13 Sep Re-wire your brain with meditation
Meditation Can Change Your Brain
First of all let’s discuss what meditation is. Meditation is a word that has come to be used loosely and often inaccurately in the modern world. That is why there is so much confusion about how to practice it and even a greater stigma attached to who would benefit from the practice. Some people use the word meditate when they mean thinking or contemplating, others use it to refer to daydreaming or fantasising or even relaxing. Others wrongly think that you have to be spiritual, religious or a hippy covered in incense wearing a tie dye top. However, meditation (dhyana) is not any of these and meditation should be and is accessible to anyone & everyone.
At its foundation meditation is backed by scientific observation & analysis and at its heart it is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. Meditation is not a part of any religion although religions and spiritually look to meditation occasionally but, it is a science. This means that the process of meditation follows a particular order, has definite principles, and produces results that can be verified.
Verified Scientific Benefits
* Stress relief
* reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, insomnia * enhanced ability to pay attention
* increased quality of life
Even if we feel that we are not overwhelmed by stress the truth is we are living in times that bombard us with more triggers than we are prepared for as a modern society. To explain this I need to explain the mechanism of our body’s stress response.
The bodies response to stress is one of our most primal & ancient instincts and evolved to help us in a time when our lives were very much in life threatening environments. Prehistoric man was faced with wild animals, tribal war and dramatically changing environments and so we developed an ability to help ourselves in time of imminent danger- the fight of flight response.
The mechanism works as follows:
So this response helps us focus the mind, gives us a boost of energy & helps us make a decision in a life threatening position. That’s great right? Well, that’s not the entire picture.
Yes this response helps us in the short term but the problem becomes evident when we look at the long term effects or effects of this response being initiated for prolonged periods. If we consider how often we would have encountered such a stressor as a mountain lion or sabre tooth tiger it’s likely it wasn’t a daily event. However today it’s estimated we receive 50 stress responses per day that illicit such a response by the body. When you add a coffee drinker, someone in debt or in toxic relationships the number can be doubled. All of the sudden we are riddled with stress hormone.
The negative effects of prolonged stress hormone are as follows:
Weight gain around the waist
Poor sleep patterns & insomnia
Illness & alignments such as common colds becoming more prevalent Anxiety
The list continues to include being more susceptible to all illnesses & disease due to prolonged stress hormones effect on the immune system.
So how can meditation help?
Meditation helps us take control of our nervous system and create our own internal healing response the para-sympathetic nervous system. This system pours hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin (the love hormone or hugging hormone as I call it), & even nitric oxide into your body that is like soaking your cells in healing warm bath. It’s true that you don’t need meditation to have this response our body does this naturally but meditation increases it’s usage & also reduces our need to react to stress in the first place.
The brain isn’t fixed as we used to think.The way I which our brain works is continually changing, rebuilding and remoulding. When we practice a behaviour with consistency we change our brain. This is called Negro-Plasticity which basically means our brains are mouldable plastic. Now mediation has been proven to cause dramatic changes to brain function & activity.
The part of the brain that initiates the stress response (as seen above) the amigdala is reduced in those that meditate on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean their lives change, it doesn’t mean the bills stop coming in and it doesn’t mean their relationships are made perfect overnight. What it means is that their way of dealing with the stress is much better. Instead of their brain jumping to hit the stress button and start that chain reaction it actually hits the pause. It doesn’t hit the switch as often & they “deal” or manage the stress.
Also to note is the part of the brain that is responsible for leaning & emotion regulation called the left Hippocampus has been proven to increase in activity in those that meditate. This means meditation students can be less reactive and can make more considered decisions.
Meditation has an instant effect of calming the mind, helping improve focus and basically taking a break from life but more importantly it has a cumulative effect. The more you practice the more benefit you get.
As with all things in life there are no absolutes and I’m not saying practicing meditation will cure all problems but I am 100% saying the evidence stacks up that it will produce improvements and that alone is good enough reason to begin. If you suffer from stress, poor sleep, anxiety, depression or suffer continually from common colds and alignments then I would defiantly recommend a meditation class.
The best thing about meditation is that you can practice anywhere, anytime. Namaste
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/ Lissa Rankin “Mind over medicine” book found on amazon.