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This is Your Brain on Meditation

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Meditation certainly isn’t new. Neither is the research about its benefits. Because of the neuroplastic nature of our brains (they’re changeable), they’re actually incredibly responsive to meditation. Meditation has been shown to yield a number of neurological benefits and it’s now being utilized by schools, sports teams, and militaries. It even exhibits potential for aiding in chronic pain, addiction, and symptoms of certain physical conditions such as cancer. In a nutshell, here’s an overview of your brain on meditation:

A More Youthful Brain
A study from UCLA showed long-term meditators had “more youthful” brains than non-meditators as they aged. Those that had meditated had more grey matter volume throughout the brain.

Less Mind Chatter
A study from Yale University, showed that mindfulness meditation led to an ability to stay clear of what buddhism calls “monkey mind” - the constant swinging from one thought to another. This idle, mind-wandering occurs in the DMN (default mode network). This mind chatter has been linked to unhappiness and stress, making meditation a particularly useful tool.

Smarter and More Focused
According to a study at Harvard, eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) led to a noticeable increase in the cortical thickness in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for learning and memory, and even plays a part in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. Since our IQs, memory, and focus are not permanently set, meditation can actually make us smarter.

Better at Dealing With Physical Pain
According to research by Adrienne Taren, a researcher studying mindfulness at the University of Pittsburgh Meditation, meditation has been linked to a reduction of biomarkers of stress and inflammation associated with disease.

Less Fearful / Less Stressed
A study at Harvard showed the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala, seems smaller after consistent meditation. This part of the brain is associated with fear, anxiety, and is responsible for the body’s response to stress. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex, associated with awareness, concentration, and decision-making, actually grows, exhibiting our ability to learn to respond more consciously by default.

Better at Business
The INSEAD School of Business conducted studies that compared decision-making in those who meditated versus those who did not. The conclusion? You guessed it. Meditators “made better and more profitable decisions. Particularly when it came to increasing resistance to ‘sunk cost bias’, - when you persist with a bad decision because you're nervous about losing more time or money.” via Men’s Health article