What Happens to Your Brain When You Meditate?

November 13, 2021

The practice of meditation has been around for centuries, and its popularity continues to grow. Today, research provides us insights that add to our understanding of the benefits and effects of meditation. And one insight in recent years has been a fascinating look into how our brains change when we meditate.

What happens to your brain during meditation?

Meditation can make changes to your brain that produce positive impacts on your wellbeing beyond the time of active meditation. Let’s take a look.

Meditation Affects Your Brain Structure

Brain imaging technology shows that meditation can change brain structure. One study followed a group of individuals participating in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.

Those who took part in the program had MRI images taken before and after the program. The scientists found that those in the MBSR program showed changes in the gray matter concentration in the areas of the brain associated with understanding other perspectives, emotion regulation, learning, and memory.1

Improving Focus

Another study suggests that meditation can help reduce mind-wandering and increase focus on your ability to stay on task.In the study, participants took a 2 week mindfulness course. The researchers found that the mindfulness training improved reading comprehension scores and memory capacity, while reducing the frequency of distracting thoughts.2

Brain imaging technology shows that meditation can change brain structure. One study followed a group of individuals participating in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.

Those who took part in the program had MRI images taken before and after the program. The scientists found that those in the MBSR program showed changes in the gray matter concentration in the areas of the brain associated with understanding other perspectives, emotion regulation, learning, and memory.1

Improving Focus

Another study suggests that meditation can help reduce mind-wandering and increase focus on your ability to stay on task.In the study, participants took a 2 week mindfulness course. The researchers found that the mindfulness training improved reading comprehension scores and memory capacity, while reducing the frequency of distracting thoughts.2

Reducing Stress

Anxiety reduction and stress management is often the reason many people begin to practice meditation. While meditation's benefits are numerous, easing stress remains a significant benefit of meditation.

And multiple studies have demonstrated the power of meditation in stress management. A systematic review looked at studies using MBSR interventions lasting from 4-8 weeks, and reporting results on a perceived stress scale. The reviewers found that most studies reported positive changes in psychological well-being in the results.3 

What happens to your brain when you meditate? | Mukha Yoga

Reducing Stress

Anxiety reduction and stress management is often the reason many people begin to practice meditation. While meditation's benefits are numerous, easing stress remains a significant benefit of meditation.

And multiple studies have demonstrated the power of meditation in stress management. A systematic review looked at studies using MBSR interventions lasting from 4-8 weeks, and reporting results on a perceived stress scale. The reviewers found that most studies reported positive changes in psychological well-being in the results.3 

Combatting Mental Health Concerns

Meditation is not only effective for managing day-to-day stress, research suggests that meditation can even help improve symptoms of mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are two interventions used by clinicians to help treat mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. And the research suggests that it can have a positive impact when used by clinicians as part of a treatment plan, especially when used in addition to other treatments.4

Cultivating Compassion

Research has also demonstrated that meditation, particularlyloving-kindness meditation, can help increase feelings of empathy and compassionate behaviors.5

Brain imaging studies also seem to support this finding. Compassion meditation practice seems to activate the left medial prefrontal cortex, and the anterior cingulate gyrus—areas of the brain associated with empathy.6

Allow Julie to guide you on a Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Meditation & The Brain: An Impressive List of Benefits

Meditation has a long list of benefits, and the research continues to support them. A regular meditation practice can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and increase focus and compassion. More and more studies are showing that meditation can make changes to your brain, even when you're not actively meditating.

Mila Meldosian

By Mila Meldosian; All Rights Reserved @2021

Mila MeldosianBy Mila Meldosian; All Rights Reserved @2021



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