How The Brain Changes When You Meditate




According to many experts, mindfulness meditation, which has become very popular in the last few years, comes with many health benefits. The most important ones are the ability to eliminate stress and lower the chances of developing many different diseases, refreshed brain, and overall well-being.

However, there is only little scientific evidence for these claims. Mindfulness meditation enthusiasts usually take some lonely cases of success as evidence. For instance, they like to say that certain Buddhist monks who practice this form of meditation on a daily basis have witnessed positive effects or certain studies that were not really random.

How does The Brain Changes When You Meditate?

But a few weeks ago there was a study revealed in the famous Right as Rain that has finally shown some scientific evidence related to the positive effects of mindfulness meditation. The study revealed that this form of meditation can actually alter the brain of common people and has the ability to boost their health.

According to J. David Creswell, who works at Carnegie Mellon University as the head of the Health and Human Performance lab and led this scientific study, in order to meditate in this way, you need to have an open and accessible, tolerant awareness of the present-moment experience that you have. One of the greatest problems of testing this meditation was the lack of placebo tests.

The most efficient scientific studies are the ones that include individuals that get real treatment and a group that gets a placebo – these individuals think that they are treated, but they are actually not. However, even ordinary people are aware of when they are meditating and when they are not. But, it seems that Dr. J. David Creswell, together with a group of experienced scientists has found a way to imitate mindfulness.

They started by recruiting more than 30 jobless women and men who were looking for a job. They were obviously dealing with stress and pressure. They had blood tests and brain scans. 50% of them had lessons about formal mindfulness meditation performed in a retreat facility while the others finished a type of fake meditation that was aimed to relax them and make them not think about stress and problems.

Dr. Creswell pointed out that they made all patients perform stretching activities. The group that had real meditation was focused on physical sensations (both pleasant and unpleasant). The group that had just relaxed meditation was given support to have chats and don’t think about their bodies.

After three days, the individuals from both groups said that they felt reenergized and were able to cope with their unemployment in a better way. However, the brain scans performed after that, have revealed differences between these two groups. It turned out that the ones that practiced mindfulness meditation developed better connections and activities between the parts of their brain where the reactions to stress are created.

After about four months, people who have followed mindfulness meditation practice have experienced reduced levels of a marker of harmful inflammation in the blood compared to the relaxation group.

So, Dr. Creswell and his team claim that these brain changes were responsible for the ease of inflammation even though they still can’t find out how it happened. They are also not sure whether people need to practice mindfulness meditation for three days in a row to witness the positive changes. Even Dr. Creswell says that they don’t have a clue about how much time people need to spend doing mindfulness meditation in order to boost health. It might be a good idea to try to follow this specific type of meditation for at least one month and perform a self-analysis after that.

Via NY Times | Featured image source Mindful

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