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Meditation is an essential component of mindfulness. Meditation can help with stress, depression, and insomnia. It is also not limited to monks; anyone can do it. And did you know that meditation can actually alter your brain?

WHAT IS MEDITATION ACTUALLY?

Maybe you didn't immediately think of a floating monk, but when you meditate you probably thought of relaxing dreaming away. While meditation can certainly be relaxing, it is quite strenuous to do. There are many forms of meditation, but basically it all comes down to the same thing: you train your attention.

Why is that necessary? Because our brain is naturally pretty bad at it. An average person has about 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day. You are probably familiar with that rushed feeling when you think about all kinds of things at the same time and in the meantime get nothing done.

By meditating, you teach your brain to focus all its attention on one thing. This can be your breathing, for example, but sounds, emotions and thoughts are also perfect for focusing your attention on.

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ON MEDITATION

We still don't quite understand the brain. That is why a lot of research is being done on it. These are the most interesting results.

BETTER CONCENTRATION

At the University of California, they conducted research into the effects of mindfulness on concentration. The assumption was that you perform better when you are less distracted.

Unfortunately, your brain is very easily distracted. (No wonder if you have to produce 50,000 thoughts a day…). The study showed that a mindfulness training of just 2 weeks already has positive effects on memory and concentration.

The researchers call it "an effective and efficient technique to improve cognitive function".

LESS LONELY

The University of California is doing well, because they also discovered that meditation makes people less lonely. A group of 40 people between the ages of 55 and 85 was split in two. One group meditated, the control group did not. The meditation group learned different meditation techniques in 2 hours a week, and at home they practiced for half an hour a day.

Before and after the study, the researchers took blood samples and assessed the degree of loneliness with a questionnaire. What turned out? The control group felt less lonely after 8 weeks. And that is good news, because loneliness is becoming an increasing problem due to the aging of the population. Other good news was that the blood tests showed that the immune system was also improved by meditating.

 

LITERALLY CHANGE IN YOUR BRAIN

Research by Harvard Medical School shows that meditation doesn't just change your brain figuratively. People who meditate were found to have more gray matter in the insula, auditory cortex and frontal cortex.

Regular meditation creates more gray matter.

As we get older, we forget more and more. That's because the frontal cortex shrinks. Unless you meditate: The study compared the gray matter of 50-year-olds who meditate with the gray matter of 25-year-olds who do not meditate, and they were found to be equal. And the more gray matter, the better your memory. Subjects followed a meditation training of 8 weeks. After that training,

 

  • The brain volume in 4 areas had increased.

  • The researchers deduced several things from this:

  • Your mind is less likely to wander You can learn, recognize and remember better

  • Emotions are processed more easily

Empathy and compassion on the rise More neurotransmitters are produced, increasing the speed at which your brain works The part of the brain that plays an important role in anxiety and stress, on the other hand, became smaller.

JUST START

Now that it's clear what meditating does to your brain, it's time to get started. It's hard to start on your own, so maybe you can get some training. There are also great apps for your phone. For example, use Headspace or Insight Timer to get acquainted with meditation in an accessible way.