Recent findings in neuroscience suggest that meditation and mindfulness training not only changes our mind, but may also cause neuroplasticity in the brain.
Multiple studies by Harvard neuroscientists found three significant changes in as little as four weeks of meditation training. The first transformation was an increase in cortical thickness in an area of the brain involved with bodily attention and sensory awareness. Next, an increase in gray matter in brain regions involved in learning, memory, and emotion regulation were discovered. Lastly, found larger volumes in the hippocampus might account for meditators’ abilities and habits to cultivate positivity and retain emotional stability.
Additionally, a Danish research group found large differences in the medulla oblongata region of the brain stem. This area is known to contain autonomic nerve system structures such as respiratory and cardiac control. Changes to this area could explain why respiration and heart rates decrease with meditation training.
Although the cellular mechanisms underlying meditation training and its connection to neuroplasticity are not fully understood, a wide range of research has shown that observed differences are not confined to one area of the brain. Thus, meditation is a popular therapeutic method used to both improve psychological state and promote neuroplasticity. It can be self-administered, eliminates the need for transportation to a treatment facility and is a low cost activity.
There are many different types of meditation ranging from traditions steeped in religious beliefs to more westernized techniques that focus on breath and relaxation. To find the right type for you check out the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Five tips to help you get started!
- Sit Tall – Get comfortable seated in a lotus position or sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor. Straightening and lengthening your spine will help to increase your circulation and keep you alert.
- Start Small – If ten minutes seems overwhelming, begin with five. After a week, add one minute until you build up to 30 min at a time.
- Find a friend – Join a group online or take a course. Being accountable to a friend will help fight excuses.
- Practice makes perfect – The only way to improve is practice. Think of meditation as bicep curls for the muscles of your mind.
- Just breathe – Our minds have a tendency to analyze the past or project into the future. Focus on your inhaling and exhaling to help anchor the mind into the present.
Our Guest writer today, Waverly Wyld is a fourth year student at The University of Guelph-Humber. She’s taking Kinesiology and she recently completed a placement with us at Aim2Walk. Her hard work and drive to learn was outstanding and she was a great help to the team. Thank you Waverly for your hard work and for sharing your knowledge about meditation. We’ve already started to implement more meditation into our clients protocol.
Best of luck to you in the rest of your school year and in your future with health care.
The Aim2Walk Team!