Would you like to know one of the most effective ways to keep your brain healthy and reduce anxiety?
Yes, mindfulness meditation helps your brain counter the negative effects of stress.
It's a method that's been practiced and studied for years, and has enthusiastic support from practitioners and health professionals. Now, we have evidence of actual physical changes in the brain from mindfulness meditation - changes that are beneficial in all sorts of ways, with improvements in memory, learning, self-awareness, and ability to cope with stress.
Here is some information about a study showing that meditation (in this case, mindfulness meditation) produces beneficial changes in the hippocampal region of the brain:
Mindfulness Meditation Helps Your Brain
Previous studies from Lazar's group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced mediation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.
For the current study, MR images were take of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation -- which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind -- participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MR brain images were also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.
Meditation group participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a mindfulness questionnaire indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses. The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. Although no change was seen in a self-awareness-associated structure called the insula, which had been identified in earlier studies, the authors suggest that longer-term meditation practice might be needed to produce changes in that area. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.
"It is fascinating to see the brain's plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life." says Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany.
Brain plasticity is important to your emotional as well as cognitive well-being!
If you'd like to try mindfulness meditation we have a short video you can try right away. Be sure to share this with anyone who needs this information - mindfulness meditation helps your brain in all sorts of ways, and is good not just for anxiety and stress, but for anyone who is looking for inner peace and outer vitality.