Like a computer network built from five hundred trillion transistors, each representing a “bit” of information depending on whether it is “on” or “off.” —Rick Hanson, PhD

Yet, despite the best efforts and findings of modern neuroscience, the true functioning of our mind remains one of the greatest and most fascinating mysteries. We know a lot about how our brain helps us stay alive, communicate, and perceive the world around us. But this knowledge, however brilliant, continues to change at an extraordinary pace and represents only a tip of a gigantic iceberg whose full beauty is hiding well from our sight.

Is it then preposterous to consider that something as trivial as focusing our mind and breathing steadily for a short time every day could have a profound effect on our well-being? Is it in our power at all to make changes to our own brain?

Is it in our power at all to make changes to our own brain? Author provided

Let me illustrate. A year ago, I was suffering from persistent cough for a couple of weeks. No other symptoms whatsoever, just the pain in my chest, getting worse day by day. I’m not a smoker. I exercise often, I do my best to eat healthy, I fast, and I put a great emphasis on my spiritual growth. So when I tried to figure out what was wrong with me, I realized that I couldn’t really remember the last time when I had meditated.

The same evening, I sat outside in the fresh air and breathed slowly for 10 minutes while reviving happy, gratifying memories in my mind, which is what usually works for me to attain cardiac and physiological coherence as described by the psychiatrist and neuroscientist David Servan-Schreiber in his book The Instinct to Heal:

“In a study published by the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr. Watkins and researchers from the HeartMath Institute have demonstrated that the very act of recollecting a positive emotion or imagining a pleasurable scene rapidly provokes a transition of heart rate variability toward a phase of coherence. Coherence in heart rhythm affects the emotional brain, fostering stability and signaling that everything is in working order physiologically. The emotional brain reacts to this message by reinforcing coherence in the heart.”

The next day, the cough was 90% gone.

In the past, I have experienced similar episodes several times. When I’m facing a health problem which can’t be fixed by a time-proven combination of good sleep, proper hydration, balanced diet, and exercise, it usually means that my body is giving me a signal to remember that crucial 10-minute healing time.

For long, I’d had only a vague idea of how this works in my brain — something like “pushing a button” to send a signal that says: “Okay, for a few moments I won’t bother you with stressors and frustrations, so do what’s best for me”. It turned out, though, that a few neuroscientists have been studying the effects of ancient mindfulness techniques on our brains, with some pretty compelling results.

Until only quite recently, most of the brain research had been done with animals. The introduction of Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) into clinical practice in the 1980s has resulted in substantial scientific advancement. Since then, researchers have been able to measure the activity and changes in the individual parts of the brain in humans.

Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, uses the MRI technology to look at very fine, detailed brain structures and see what is happening to the brain while a person is performing a certain task, including yoga and meditation.

According to her own words, Lazar herself used to be skeptical about the lofty claims her yoga teacher had made about the emotional benefits of meditations she should have expected to experience. When after attending several classes, she indeed felt calmer, happier, and more compassionate, she decided to re-focus her research on the changes in the brain’s physical structure as a result of meditation practice.


In her first study, Lazar looked at individuals with extensive meditation experience, which involved focused attention on internal experiences (no mantras or chanting). The data proved, among others, that meditation may slow down or prevent age-related thinning of the frontal cortex that otherwise contributes to the formation of memories. The common knowledge says that when people get older, they tend to forget stuff. Interestingly, Lazar and her team found out that 40–50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter in their cortex as the 20–30-year-old ones.

Preservation of cortical thickness. Sara Lazar/Harvard

For her second study, she engaged people who had never meditated before and put them through a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training program, where they took a weekly class and were told to perform mindfulness exercises, including body scan, mindful yoga, and sitting meditation, every day for 30 to 40 minutes. Lazar wanted to test the participants for positive effects of mindfulness meditation on their psychological well-being and alleviating symptoms of various disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorder, insomnia, or chronic pain.

After eight weeks, she found out that the brain volume increased in four regions, from which the most relevant were:

HIPPOCAMPUS: a seahorse-shaped structure responsible for learning, storage of memories, spatial orientation, and regulation of emotions.

TEMPOROPARIETAL JUNCTION: the area where temporal and parietal lobes meet and which is responsible for empathy and compassion.

On the other hand, the one area whose brain volume decreased was:

AMYGDALA: an almond-shaped structure responsible for triggering the fight-or-flight response as a reaction to a threat, whether real or only perceived.

Change in amygdala gray matter. Sara Lazar/Harvard

Here, the decrease in gray matter correlated with changes in the levels of stress. The smaller their amygdala became, the less stressed people felt, even though their external environment remained the same. It proved that the change in amygdala reflected the change in the people’s reactions to their environment, not in the environment itself.


Our brain develops and adapts throughout our whole lives. This phenomenon, called neuroplasticity, means that gray matter can thicken or shrink, connections between neurons can be improved, new ones can be created, and old ones degraded or even terminated.

For a long time it was believed that once your “child brain” was fully developed, the only thing you could anticipate for the future was a gradual decline. Now we know that our everyday behaviors literally change our brains. And it seems that the same mechanisms which allow our brains to learn new languages or sports can help us learn how to be happy.

Neuroscientist Lara Boyd from the University of British Columbia points out that the human brain changes in three ways to support learning of new things:

1. CHEMICAL — Transfer of chemical signals between neurons, which is linked to short-term improvement (e.g. of a memory or a motor skill).

2. STRUCTURAL — Changes in connections between neurons, which are linked to long-term improvement.

It means that the brain regions that are important for specific behaviors may change their structure or enlarge. These changes need more time to take place, which underlines the importance of a dedicated practice.

3. FUNCTIONAL — Increased excitability of a brain region in relation to a certain behavior.

In essence, the more you use a particular brain region, the easier it is to trigger its use again.

“Repeat those behaviors that are healthy for your brain and break those behaviors and habits that are not. Practice… and build the brain you want.” —Lara Boyd, PT, PhD


If we embrace the idea that our well-being is a skill that can be cultivated, then it’s obvious that meditation is simply a form of exercise tailored for our brain. While there is not enough scientific data available to measure the benefits of a 5-minute versus a 30-minute mindfulness session, the way in which our brain changes over time suggests that we can actively foster lasting results with regular practice.

Scientists from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison define well-being from the viewpoint of these 4 areas:


In a study that examined response to positive images, individuals with higher activity in those brain regions linked to positive emotions reported a higher level of psychological well-being.


There is evidence that mindfulness training leads to greater resilience to painful stimuli. In this study, experienced meditators reported the same pain intensity as individuals with little mindfulness experience, but less unpleasantness.


