We all know that doing meditation on a regular basis will calm the mind and relax the body, but the relationship between meditation and the brain is much more interesting than that.
When we take a look at meditation and the brain, research shows us that the effects of meditation on the brain, as well as the body, can be measured. The brain uses electro-magnetic energy and this electric activity, when measured, is displayed in the form of brainwaves.
These brainwaves vary from low to high frequencies that are measured in Hertz. Hertz refers to cycles per second or how many wave peaks there are over one second.
When looking at the relationship between meditation and the brain, five types of brainwaves are of interest to us:
Gamma: 25 – 100 Hz
Peak performance, advanced meditation.
Beta:12 – 30 Hz
Awake, alert, normal thinking and functioning.
Alpha: 8 – 12 Hz
Relaxed, calm, meditative, being in the moment without thinking.
Theta: 4 – 7 Hz
Deep physical and mental relaxation, spontaneous imagery, wakeful sleep.
Delta: 0 – 4 Hz
Deep dreamless sleep.
During meditation, there is an increase in synchronous theta in the frontal areas and synchronous alpha in the back of the brain. This means many more neurons are all firing together in the same frequency range.
he areas associated with attention become more active and the areas associated with sensory processing become more quiet which indicate a shutting off from the external world and a quieting of the mind.
Meditation Quick Links:
How meditation changes your brain
Meditation not only helps change your brainwaves but can also change the structure and size of your brain.
There are stronger connections between brain regions and a thickening of the corpus calossum, the main connection between the left and right hemispheres. Meditation also protects your brain from the ravishes of stress, which is the number one contributing factor to brain aging and degeneration. The hippocampus in particular, which is essential for memory shrinks due to chronic stress and is larger in meditators.
When you exercise a muscle it increases in size and the same happens when you “work” your brain.
The increase in brain size is due to the widening of blood vessels, an increase in glial cells which support neurons and an increase in branching and connections. This means that your brain functions better when you exercise your brain by using meditation techniques.
It is also very interesting to note that regular meditation not only relaxes, calms and improves your brain, in that it increase in thickness and size, but that you also function better when not in a meditative state, when doing a task that requires focus and concentration.
You win both ways!
You will not only feel more relaxed, calm, happy and confident but will experience increased focus, better memory, ease of learning and mastering new tasks and heightened awareness. You will also have greater stress residence which is very important in our modern world.