8 weeks of Meditation changes Brain response to stress and damaging thoughts
‘Change your thoughts and you can change your world’, the significance of thought processes in our life was known even in the early years of written history. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, believed that the contentment in our life depended on the quality of our thoughts.
Studies have proved that constructive thinking makes us see more possibilities in life
Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology researcher of the University of North Carolina tested study participants’ reaction to various emotions by exposing them to the images of joy, contentment, fear and anger.
Subsequently, they were asked to visualise themselves in a similar situation and write down what they would do. Those who were exposed to fear and anger had the fewest responses. Those who saw happy and contented images wrote higher number of actions.
Can Thoughts be kept constructive most of the time?
Can we make sure that our thought processes are kept immune from the side effects of our modern lifestyles? The answer, more often than not, can be a yes! Latest research now suggests that our thoughts can even expand our physical and cognitive abilities.
Even though there are techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medications (anti-depressants can make us think differently) to change our thinking patterns, Meditation is considered to be the best technique to reprogram our brain for joy and positivity.
What is Meditation?
Don’t Know. BUT simply put, Meditation starts with the awareness of ones Breath, Body, Feelings and Emotions.
How does Meditation change thinking patterns?
Various studies have proved that regular Meditation has a beneficial effect on our brain and thought processes. Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and a long-term practitioner of Meditation believes that meditation strengthens the neural network.
8-weeks to a Better Brain: Here is how Meditation goes about changing you
1: Meditation increases Compassion
Research by psychologists Ed Diener and Martin Seligman revealed that compassion increases physical and mental health. A study by Stephanie Brown of Stony Brook University showed that compassion might even prolong our life.
Studies have also shown that Meditation makes us compassionate. For the study published in 2013, researchers from the Northeastern University and Harvard University tested compassionate behavior of participants.
About half of the participants who underwent Meditation classes for eight weeks helped a person in need. Among the non-meditating participants, it was found out that only 15% were ready to offer help.
Richard Davidson and his team found out that Meditation activates the limbic system of the brain that plays an important role in our emotions. The activation of limbic system makes the meditators more compassionate. Davidson found out that limbic system is activated even in novice meditators.
In experienced meditators, the activation of limbic system is more profound, making them even more compassionate.
The surprising fact that came out of the study was that the effect of meditation stays with the meditator even when he is not meditating. In other words, a meditator remains compassionate even outside of meditation.
2: Meditation increases Joy and Contentment (using Tetris effect)
Various studies have proved that regular meditation leads to improved joy and contentment and less of stress and anxiety.
A study on Meditation effect on Stress by Tonya Jacobs of the University of California, after her study of 57 meditators spread over three months, found out that meditation reduces the level of cortisol and adrenaline in our body.
Studies conducted at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, on 150 student volunteers, found out that Integrated Amrita meditation technique, which is a combination of meditation, pranayama and yoga, reduces the level of adrenaline in our body.
Dr. Madhav Goyal of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in the U.S., after evaluating 47 clinical trials involving more than 3,500 participants suffering from mild anxiety or depression, found out that mindfulness meditation classes of 8 weeks can lead to improvement of moods at par with prescription medicines.
The study by Lisa Miller of Columbia University, published in 2013, reveals that the thickening of cortex associated with meditation guards people from depression.
Meditation releases ‘Happy’ Neurotransmitters Studies have also revealed that meditation leads to an enhanced level of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, commonly termed as the happy neurotransmitters. The elevated level of these neurotransmitters leads to more joy and contentment in meditators.
When the brain is constantly used to less of stress and anxiety and more of joy and positivity, it slowly gets rewired and reprogramed and will automatically start looking for more of positivity and less of negativity. (Tetris effect of Meditation)
Prof.Colleen Loo of the University of New South Wales found out that Neuroplasticity or the ability of the brain to change is lesser in depressed patients.
3: Meditation increases Brain Coherence
If the various parts of the brain start communicating with each other harmoniously, the state of the brain, thus, achieved can be termed as brain coherence. Increased brain coherence can lead to clear thinking patterns and enhanced creativity levels.
Regular meditation can lead to more brain coherence. According to Dr. Fred Tavis of the Maharishi University of Management, U.S., high levels of frontal brain connectivity happen within 2 to 3 months of practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
4: Meditation increases Focus
A focussed brain can think better and will be less prone to errors. Studies have conclusively proved that a meditator has a better ability to focus, when compared to non-meditators.
Researchers at the University of California, after their study on undergraduate students, found out that meditation leads to less mind wandering. David Levy and Jacob Wobbrock of the University of Washington also found out that meditation can make people concentrate on tasks for a longer time.
- Our Brain’s prefontal cortex plays a pivotal role in our ability to focus or concentrate.
- The brain scans performed by neuroscientist Andrew Newberg revealed a high stimulation of prefontal cortex in experienced meditators during meditation.
- This stimulation probably explains the reason for improved focus in meditators.