Behavior that increases social bonds and improves the quality of social relationships increases well-being. Research then suggests that compassion can be cultivated with mental training.


Mindfulness, defined as paying attention to the present moment without judgment, makes people happier. A study where a smartphone app was used to monitor people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions showed that their minds were wandering approximately half of the time, and while doing so they reported significantly more unhappiness.

Mindfulness, defined as paying attention to the present moment without judgment, makes people happier. Author provided

“Well-being has been found to be elevated when individuals are better able to sustain positive emotion; recover more quickly from negative experiences; engage in empathic and altruistic acts; and express high levels of mindfulness.” —Richard J. Davidson, PhD & Brianna S. Schuyler, PhD

We tend to blame our brain a great deal — for inability to remember, for making us feel bad, for being slow… — as if it was a capricious ruler whom the rest of our body needs to follow no matter what. We refuse to assume responsibility for our brain’s health and our mind’s happiness. If we did, we could experience this phenomenal organ becoming our loyal friend rather than an eternal enemy.

We understand that to be able to run a 10k race or to do 50 pushups, we should exercise regularly. Yet we get put off when our brain doesn’t yield results instantly. Like: “Hey, I’ve meditated for 20 min and I still feel awful. What a new-age hype!”

The human brain is extremely plastic and establishes new neural connections daily. These intricate networks, however, need to be reinforced and consolidated through our behavior, just like a path through a forest needs to be walked, otherwise it will be grown over and eventually disappear.

Meditation can relax you and regulate your emotions in the short term, but it can also change your brain permanently if you approach it as a form of mental exercise. Although different mindfulness teachers will teach you different ways how to meditate, it’s inevitable that you seek your own. For example, I much prefer lying on my back to the often-prescribed lotus pose. Or I use an app to regulate my breathing rhythm but those with human voice-over irritate me. What suits one may not suit another and vice versa.

Any type of learning is a highly individual process, with the common denominator being plain hard work. And science shows that if we invest our effort into reprogramming our brains, it can truly guide us towards a better life.

Kristyna Zapletal is a coach for innovators and change makers. Her book for mindful entrepreneurs is just being born.

Meditation for Mental Fitness, Energy, and Overall Health

While meditation is surrounded by religion, beliefs, and superstitions, it is a valid body state like any other, such as arousal or sleep. By learning to meditate, you can reap the benefits of this body state which include relaxation, energy, and perspective on your life. Meditation is being taken seriously by health researchers interested in stress reduction and methods to improve overall health.

Steps to Meditation for Health

Meditation is used by people interested in addressing conditions such as anxiety, pain, depression, emotional problems, insomnia, and stress. Meditation is also the ultimate brain workout. Here’s how to get started.


Find a place where you can sit comfortably, uninterrupted for about 20 minutes. The most important thing is to sit with your back as straight as possible. Some people find that sitting on the edge of a cushion helps keep the back straight.

You will hear about special meditation cushions, candles, incense, statues, bells, and so forth — don’t worry about any of that stuff. The important thing is to sit comfortably and to practice meditation often. You can add accessories whenever you want.

Set a Timer

At times when you are meditating, you may secretly be looking for any excuse to get up and do something else. One of the most compelling excuses is to “check the time.” Often during meditation, your sense of timing is lost and that leads to the feeling that you have gone past the time you set for meditation. This will often happen after you have been sitting for 1 or 2 minutes.

A timer helps to assure you that you have not meditated too long. If you do not have a timer, you will probably look at a clock or your watch every 30 seconds.

Set a timer and then forget about time while meditating.


Breathing is a unique bodily function. It is automatic, we take over 10 million breaths per year without noticing, but we can also control breathing voluntarily. Think of breathing as to how we can communicate with our bodies. If we breathe slowly, our bodies relax. While you sit:

This is your only task in meditation — be aware of your breath. If your thoughts wander, just come back to breathing.

  • bring your attention to your breathing
  • notice everything about your breathing: the inhale, the exhale, and the tiny pause between them
  • breathe naturally, just be aware of your breath


The goal of meditation is not to have no thoughts (that is impossible) but to not interact with the thoughts that occur. If, while you are meditating, you start wondering when was the last time you changed the oil in your car, that is perfectly normal — just come back to your breathing and try not to ‘chase’ the thought.

Some people find it helps to label the thoughts. When you notice yourself drifting, just place a neutral label on the thoughts — if you are thinking about everything you have to do at work, label the thoughts ‘work’ and return to breathing.

Don’t Judge

Meditation is hard and perfect meditation is impossible. Your thoughts will drift. You will find that on some days you spend your entire meditation time thinking about your kitchen sink. Your awareness will drift away and the time will disappear. That is fine.

Whenever you drift, come back to being aware of sitting and breathing. Do not judge yourself. Do not create a train of thought about how you can’t meditate, how you are no good at this. Just come back to your breath.

Ignore the Voices in Your Head

While you meditate, there is a little voice inside your head trying to get you to stop.

Don’t listen to the voice. While you are meditating, there is nothing more important for you to do. Just sit.

  • This voice will come up with “great ideas” that you just have to write down immediately.
  • The voice will read your to-do list to you, leaving you feeling pressured to just stop and get something done.
  • The voice will, at least once, utterly convince you that your timer has stopped and you have been meditating for hours and are late for something.

Watch the “Thought Clouds” Drift

Treat meditation as an experiment. Watch yourself thinking. Examine how thoughts emerge randomly and then begin to connect to other thoughts. Watch what happens to thought if you do not nourish them. How do trains of thought stop?

Eventually, you will see that most thoughts are random and not really worth your time. You will also begin to develop an awareness apart from your thoughts. Perhaps the greatest lesson of meditation is that you are not your thoughts.

How to Incorporate a Meditation Practice in Your Daily Life

Many of the skills learned in meditation can be applied to your daily life. Take a two-minute breathing break several times during the day. Watch as your thoughts and ideas turn up at work, in conversation, or while you are solving a problem. Use the same experimental mindset and watch how you behave and think throughout the day.

  • Waiting in line
  • Doing the dishes
  • Feeling upset

Meditation is a skill that needs practice and more practice. Set a daily time for meditation and stick to it. Your brain will benefit from the endlessly fascinating journey into your own mind. Your body will benefit from the deep relaxation and stress reduction.​

90,000 7 changes meditation can actually make in the brain

Alice J. Walton, Forbes

Research in the field of “meditation and the brain” has been going on steadily for several years; Almost every week, new studies come out that illustrate some new benefits of meditation – or rather, some ancient benefits that have just been confirmed by fMRI and EEG. The practice of meditation seems to have an amazing array of positive neurological consequences, from changes in gray matter volume to decreased activity in the self centers of the brain and improved connections between brain regions.Below are some of the most exciting studies published over the past few years that have shown that meditation does indeed produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask: what is the use of several changes in the brain, if the psychological consequences are not simultaneously described? Fortunately, these psychological effects are also supported by many – research shows that meditation can help reduce our subjective levels of anxiety and depression and improve attention, focus, and overall psychological well-being.

