September 1, 2010 by Thriving Now Support

Meditation May Physically Alter Brain

Research Shows ‘Western-Style’ Meditation May Slow Age-Related Brain Deterioration

Early research suggests that daily meditation can alter the physical structure of the brain and may even slow brain deterioration related to aging. The study showed that parts of the brain known as the cerebral cortex were thicker in 20 people who meditated for as little as 40 minutes a day, compared with 15 people who did not meditate. The region plays a critical role in decision making, working memory, and brain-body interactions. The findings are not the first to suggest that meditation can change the way the brain works and that this change can be measured through brain imaging. Recent studies involving Buddhist monks in Tibet suggest that meditation alters key electrical impulses within the brain. But the monks in the study had devoted their lives to the practice of meditation. The 20 people who meditated in the latest research did so for an average of about six hours a week, with some meditating for as little as four hours weekly.

“Our findings provide the first evidence that alterations in brain structure are associated with Western-style meditation practice, possibly reflecting increased use of specific brain regions,” Lazar says. Specifically, brain regions associated with attention, sensory processing, and sensitivity to stimulation originating within the body were thicker in the meditators. There was also some suggestion that meditation may protect against age-related thinning of this specific region of the brain. “We are talking about a small but important region involved in working memory, which has been shown to decrease rapidly during aging,” Lazar says. [via WebMD]

Meditation is the cornerstone of my practices. Back when I was chronically stressed, meditation for 20 minutes twice a day was the strong recommendation of my teacher. Indeed, it was required if I wanted to continue to work with her! Within 30 days of regular meditation, simply focusing on my breathing while sitting in a comfortable, straight-backed chair, my brain had definitely changed. And I didn’t need an MRI to know it.

What I first noticed was that I could more easily shift to “neutral” in distressing situations by going within and following my breath. There is something simple and calming about following the breath in and out of the body. The next change I noticed was that there appeared a “gap” between the arrival of a stimulus and my response. Rather than simply reacting, there was an increasing likelihood that my inner guidance could offer a choice of response that my fear response would not have considered.

Since I have learned EFT, I see how it can help people who “cannot sit still” for even 5 minutes to start releasing those blocks… and make meditation not only possible but as enjoyable as most regular meditators find that time.

Even though there is no way I can sit still and do nothing… what a waste of time!… I have too many responsibilities!… there are things to do and places to be!… and then there’s that show I want to watch on TV… I deeply and completely accept my busy mind and give it permission to take a short meditative rest and renewal break.

In my experience, 20 minutes of meditation yields the equivalent benefits of rest and renewal as 2 full hours of sleep. You have the time to meditate. Just get up 20 minutes earlier.

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