Meditation has the ability to rewire the brain as mindfulness-based practices can help encourage neuroplasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity essentially emphasizes the fact that the brain is also a muscle that can be strengthened and improved throughout our lives.
In addition to the ability to affect neuroplasticity, it can also increase the amount of gray matter in the brain. The tissue in the brain is made up of gray matter and white matter. Gray matter controls memory, speech, impulsiveness, decision-making, and emotions. A loss in gray matter can also lead to numerous illnesses like psychosis or schizophrenia. The amount of gray matter also naturally decreases as the brain ages. The brain shrinks as an individual gets older but it can be retrained and the good news is that the damage usually can be reversed with care. Meditation can prevent gray matter losses associated with aging and can protect the maturing brain.
Meditation enhances brain activity and promotes new growth of neural pathways in the brain. It can rewire the prefrontal cortex which plays a significant role in mindfulness and self-awareness. The prefrontal cortex helps with cognitive behavior, decision-making, and expression of emotions. It has the capability to control thoughts and actions. This can bring significant improvements in the ability to concentrate and memorize so it can dramatically increase the amount of work an individual can do.
Like mentioned earlier, meditation can literally change the structure of the brain. It can increase the volume of the brain in certain parts and the biggest increase is usually found in the hippocampus. The hippocampus primarily controls memory and learning. It promotes faster learning, creativity, and better focus. Naturally, that means that meditation can enhance performance at work and in school. It can also decrease the volume in certain parts as it has the power to shrink the amygdala. The amygdala is known as the reptilian part of the brain and is responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear. A smaller amygdala means that symptoms of PTSD, stress, and trauma can be reduced. The brain can feel calmer, balanced, and happier. All of these benefits can significantly reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.
Other benefits include:
- An increase in immunity
- A decrease in inflammation
- A decrease in pain
- A decrease in loneliness
There are numerous ways to combat the amount of stress placed on the brain every single day. It is important to remember that the brain shrinks with age but can be strengthened with mindfulness-based practices like meditation. These practices can significantly help heal and support the brain.