Meditation Preserves the Aging Brain

Last week, a study by the University of California, Los Angeles found that long-term meditators have better brain health as they age than non-meditators. Participants who meditated for an average of 20 years had more gray matter in all parts of the brain – although older practitioners lost some volume compared to younger practitioners, this loss was not as pronounced as those who does not meditate.“We expected to find some minor and discrete manifestations centered in areas that had previously been linked to meditation,” says study author Florian Kurt. “Instead, we actually saw the widespread effects of meditation, encompassing areas throughout the brain.”

Meditation decreases activity in the brain “center I”

One of the most interesting studies of the past few years at Yale University found that mindfulness meditation reduces activity on the “default mode network” (DMN), the brain network responsible for wandering the mind and thoughts, with reference to to his “I” – that is, for the “monkey mind”.The passive network is “on” or active when we are not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are simply jumping from thought to thought. Since mental wandering is usually associated with less happiness, obsessive thinking (rumination), and anxiety about the past and future, the goal of many people is to weaken it. Several studies have shown that meditation — due to its calming effects on DMN — appears to be leading to this; and even when the mind begins to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better able to stop this wandering.

The effects of meditation on depression and anxiety are comparable to antidepressants

An expert study from Johns Hopkins University last year looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the magnitude of the effect of meditation was moderate, with a score of 0.3. If this sounds modest, remember that the effect size of antidepressants is also 0.3 – in light of which meditation seems like a pretty good option. After all, meditation is an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have the idea that to meditate is to sit down and do nothing,” says Goyal. “But it’s not like that. Meditation is an active training of the mind to develop awareness, and different meditation programs approach this from different angles. ” Meditation is not a magic pill for depression (like any other treatment), but one of the tools that can help you manage your symptoms.

Meditation can lead to volume changes in key areas of the brain

In 2011, Sarah Lazar and her team at Harvard discovered that mindfulness meditation can actually change brain structure: Eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) appears to increase the cortical thickness of the hippocampus, which controls learning and memory, and certain areas of the brain. that play a role in managing emotions and self-determination processes.There was also a 90,035 decrease in the 90,036 volume of brain cells in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety and stress – and these changes were in line with the participants’ reports of their stress levels (this shows that meditation not only changes the brain, but also changes our subjective perception and feelings ). In fact, in a follow-up study, Lazar’s team found that after undergoing meditation training, changes in the areas of the brain associated with mood and arousal were also consistent with how participants described the improvement in their well-being – i.e.e. their psychological well-being. So for those who argue that brain bumps are not necessarily meant to mean anything: our subjective experience of improving mood and well-being through meditation seems to actually change as well.

Just a few days of training improves concentration and focus

Having trouble concentrating is not just a child’s problem; it also affects millions of adults – with or without diagnosed attention deficit disorder.Interestingly (but not surprisingly) one of the main benefits of meditation is that it improves focus and concentration: one recent study found that just 90,035 couples of 90,036 weeks of meditation training improved concentration and memory in humans (as measured by GRE on verbal logical thinking). In fact, the increase in scores was equivalent to 16 percent – and this is a big deal. Since the powerful focusing of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the key goals in meditation, it should come as no surprise that meditation should also enhance the cognitive skills of people at work – but it’s good that science supports this.In addition, a little support in passing the standardized exams would not hurt anyone.

Meditation reduces anxiety and social phobia

Many people start meditating to reduce stress, and this logic is supported by a lot of evidence. There is a whole new subset of meditation mentioned earlier called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), developed by John Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Mindfulness Center and now available throughout the United States.The goal of this method is to reduce stress levels (physical and mental) in a particular person. Research has demonstrated its benefits in reducing anxiety, even several years after the initial 8-week course. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation – as opposed to observing purely breathing – can reduce anxiety, and that these changes appear to travel through brain regions associated with 90,035 self-referential thoughts.Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social phobia: A team at Stanford University found that MBSR made changes in the areas of the brain involved in attention and also found an improvement in symptoms of social phobia.

Meditation can help addicts

A growing body of research demonstrates that meditation (given its effect on the parts of the brain responsible for self-control) can be very effective in helping people get rid of addictions of all kinds.One study, for example, pitted mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s Smoke Free Program, and found that people who had mastered mindfulness were much more likely to quit smoking by the end of training and during 17 weeks of follow-up than those who did. usual treatment. This may be because meditation helps people to “separate” the state of desire from the act of smoking, so one does not have to lead to the other — instead, you fully experience and ride the “wave” of craving until it passes.Another study found that mindfulness training, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-bassed relapse prevention (MBRP) can be helpful in dealing with other types of addiction.

Brief meditation breaks can help children in school

For the developing brain, meditation is just as – or perhaps even more – promising as it is for adults.Educators and researchers are increasingly interested in introducing meditation and yoga to schoolchildren who face common sources of stress in school and often additional stress and trauma outside of school. Some schools have begun introducing meditation into their daily schedules, with success: one neighborhood in San Francisco has started a two-day meditation program in some of the high-risk schools – and children are less likely to be suspended, and average grades and attendance have improved.Research has confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits that meditation brings to schoolchildren, but more work will likely need to be done before it gains widespread acceptance.

Worth a try?

Meditation is not a panacea, but there is certainly plenty of evidence that meditation can be of some benefit to those who practice it regularly. Everyone – from Anderson Cooper and Congressman Tim Ryan to companies like Google, Apple and Target – are building meditation into their schedules; and its benefits seem to begin to be felt after a relatively short amount of practice.Some researchers caution that meditation can have negative effects under certain circumstances (called the “dark night” phenomenon), but for most people – especially if you have a good teacher – meditation is beneficial, not harmful. Of course, it should be tried: if you have a few minutes in the morning or evening (or both then and then), instead of turning on your phone or going online, see what happens if you try to calm your mind, or at least devote attention to your thoughts and letting them go without reacting to them.If the research is correct, just a few minutes of meditation can make a difference.

