Meditation aids in relaxing the body and calming the mind, but it can also significantly change the brain for the better. Numerous studies have been released that demonstrate a new benefit of meditation that has been confirmed through fMRI or EEG. Some of these benefits include changes in grey matter volume and reduced activity in the centers of the brain that revolve around self-awareness and care. Let’s take a look at some of the other mental benefits of meditation.
A recent study from UCLA revealed that people who were long-time meditators had better-preserved brains than those who did not meditate. The long-term meditators (those who have mediated for an average of 20 years) had more grey matter volume throughout the brain. While some of the older meditators had some volume loss as compared to the younger meditators, it was not as prominent as the ones who did not meditate at all.
According to study author Florian Kurth, “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
Improves Concentration and Attention
Struggling with concentration is not limited to children as it affects millions of adults as well, regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with a neurological disorder. So, it comes as no surprise that one of the key benefits of meditation is improved attention and concentration. In fact, one study found that training in meditation for only a couple of weeks helped participant’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section for the GRE, and the increase in score was the equivalent to 16 percentile points.
Reduced Anxiety and Social Anxiety
One of the biggest reasons why people take on meditation is for the benefits of stress reduction, and there is a wealth of scientific evidence that supports this reasoning. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety and these changes come from the brain regions associated with the “me-centered” thoughts. Meditation can also help people with a social anxiety disorder, as a team at Stanford University found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction could bring changes to the brain regions that involve attention and relieve some of the symptoms associated with social anxiety.
There has been an increasing number of studies that prove that, due to the effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can help people recover from various types of addiction. One study focused on putting mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program and revealed that people who learned from mindfulness were more likely to quit smoking by the end of the training than those who tried conventional treatment.