The Science of Meditation

Meditation can be practiced in many ways. The most commonly practiced, studied, and effective type is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the intentional, accepting, and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment. As an example, you might sit comfortably, close your eyes, and observe the pattern of your breath or sensations of your body. There are drawings of figures in a seated position, leading us to believe that meditation has been practiced since 3,300 BCE.

Meditation is commonly tied to the Buddhist tradition as a means for enlightenment and freedom from reincarnation. Whether or not enlightenment is attainable or reincarnation actually exists, meditation has been proving its vitality in the science world in the last decade.

Meditation can improve your physical and mental health. Researchers have shown that meditation can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and lift your mood.

Recently, scientists have been studying the effects of meditation on the structure of the brain. Meditating for as little as 12-20 minutes each day for around 7 weeks can show the following structural  changes in your brain:

Increased wrinkly matter of the cortex: the outer layer of the brain that helps us think abstractly and develop introspection

Increased volume and density of the hippocampus – your memory center

Maintenance of attention span: As we age, areas of the brain related to attention span shrink. Meditation counteracts this decay.

Re-wiring of neural circuits.This means that the longer and more frequently you think about something specific or in a certain way, your brain will be more likely to repeat that pattern of thinking.

Stronger connections. Buddhist Monks (frequent meditators) have larger connections between different parts of their brains, which leads to increased neural communication and speed of cognition.

I bet you’re wondering, “How the heck do I do it?”

Step 1 • Sit comfortably. You can sit in a chair, on the ground, on a couch. Get comfortable, just don’t start snoozing!

Step 2 • Set a timer or download a meditation app on your phone that tells you when the time is up. Start by meditating for 12 minutes (work your way up to 20 minutes). Close your eyes and breathe in/out of your nose. Observe the qualities of your breath: length, depth, sound, sensation, pattern, choppiness or smoothness, etc. Aim to make each inhale and exhale the same length.

Step 3 • After a few minutes of observation of your breath, observe the physical sensations of your body. Notice sensations, without giving them labels. Don’t judge or think negatively about any observation. Just notice.

Schedule a time every day that you can meditate for 12 minutes! If you are awake for 16 hours of the day, 12 minutes of meditation only accounts for 1.3% of your entire day! Make time for your mental and physical health. This is free, easy, and the benefits are amazing!

Happy meditating!



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