Source: 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain | Forbes

How to change your life through meditation: scientific arguments and practice :: Health :: RBC Style

On August 3, one of the main popularizers of Tibetan meditation in the West, Yonge Mingyur Rinpoche, comes to Moscow with a lecture.The author of Buddha, the Brain and the Neurophysiology of Happiness has been involved in brain research during meditation for many years, finding more and more evidence of its benefits for each of us.

What is meditation

Meditation is a variety of psychophysiological practices (religious or health-improving) that allow you to make your mind clearer, understand yourself and control your mind. Depending on the technique, meditations are based on concentration and / or willpower. Initially, the practice of meditation came from Hinduism.It occupies an important place in yoga. However, today meditation is increasingly talked about without an esoteric component – as a means to train your mind and become calmer.

Why meditation is useful from the point of view of science

There are over 3000 scientific studies on the benefits of meditation. They were attended by both Buddhist monks, who devoted thousands of hours to meditation, and beginners who practice meditation for 15 minutes a day. The results recorded positive changes in most of the subjects.And here are the ones.

  • Stress Reduction

For this, people usually begin to meditate. A study of 3,500 adults found it worked. When our bodies are suddenly stressed or threatened, the brain responds with a fight-or-flight response. It is caused by a surge in the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which leads to sleep disturbances, depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, fatigue and confusion. Meditation provides an opportunity to detach, become aware of the emergence of stress and choose how to respond to it.For example, it might be a regular relaxation practice that allows you to act rationally even under stress.

  • Disturbance control

There is a region in our brain that is responsible for fear. It is the amygdala, called the amygdala, which acts as a signaling device, looking for sources of danger. She saved the life of an ancient man, catching rustles in the forest or aggressive fellow tribesmen. For a modern person, it often works as a “false challenge”, awakening unwarranted anxiety.Studies have shown that the activity of the amygdala decreases when a person is in a meditative state. These data were obtained both in experiments with people without experience in meditation, and in trials with both healthy people and those with chronic anxiety. The effect is comparable to that of drugs, but does not cause side effects. Regular practice reprograms the center of fear, reduces anxiety and the symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

© Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Getty Images

  • Emotional Wellness

Our brains tend to emotionally color or “stick” to situations and problems.For example, if a person is in trouble at work, he may bring them into family life. Conversely, scrapes in your personal life can be reflected in your work. Meditation practitioners have the ability not to stick. See an emotion, a problem, be aware of it and not fall into the trap.

Scientists attribute this to a decrease in the production of substances called cytokines. They are released in response to stress, affect mood, and often cause depression. Connections appear in the brains of those who practice meditation that increase the level of empathy and the ability to rationally evaluate problems.

Research Shows Meditation Is As Effective As Antidepressants! Therefore, people with depression are increasingly prescribed it as an alternative to medication.

  • Raising awareness

As early as the eighth week of regular meditation, practitioners form their “unique brain” with well-developed areas. These areas are primarily associated with awareness and memory. Scientists are observing an increase in the thickness of the hippocampus, which increases the brain’s ability to learn new material and remember it, as well as regulate its emotions.It used to be thought that mindfulness is the effect of long reflection and self-concentration. It has now become clear that physical changes occur in the brain during meditation that help develop this skill.

  • Care Growth

Attention deficit problems are not unique to children; attention deficit disorder has been diagnosed in millions of adults. One of the main benefits of meditation is improving focus and concentration.Like sports training, daily meditation increases focus strength and endurance. It was found that two weeks of practice was enough to increase the attention rate by 16%. Through meditation, cognitive skills at work quickly develop – and we better concentrate on the tasks at hand.

  • Prevention of Brain Aging

I lost my keys, I can’t remember the name, I can’t solve a simple math problem – as we approach middle age, we are increasingly faced with similar problems.The decline in mental capacity is associated with a loss of volumes of gray matter – the brain neurons responsible for memory and learning. This is called aging-related cognitive decline. For many years, scientists believed this decline was inevitable, but research over the past two decades has shown that the adult brain changes throughout life. This is a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.

Regular meditation increases the neuroplasticity of the brain, preserves and even increases the concentration of gray matter.The brains of people over the age of 50 who are constantly practicing meditation “look” seven years younger.

  • Sleep improvement

Meditation helps you to relax and not get hung up on thoughts that interfere with sleep. This practice activates the area of ​​the brain that is responsible for the transition to deep sleep. Thanks to it, we fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.When the sleep characteristics of the two groups were compared (one practiced meditation, the other did not), it became clear that the participants who meditated fell asleep faster, their sleep was deeper and longer than those who did not meditate.

  • Pain control

Meditation reduces the perception of pain in the brain. It complements chronic pain medication or physical therapy. Research confirms that mindfulness calms down the brain centers responsible for pain, and over time, these changes take root and change the structure of the brain itself so that patients no longer feel pain as intensely as before.Polls show that they stop noticing her.

Clinics prescribe meditation to help patients cope with pain from heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also used to relieve migraines, chronic fatigue, and even multiple sclerosis.

How to start meditating

Most researchers agree that eight weeks of daily sessions of 10-12 minutes are enough to experience the positive effects of meditation.Experienced practitioners recommend meditating in the morning or immediately after waking up, when the brain is not yet preoccupied with solving a large number of problems.

It is not necessary to meditate while sitting at home. Simple breathing practice is available anytime, anywhere. Concentrating on the breath is the most common approach to meditation. The main thing is to focus on the process of inhaling and exhaling. If thoughts and emotions come during practice, you do not need to block them. Look at them from the side like a boat passing you on the river, and continue to concentrate on your breathing.

Basic Practice of Meditation from Mingyur Rinpoche

  • Sit in a relaxed position with your back straight.
  • Your eyes can be open or closed.
  • Take a couple of minutes to be calm. Think back to that sense of immersion in relaxation when you decided to take a break after a busy day.
  • Now just breathe through your mouth or nose.
  • Bring awareness to your breathing, feel the air being drawn into and out of your lungs.
  • Pause between inhalation and exhalation, in these intervals relax your awareness, immerse yourself in the process itself.
  • If thoughts come, try to focus on the breath again.
  • Continue this for 5-10 minutes.
  • Complete the exercise with rest in a calm state.

