When many people think of meditation, they think of some new-age, mystical mantra that only people who are a little “out there” practice. This couldn’t be further from the truth and now there are multiple scientific studies to back up the many cognitive and physical benefits of meditation. One of the most recent studies conducted by Harvard Medical School showed that 30 minutes of meditation a day for eight weeks not only had positive cognitive benefits, but it had a significant impact on the actual density of the gray matter in the regions of the brain responsible for stress, empathy, and memory. Yes, meditation physically changes the gray matter of your brain.
During the study, scientists scanned the brains of meditators and non-meditators and found significant differences in the participants brains. Meditators showed reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for anxiety and stress, and an increase of gray matter in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. In contrast, the non-meditators showed no changes. Previous studies also found that meditation can reduce heart attacks and blood pressure, and help us focus for longer periods of time.
There’s no doubt about it -meditation is far from mystical psychobabble. It’s a real, effective way to improve your brain function and overall health. Now, you must be wondering, “How can I learn how to meditate and improve my life?” It’s not as complicated as it seems, but it does take some practice.
Start with meditating 5 minutes per day and if possible, work your way up to 30 minutes per day. You can also divide your sessions into 10 minutes each, and it’s especially effective in the morning and before bed.
Here’s a beginner’s guide that will help you get started. Like anything else, the more you practice, the better you’ll become at meditating. Be patient and allow yourself time to master the art of meditation. You’ll be glad you did!