What are the benefits of meditation, when looked at from a neuroscientists perspective?
What happens to us when we meditate? New technologies applied to research in neuroscience allow us to understand what happens in the brain of a meditator and enhance its benefits.
Thanks to the advance of the neurosciences, largely a product of the development of new technologies, we can begin to understand what happens in the brain when we meditate, and its benefits in the short, medium and long term.
Our brain functions as a kind of board in which, when certain buttons are lit, others are deactivated, thus allowing a delicate balance and a process of self-regulation that makes life possible. If it fails to self-regulate, it would lead the body to a process of chronic stress. Thing that could generate inflammation in the system, predisposing to the activation of genes that can develop many diseases, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, anxiety disorders, etc.
The practice of Meditation allows the parasympathetic system to be activated, and in this way the body and the mind enter into deep states of relaxation, deactivating the response to stress, resulting in a wonderful resource for the creation of health.
Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) observed that in the brains of the meditators there were some enlarged areas, all regions associated with the regulation of emotions. Explaining in this way, the tendency in meditators to emotional stability, serenity, positivism and low reactivity. They also recorded, in people who meditated regularly for years, a thickening of the cerebral cortex, favoring communication between cells of the nervous system and their regeneration.
A study by researchers at Harvard University at the Massachusetts General Hospital found that: meditation reconstructs the gray matter of the brain in just eight weeks. It brings psychological and cognitive benefits that last all day. A marked increase in the density of the gray matter of the hippocampus, important in the learning process, memory and other areas associated with self-consciousness, compassion and introspection. Reduction of the amygdala, zone associated with fear, emotion and the initiation of the response to stress, which increases the feeling of well-being and quality of life. Reactivity is reduced, giving more space to reflection and the possibility of finding more assertive answers.
“Develop your brain”, mentions other aspects that are activated when the frontal lobe is on:
- Intentional awareness and long-term care
- Contemplation of possibilities and action according to them
- Power of decision
- Ability to learn from mistakes
- Sense of the self strengthened
- Ability to act according to pre-established goals
- Disciplined behavior
- Ability to generate options
- Ability to follow an ideal
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, observed what happens in the brain when practitioners of Buddhism in states of deep meditation present mystical experiences: the neurons of the area of association and orientation that places us in time-space and gives us a clear body image that goes out while the center that defines the limits of the body is silenced, allows the self to be experienced as infinite and intimately interrelated with the totality, and enables the ability to inhabit the present moment filtering all the stimuli that come from the environment, as well the subject, the object and the process of observation are merged into the experience of unity.
It has been proven that the experience of transcendence induced through the practice of Meditation, allows the manifestation of a fourth state of consciousness other than waking, dreaming or sleeping, in which in a state of consciousness, the mind remains awake but experiences a more subtle and deep state of relaxation, for which meditation is equivalent to hours of sleep. This is possible when both hemispheres work synchronously: the right hemisphere related to intuition, creativity, the ability to inhabit the present, connectivity, problem solving, while the left hemisphere with language, mathematics, the experience of the linear time, and critical thinking. When both hemispheres are activated at the same time new neural networks are produced, facilitating creativity and productivity without experiencing stress.
Undoubtedly, meditation is a very valuable resource that gives the human being the possibility of reaching very high levels of development. The practice is very simple and in recent years it has been integrated as a complement in the fourth generation psychotherapies for its effectiveness in the treatment of anxiety disorders, the prevention of diseases and the opportunity it gives people to experience states of happiness and general well-being.
Liz Alcalay, integrative therapist focused on creating the best possible conditions so that each person can develop their full potential connecting with their true essence beyond the roles assigned family or socially.