90,000 Brain and Meditation

When in 2005The Neuroscience Society called Tenzin Gyatso

(14th Dalai Lama) to his annual meeting in Washington,

among 35 thousand people present, several hundred people demanded

cancel the invitation. They believed that at a scientific meeting there is no

seats for religious leaders. But it turned out that it was he who asked

to the audience a provocative and useful question. Tenzin Gyatso

asked: “What connection can there be between Buddhism,

ancient Indian religious and philosophical traditions and modern

science? ” Before starting a conversation, the Dalai Lama had already

do something to find the answer to this question.In the 1980s. is he

initiated a discussion of the prospects for cooperation between science and

Buddhism, which led to the creation of the Institute for Mind and Life,

aimed at studying meditative sciences. In 2000 he

set a new goal for the project by organizing a direction

Meditative Neuroscience, and invited scientists to study

brain activity in Buddhists who are seriously involved in meditation and

having more than 10 thousand hours of practice. Over the past 15 years, more than

100 Buddhists, monks and laity, as well as a large number of people,

recently started meditating, took part in scientific

experiments at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and 19

other universities.The article you are currently reading –

the result of a collaboration between two neuroscientists and a Buddhist

a monk who originally trained as a biologist. Comparing pictures

brain activity in people who have meditated dozens of

thousand hours, and those who have been doing this recently, we began

understand why such methods of training consciousness can give

great cognitive and emotional benefits. The goals of meditation

intersect with many tasks of clinical psychology,

psychiatry, preventive medicine and education.More and more

a number of studies suggest that meditation

may be effective in the treatment of depression, chronic pain, and

to create a general sense of well-being. Opening

the benefits of meditation is consistent with recent evidence

obtained by neuroscientists that the adult brain retains the ability

change significantly under the influence of experience. It was shown that in

the brain changes when we, for example, learn

juggle or play a musical instrument, etc.

the phenomenon is called neuroplasticity.As you increase

mastery of the violinist increases the areas of the brain that control

finger movements. Apparently, similar processes occur when

meditation. Nothing changes in the environment, but the meditator

regulates his mental state, creating an inner experience,

which affects the work and structure of the brain. As a result

ongoing research evidence is accumulating

positive effects of meditation on the brain, thinking and even on

the whole organism as a whole.

Read more on the pages of the journal “In the world of science”

No. 1_2015

90,000 How meditation affects the gray matter of the brain

Friends, in the USA there is a wonderful Ph.D. and practitioner who is engaged in the research of the mind and body – David Hamilton. In his blog I found an interesting article on the relationship between meditation and brain function. I am sharing with you the translation of this material. If you had any doubts whether to meditate or not, then this article, I hope, will resolve them.So,

I like to meditate. I am convinced that the feeling of calmness that is born during the practice helps me to overcome the problems and troubles that inevitably happen in everyone’s life. Of course, it happens that 10-15 minutes of silence is an unaffordable luxury. I miss my “training”, but I clearly feel their absence on such days.

I do not know of a single person on whom stress would not have a detrimental effect. Unfortunately, it is the cause of many diseases.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 90% of doctor visits in the United States are believed to be related to the effects of stress.

Prolonged stress leads to severe exhaustion of the body. This is the direct route to the doctor’s office

Aspirin is a pill for headache, so meditation is to counteract anxiety. Regular practice is a significant contribution to health: it calms the nervous system, improves immunity, and evens out the heart rate.It has been noticed that meditation promotes the production of nitric oxide, which dilates the arteries and thereby reduces blood pressure.

Scientists at the Center for Functional Integrative Neuroscience at the University of Aarhus in Denmark compared MRI of the brain of those for whom meditation is not an empty phrase, and a control group that did not do it. The results showed that the practice induces real physical changes in the brain – an increase in the volume of gray matter.

A study by Giuseppe Pagoni and Milos Sekis (scientists in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University in Atlanta) compared the volume of gray matter in the brains of people performing Zen meditation with those who are far from this or other means of contemplation.As a rule, the volume of gray matter in humans decreases with age. But it turned out that in meditators it remains at the same level.

Regular meditation saves not only the physical resources of the body, but also intellectual ones

Related articles:

In 2008, Harvard University discovered the effect of practice on gene activation. Even for beginners who have completed the eight-week course, about 1,560 genes are affected. For longtime adherents, this figure hovers around 2,200 genes.The study noted that meditation triggers delayed physiological effects, one of which is a slowdown in the rate of aging.

We’ve all heard stories of people being shocked so badly that their hair turned gray in a matter of weeks. We know that stress accelerates the aging process. So why is it a surprise to many that stress management techniques can slow the decline?

Early gray hair can be caused by a genetic predisposition, but more often – by stressful situations

There are many types of meditations.For example, insight meditation is a technique for shifting attention to the body or breath. Observations from the Massachusetts Hospital found that the practice thickens the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for attention. This effect is due to the fact that the brain is somewhat similar to muscles. When we run, swim, lift weights, and squat, the muscle groups involved become larger and denser. A similar situation occurs with the contents of the human cranium: those areas that are in tension increase.This phenomenon is called neuroplasticity, and it characterizes changes in the brain throughout the life of an organism.

I was taught at university that the brain, like yeast dough, grows from birth to a certain age. In adolescence, this “mass” is put in the oven and baked until tender. Further, the bun removed from the oven retains its shape and weight (in the case of a confectionery product – until eaten, for a person – until death). The teachers taught me and my classmates the knowledge that the brain of a mature individual is static, like frozen cement.

This analogy has now been abandoned. However, history knows many misconceptions: the Earth is not flat and does not stand on three whales. Gray matter is sensitive to activities (learning, drawing, walking, running, meditating), it is dynamic until the last breath of the individual.

Don’t trade cheerfulness for chronic stress!

90,000 Mindfulness Practices and Meditation Reshape the Brain – Science

There is abundant subjective evidence of the benefits of mindfulness techniques and practices for health and psychological well-being.However, there are still not many scientific studies in this direction.

In this case, scientists from Germany researched several types of meditation techniques and practices of mindfulness as part of the large-scale ReSource Project.

The project involved three three-month training courses focused on the development of different skills. The first was about the practice of mindfulness and mindfulness. Participants were taught classic techniques for dealing with stress, such as focusing on their breathing, sensations in different parts of the body, visual or auditory stimuli in the environment.

In the second and third year, people were taught different mindfulness practices. The second course was aimed at social-affective skills: regulation and awareness of emotions, development of empathy. For example, participants were required to exchange emotional experiences with each other for ten minutes daily. In the third year, the emphasis was on social cognitive techniques. For example, participants learned to identify their subpersonalities – such as “inner child”, “anxious mother”, “judge” and the like – and learn to analyze their behavior and reactions in relation to these internal roles.

Each of the 332 participants completed all three courses in sequence. They were men and women between the ages of 20 and 55. Participants devoted at least 30 minutes a day to all practices, six days a week. In parallel, the scientists studied various indicators of their brain activity using MRI, assessed markers of stress – the release of the hormone cortisol, conducted behavioral and intellectual tests.

