How your brain changes when you meditate

meditate.jpg

For a person with Borderline Personality Disorder, meditating once a day for just 15 to 20 minutes can have profound changes on their brain. Scientists used to believe that people were born with one brain and it stayed that way forever. Now, research has proven that the brain is plastic and highly changeable. Meditation is one way this can happen.

Meditating helps change the brain from a chaotic place into a calm and peaceful place, a place where thoughts can be processed and introspection can occur. Introspection leads to insight and insight enables change. That is my motto.

Science proves that meditation helps your brain

New science has shown us that our brains constantly change and adapt to new stimuli. We now know that it  is possible to train the human to change  and that scientists can measure those changes through something called functional MRI (link) and that people who learn new ways of thinking are able to change their brains (and neural pathways) in ways never understood before.

Despite all this many people still remain skeptical. They do not understand how practicing something as simple as mindfulness meditation can have any impact on their lives. This is because mindfulness meditation is not something simple like taking a pill. Thinking of it more in terms of doing something like learning to play the piano might be an easier way to process it. Engaging in mindfulness meditation is sort of like that. It takes practice and the effects are not immediately recognized. It is part of a slower process for becoming happier and having a better sense of well-being.

The way in which the brain is changed by mindfulness meditation can be tracked and measured. Here are some of the changes which are observed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Changes occur in the lateral prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain controls the way in which we see things in terms of a logical, rational basis. It is responsible for helping control emotional responses. Meditating helps the prefrontal cortex helps the brain not take things so personally and modulates the brain’s “me” centre.

The medial prefrontal cortex is made up of two areas  one of which helps you process information and/or things which are related to yourself or people who are around you who are similar in nature to yourself. This area of the brain is very important for people who are trying to recover from depression or anxiety.

The other part, called the Dorsomedial prefrontal cortex helps us process information which we perceive as being dissimilar to ourselves or different from us. This is the part of the brain which helps us keep our connections with other people on a social level. This is the part of the brain which allows us to feel empathy for other people. A very important part of the human brain.

The third part of the brain which is impacted through meditation is something called the insular cortex which helps us monitor the sensations we experience in our bodies such as those “gut feelings” many of us dismiss out of hand.

The last but not least part of the brain impacted by meditation is the amygdala which is recognized as the brain’s fear centre. This is the part of the brain which is responsible when your fight or flight feelings have been engaged.

Practicing mindfulness meditation for just 20 minutes each day can dramatically reshape your brain and make it a much happier organ.