Mediation is one of the oldest practices in the world, and it’s something that has spread across all parts of the globe thanks to its many benefits. The process, which involves focusing and calming the mind, might be the first thing you think of when looking for brain training exercises, but it’s actually shown to be quite powerful.
Meditation effects on the brain have been studied quite widely and there’s a lot of good news that’s been found. Not only can this technique help you feel calm and centered, but it will boost your brain’s performance in more ways than one.
Learning how to meditate is quite easy and like any other skill, it’s something you have to work on to get better at. As we know from years of studies on brain exercises, just learning a new skill is another way you can give your mind a workout too. Therefore, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from using meditation and exercise for your brain’s health.
What Is Meditation Exactly?
The roots of meditation date back around 1500 BCE and its Hindu origins have now spread around the world and through many different cultures. There are lots of ways that you can meditate, and not all of them will have the same effect. This means you can find one that you favor and stick with it, as meditation is a very personal experience.
At this point in time, it’s not really known what part of meditation is so beneficial for brain exercise but we do know that it helps. These are some of the common types of meditation or techniques that it uses, any of which could be helpful for your cognitive function.
People might meditate as a tool to get through stressful times or make an effort to practice it each day. It could be part of larger practice like yoga or done on its own, and there’s really no limit to where and how you do it. Therefore, it’s a very handy tool to have for when you want to give your brain a quick exercise session.
What Does Meditation Do To The Brain?
If you know someone that regularly partakes in meditation practice, the main reason for doing so is likely going to be stress relief. People associate meditation with being calm, and that’s certainly what it achieves, but how do we see that in the brain?
One eight week study on participants who did mindfulness meditation every day found some interesting things. An MRI scan was able to show that the amygdala, which is the fight or flight center of the brain, actually shrunk during this time. Because this part of the brain is responsible for emotion and fear, that’s why our responses to stress change.
Another important finding wasn’t just about its stress-busting powers though. The MRI scan showed that as the amygdala shrunk, the pre-frontal cortex grew bigger. This is the amazing part of your brain that takes care of executive functions like concentration, awareness, and all of the decisions you make.
Not only did each of these brain centers change on their own, but their ‘functional connectivity’ also changed. This refers to how often they are activated at the same time, and as it decreases, the parts of your brain responsible for paying attention and concentrating are getting stronger.
While it’s true that there are many activities that will stimulate the pre-frontal cortex and give you plenty of benefits, it’s only meditation that does so while reducing the connections to our stress center. Therefore, it’s one of the most powerful tools we have for exercising our brain and getting a whole host of benefits.
The Benefits Of Meditation
Brain fitness is just one of the benefits that regular meditation practice can offer. The reasons why people meditate are varied but there’s very little downside to this amazing discipline. Here are some of the benefits you can expect, both mentally and physically, when you start meditating.
The key reason most people start meditation is that they’ve heard of its stress-busting properties. Taking some time out to focus on breathing and calm your mind can be an instant stress relief and give you a tool to use whenever you need it.
Promoting Sleep And Restfulness
Those who meditate daily have an easier time falling to sleep each night and can even use some of the techniques to drift off. If you suffer from insomnia or restlessness at bedtime it could be a huge help.
When we are calmer and less likely to get angry, our relationships will improve in all areas of love. Romantic, family, workplace, and friend relationships will all blossom when we are happier and healthier mentally.
Gaining Focus And Concentration
As discussed earlier, meditation helps to grow the part of your brain responsible for making decisions and holding your concentration. Just 10 minutes a day could lead to great improvements in this area.
Spending some time each day meditating and doing exercise for the brain can help one feel happier and improve their outlook on life, leading to an overall better mood.
Reduces Symptoms Of Depression And Anxiety
Early studies into meditation have shown that mindfulness and other types might be able to effectively reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. When used in conjunction with other treatments it can make a huge difference.
How To Meditate At Home
With all of the benefits possible, it’s a wonder that more people don’t meditate each day. One reason why people might be hesitant is that they don’t know how, and think it’s some type of discipline learned by serious monks or those with a lot of time to practice. The good news is, anyone can learn to meditate and it’s a skill that will be improved each time you do.
There are many types of meditation and trying each of them is a great brain training exercise. You can listen to guided meditation, attend classes, or find your own way to hold your concentration and focus on the now. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, provided the aim is to calm the mind and stay focused through the practice.
Other Forms Of Brain Exercises
People like to incorporate other forms of brain exercise into their daily routine to see more benefits. Something as simple as doing a puzzle or learning a new language or skill can enhance your brain’s performance, so it doesn’t have to feel like a chore.
Meditation is a skill that needs to be learned and so not only is the practice developing your cognitive function, but the learning is as well. It’s recommended to spend around 15 minutes a day exercising your brain, so meditation is a simple way to make up that time.
Calmness For A Healthy Mind
It’s no secret that meditation has plenty of benefits, and these benefits are the reason this practice has become so popular in recent times. Scientific studies are now proving what these ancient cultures knew to be true about the practice and showing modern civilizations just how amazing it can be.
If you’re looking for a unique brain fitness workout, meditation could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Not only will you reduce stress levels and give the concentration center of your brain more space to grow, but you’ll experience the myriad of other benefits for the body, mind, and soul that it offers.