It turned out that different techniques had different effects on the brain and behavior of the participants in the experiment.Thus, the participants from the first group experienced noticeable changes in the structures of the brain responsible for attention, in particular, the cortex thickened in the prefrontal zones. At the same time, the indicators in computer tests for attention increased.

At the same time, there were no significant changes in the level of development of social competences in the participants, in contrast to the subjects from the second and third groups who practiced mindfulness practices, where the main focus was the development of social competencies.They did have an increased level of empathy and the ability to anticipate developments. These changes were reflected in the corresponding structures of the brain – there was a thickening of the cortex in the anterior insular lobe, the inferior frontal gyrus and in the lateral temporal lobes.

The authors of the work note that they managed to obtain new evidence of high brain plasticity even in adulthood. The brain was rebuilding its work even with such short courses of training in the appropriate meditation techniques.

It is important that different practices affected different brain structures and contributed to the training of different skills.

Research article published in Science Advances .

Scientists have previously found evidence that yoga and meditation even affect gene expression.

Evgeniya Shcherbina

How to make the brain change the course of your life – Offtop on vc.ru

Or what discovery I made thanks to a famous neuroscientist.

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This is a translation of an article from Medium, especially for vc and my telegram channel .It seemed to me interesting and worthy of your attention. Enjoy reading!

The blog that changed everything

Several years ago I started a slightly wacky self-improvement blog. I wrote all sorts of nonsense for the likes.

The acquaintance who gave me this opportunity started the same way. He wrote about habits, about startups that went public for the first time. Gradually, he became a completely different person.

I started writing later than he did, and I was years behind in thinking.He has changed beyond recognition. It all started after a podcast interview with neuroscientist Joe Dispenza. Joe taught him to comprehend the higher levels of consciousness, showed how a person can brainwash himself – this could have been done before, but on other people.

Since then, his life has taken a new course.

Illustration by Michael Marsicano

He first assigned blogging to other people, and then replaced it with podcast interviews.He met people like Joe. He did not ask them to share their fateful insights for free: instead, he began offering them thousands of dollars for a dinner together. They all agreed.

He and Joe still communicate. Their friendship, I know how, prompted me to look for other Joe’s works. Although I do not always agree with his thoughts, I can see that he is very wise.Agreeing with Joe is optional; you need to use his advice to force yourself to reflect.

Here’s how to take your thinking to the next level, change your life and do what you thought was impossible before.

To move things forward, you need to see what program your brain is using

Understanding your brain is the first thing Joe advises.He himself begins with habits.

Habits are not what the headlines of a bunch of self-help articles are about. A habit is an action repeated so many times that the body remembers the process and can dictate instructions to the brain.

At the beginning of the day, you wake up and the first thing you do is think about problems.Joe says these problems are like circuits in the brain, like memories. Memories are associated with people and things, which, in turn, are associated with a specific time and place.

The brain records the past as if on tape. It turns out that people start the day by thinking in the past.

Each memory has its own emotion

All the life situations we have experienced are ultimately remembered through emotions.

When we think about problems, we feel negative emotions – sadness, pain, or just dissatisfaction. And then you wake up in the morning, remember the problem and immediately begin to feel bad. According to Joe, from thinking and feeling self is born the state of a person at a particular moment – therefore, he says, you start your day in the past.

The familiar past will sooner or later become a predictable future.Therefore, if you think that your thoughts are somehow connected with your future, if you cannot mentally get out of the current moral state, if you began to think with sensations, then you think in the past. You will continue to create for yourself the same life.

Everyday life is program

When people say that you are stuck in the Matrix, they mean that you are living in a program that you created yourself.When I look at the software that runs my life, one aspect always stands out – social media. I just need to be there in order to feel connected with someone. Joe says social media makes us feel like we are connected to something familiar.

When your day goes according to the program, you seem to lose the free will necessary to control your mind.You yourself become a program with a set of carefully learned actions, emotional reactions (some of which are highly addictive), fixed attitudes, unconscious habits; program with a set of views and beliefs.

Joe explains that this is how your brain becomes a battlefield. 5% of your consciousness is fighting 95% of the unconscious.

How to take control of the brain’s operating system

When I hear about meditation, a picture pops up in my head: an overgrown, long-haired dude in a rainbow T-shirt and holding a selfie stick tells me how to live.Enrages.

Meditation has become a dull ruse.

Joe helped me look at meditation from a different angle. Conscious and unconscious in our head are separated by the analytic.Just imagine that the analytical is another part of your brain.

To cross the threshold of the “server” brain, the most important thing is to go beyond the analytical. It is like a fortress. To enter her front door via the drawbridge and not run into guards is possible only with the help of meditation.

Meditation is the ultimate brain hack.

All these silly meditation apps distracted us from this important fact. They turned this practice into something completely different – with beautiful backgrounds, sound effects and voices of famous winners of any awards.

Joe says that through meditation you can slow down your brain impulses.You’ve probably heard that meditation kind of slows down a person, but if you delve into this practice, eventually you can slow down the impulses too. Meditation instructor Ashley Turner explains this in simple terms.

Meditation can significantly reduce the frequency of brain impulses and calm the mind.

Greater distance between waves increases the time between thoughts, thanks to which a person can skillfully choose which thoughts to pay more attention to.

We looked at meditation from the wrong side. It’s not just sitting under oak trees or staying calm after an unbearable boss pissed you off – it’s also a way to enter your own brain through the back door.

Image by aytuguluturk from Pixabay

One reason to change is superior to another

For your life to take a new course, you need to change something.Joe says there are two ways to do this:

  • in torment and suffering;
  • in joy and inspiration.

The first method requires a tragedy to occur that will force you to change.The second allows you to bring change into your life now. Forget about waiting for something.

If you are waiting for the changes to fall on you, you have most likely already missed the best periods of your life – and if tragic events do not help, you will get stuck in this circle and continue to carry out the same program.

You need to know something about the changes.Whenever you have an emotion, you involuntarily wonder what caused it. Your long-term memories came from intense emotional experiences. Negative experiences can block the path to change, but positive ones remind you to overcome life’s difficulties.

Joe says: Remembering bad experiences leads to problems.If you think about them often, it can even become a personality trait.

If past experiences have been negative, you may start to wonder about the worst outcomes. This experience can take over control of your personality. Some people so often return to it in their thoughts that they cut off their path to change after what happened. Their minds are stuck in a kind of time warp.The people around do not understand what is happening to the person, they begin to consider him broken, toxic, or think that he needs the help of a psychologist.

Joe says: “Emotions from specific experiences tend to give energy to the body and brain. People then get used to it a lot. ” Have you ever felt addicted to emotions? I am. This is why limitation helps you to feel something.

Changing the direction of life

Getting bogged down in the past is easy. The past is your default program. To defeat this program, you need to change. You lose the chance for this if you make the same decisions as yesterday.

Therefore, you can change your life if you make a cunning, quiet, ingenious decision to make other choices. Yesterday’s decisions will not help you in any way to hack a program that prevents you from changing the course of your life. The catch is that following the “new choices” attitude will get you out of your comfort zone because it will disrupt your routine.

In the end, you will prefer the discomfort of making new decisions over the comfort of yesterday’s.

Find Your Levers

I don’t like discomfort, so I adjust everything so that the brain has nowhere to run. If I want to go to a gym, I don’t sign up for it: instead, I leave my number on a whole bunch of sites in different gyms.So you can’t escape this small decision. You can do that too.

Give up emotions

Emotions can be highly addictive. Setting boundaries helps you feel something. You develop an addiction to this sensation because it brings you back to something familiar and gives you comfort.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. Not from the known, but from the unknown.

In order to overcome the emotions that do not allow you to escape from your shell, you need to make new decisions. Joe recommends these:

  • What thoughts do you want to “plant” in your brain? This question encourages people to recite mantras, repeat sayings, and post pictures with quotes on the wall.You can choose thoughts that will help you escape from the Matrix.
  • What behaviors do you want to show in one day? New patterns of behavior form new patterns in the brain.

Your brain can be a storehouse of records of the past, or it can be a map of the future.

You can wait for the world to change, or start with yourself

What do most people do? They wait all their lives for the world around them to somehow change.

But we have no control over the world around us. It’s like entrusting your future to a maniac like Hannibal Lecter. What will he throw out? Who knows. Will hunt down people and most likely kill them. Do you want him to ruin your life too? Of course not.

The term “cause and effect” in English describes the entrustment of your life in the hands of the world around you.I learned from Joe that thinking and feeling about yourself changes the way your life ultimately turns out.

You can imagine a bright future and let this thought determine your path in life. Or you can let memories from the past reset your thinking to the default program and force you to do and say the same things as always – that is, return you to the reality from which you want to escape.

Do not rely on the outside world to try to feel something.

Let your thoughts define you

Sometimes your body will want to return to familiar sensations in the past.The solution is to notice when it happens; to see when your body is seeking to return to the past.

That is why it has become so fashionable now to say that mindfulness is the main thing in meditation. But why it is so important is rarely said.

To focus on the present means to focus your energy here.Instead of giving your emotions to the past, you give them to the present. This is how you regain control – tell the body to sit still and obey you.

You tell your body that it no longer has dominion over the mind. You are the mind. You will surpass the old program.

This is how you need to meditate in order to free yourself from the emotions of the past, overcome obstacles and change something in life.

And finally

Now you know how to “brainwash yourself” and make your mind move to a higher level – the level that changes the further course of your life.

  • You need to understand that your “default program” is controlled by the past.
  • You need to know how negative emotions create “bookmarks” in the past and make you come back to them.
  • You need to take a fresh look at meditation so that it can help you hack your brain’s operating system.
  • We must firmly decide to make new decisions every day and, imperceptibly for the brain, make at least one uncomfortable choice for it.
  • We must stop relying on memories from the past and start looking into the future.
  • One must practice meditation to develop a sense of awareness in the present. When your brain wants to use your emotions to escape into the past, mindfulness can help you regain control of your thoughts. Do this a sufficient number of times, and you will stop returning to the past, which prevents you from changing your future.

Your past is a program.Emotions bind you tightly to him. If you want to finally change something, become obsessed with thoughts not about the past, but about the future.

That’s all. Hope you found this article useful enough to take the time to read it. If so, then with you a plus sign!

If you want even more interesting and useful information about brain biochemistry, learning and how to set yourself up for productive everyday life, then subscribe to my telegram channel.

Have a nice day, may alpha beats and high dopamine be with you!

90,000 8 personal stories for those who want to start meditating

Our regular columnist Lena Volodina talked with eight completely different people who have only one thing in common – meditation helps them overcome certain problems in life, both external and internal.No theory – only personal experience and practice.

Lena Volodina,
blogger, writer

As the author of Zen and the City, I am even embarrassed to admit that I never learned to meditate. And if you have opened this article, most likely, you are not doing very well with meditation. In general, the very idea of ​​sitting down for 5-10-15-30 minutes and doing nothing in the 21st century seems difficult. The king of multitasking inside of you says so: yes, I could have done so much in this time!

Meanwhile, in an article on mindfulness, I talked about a study that confirmed that even at rest, the brain continues to be active.People who practice meditation admit that it helps them make important decisions in life.

In this article I have collected the stories of eight people to be inspired, first of all, myself. Some of them started meditating a couple of weeks ago, some have been doing this for eight years. Everyone has their own methods of comprehending Zen. Someone breathes through one nostril, someone runs, someone draws, someone listens to the sound of a metronome. And the results are also their own. For some, meditation helps to fight cancer and physical pain, for some – to fall asleep, for some – to reduce the amount of sugar and coffee.

After these stories, you will understand that meditation is such a flexible tool that adapts to the characteristics and needs of each person. There are no canons and rules. Most importantly, do not forget to breathe and – as one of the heroines said – do not expect a miracle.

I use running as my meditation. I tried the “classic” versions of meditation – kundalini, yoga, but always quit after a couple of months. She started running 3 years ago. The impetus to the beginning was the understanding that only work remained in my life.I wanted to change something.

Now I run 3-4 times a week. 5-20 km in training and up to 50 km at starts. Accordingly, my running meditation time ranges from 30 minutes to 12 hours. There are no routes. I put on my sneakers and go where my eyes are. I try not to think about anything, turn off my brain as much as possible, concentrate on steps and breathing.

During long runs I get answers to important questions for me. For example, I was afraid for a long time to buy an apartment on a mortgage, and somehow, while jogging, a very simple decision came to me: buy a small apartment in the suburbs, with a reasonable monthly payment.

And at the finish of my first ultramarathon (52 km in the mountains in Crimea), I realized that since I could finish in such a race, I could do anything. Since running, I’ve become calmer, more confident, productive and focused.

I started meditating about half a year ago using the slowdive app. The reason is sad – stomach problems. The doctors could not help and said that it was psychosomatics. Advised to rest or at least meditate. At first the meditation was irregular.But after a couple of panic attacks and an appointment with a psychologist, I realized that I needed to practice every day. Since February, I have been practicing daily with the patronus application, meditations last an average of 10 minutes. In June, I discovered the yoga of critical alignment. I go to it 3 times a week, the practice lasts 2 hours.

The lesson goes like this: from 35 minutes to 1 hour we lie on a special object with our eyes closed, without moving, at this time the teacher speaks. And all these half an hour I feel pain in my body, sometimes even terrible.My task is to breathe into the place where the pain is, to negotiate with him and relax. It is very difficult. After this meditation, the practice of hatha yoga begins. And after these 2 hours I feel renewed, liberated.

Meditation helps me to treat depression, which caused my stomach problems. I became more calm and relaxed, I began to worry less about all the nonsense. Appreciate more what is happening now. The most important discovery is the pain inside me, it turned out to be a lot. And I am interested in living it in order to free myself.

Nadia, PR director, 38 years old

The current attempt to make meditation a permanent practice for me is already the fourth or fifth. The past long and successful experience was after appendicitis removal. I underwent the operation very hard, recovered for a long time and realized that I really needed to change something. I read reviews of various applications and found a headspace (it is in English, but I was comfortable). I was good at meditating in the park to the chirping of birds, but I only had enough until I came to work from a prolonged sick leave.

Recently I came across a video about Kundalini meditation. I decided to give it a try, and for the first time I really succeeded. This is a breathing meditation in which you breathe only through the left nostril (it has a calming effect on the nervous system). I do not use a timer, I allow myself to breathe as much as is comfortable. On average, it takes 3-5 minutes.

The whole secret for me turned out to be that meditation should be the very first thing after awakening. I meditate right in bed: I sit down, rest my back against the wall and breathe.After meditation, I always feel more awake and … ready to take good care of myself. And I also want less sweets for breakfast and manage to limit myself to one cup of coffee.

I started meditating more than two years ago, because I began to fall asleep badly, nervous study, fatigue, wandering mind bothered. Anastasia Kay’s video inspired the meditation. So I started trying to meditate every day for 3-5 minutes, I got to 10 minutes.

Now I use meditation when falling asleep or if something hurts.It is still very difficult for me to focus on full-fledged goalless meditation. By the way, I fall asleep quickly, in three minutes.

At the beginning of any meditation one should feel the breath and concentrate on it. To relax, I begin to think about the parts of the body in turn from hands to body, to face, to body, to legs. At this point, I usually already sleep, but sometimes I continue to focus on clearing my mind and focusing on my breathing. To search for pain after concentrating on the breath, I “ask” each part of the body “what’s wrong with you?” and knead it a little (wiggle my fingers, squeeze and unclench the muscles) to relieve the tightness, then ask again until the pain is minimal.I also like to lie down after or before on the rug with rose-thorns.

Sergey, 29 years old, screenwriter

For about six years I have been working in filmmaking. Working in a movie is a minimum of 12 hours on your feet. Often in difficult conditions, snow, rain, hail, frost, wind, mud – you still need to shoot. You work practically seven days a week, and on weekends you sleep and try to do everything that you could not do during the filming. And six months ago, I was so tired that I realized that there was no more desire to engage in filmmaking. I left.

At the same time, I realized that over the years in the cinema I became irritable, I was filled with anger and hatred towards people. I once came across an advertisement on my Instagram for an online meditation course. I suggested it to my wife, she supported me. We went through a course of ten meditations together, and we liked it.

After a course of meditations, I realized that the problems that I invented for myself and that took away my energy, strength and joy are artificial. My brain came up with them. I became calmer. I have learned not to take difficulties personally.I realized that difficulties come and go, and if you realize them and let them go, they go away without a trace.

Along with meditations, affirmations entered my life. Every day for about five minutes I would say what I dream about. At that moment, I wanted to change jobs and finally devote myself to writing scripts for movies and TV shows. Six months have passed. I found a great job. I write scripts. For this I get exactly the money that I said in the affirmations. I’m happy. My dreams have come true.

I started meditating 10 years ago, when due to illness I could not do yoga and move normally.Meditation and breathing practices were the only ones I had the strength to do. I could meditate from 10 minutes a day to two hours. I tried different methods of Buddhism and yoga. She meditated with mantras, various images and accompanied by a voice leading the meditation.

Now I devote to meditation 5-10 minutes a day. And I do this practice with a concentration on breathing and a metronome. I choose a comfortable pace and maintain equal lengths of inhalation and exhalation with natural pauses in between.

Meditation has helped me cope with severe stress from my illness and is helping me now to deal with panic attacks.It is easier for me to control my breathing and calm my thoughts if I meditate regularly in a calm environment. Now meditation does not carry any esoteric fulfillment for me. I do the practice for the sake of mental health.

All the meditation methods that I had previously tried on my own did not work for me. What I am doing now is completely different from what the blogs show.

I have been studying for only two weeks, doing it with a coach, a neuropsychologist. I go to her twice a week, until I can do it myself, I do it only with her, and I am wildly delighted.My session lasts 3 hours. For 2 hours we work out the necessary questions and only then, when I told about everything and complained about life, we begin to work out the necessary settings. I am lying under the blanket, warm and comfortable. First, the specialist makes a facial massage with his hands. This is working out the facial muscles so that I can relax as much as possible. Then I repeat after her what she says. It turns out that at this moment certain muscles of the face move. If thoughts are negative, then some muscles are involved, if positive, others.And I am learning to control this process.

During the meditation itself – it lasts 20-25 minutes at the end of the reception – I manage not to fall asleep, as is often the case with beginners, but so far I do not fall into a state of deep awareness, I just lie there and listen. The result catches up with me the next day. I wake up as a completely different person. Such a delayed post-effect. The brain reacts to information processing with a delay, which is normal for beginners.

The very first meditation brought me insight – I do not know how to think about myself.I can very easily meditate when I talk about money, about family, about work – everything is in order with my face. But when it comes to me, I fly out of a state of rest. And these attitudes, which I repeat after the coach, are the worst of all. About self-love, about self-love. It was amazing for me, because I was sure that I had no problems with this.

I was introduced to meditation over eight years ago. It was a time of searching for oneself and the meaning of life, such a period is, probably, for everyone.I cannot say that I meditate on a schedule, as many do – for example, every morning or several times a day. But I try to listen to myself, and if I notice anxiety, tightness or anxiety, I can close my eyes for a few minutes and plunge into this special state. By the way, after years of practice it comes very easy – even if it is noisy around, for example, in a cafe or in the subway, it will not hurt to detach from everything and relax.

My favorite meditation is Osho Dynamic Meditation.It allows you to cleanse everything that has accumulated inside and reset to zero. There are many disputes and disagreements about her, but you can only draw your own conclusion on this by trying it yourself.