“Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.”– Pema Chodron
Business managers and other leaders are at the forefront of crushing pressure due to the need for constantly evolving to meet new business needs. When surrounded by various responsibilities and problems, it is easy to forget about maintaining good mental health. Leaders need to ensure that they remain mentally healthy so that their productivity is not affected, and they can help others. One effective way to do this to practice meditation.
Meditation is an age-old, powerful tool that offers several health benefits. It can be defined as a practice of deep-thinking or focusing one’s mind for a time duration. The goal is to rid the mind of negative thoughts and energies and focus only on positive thoughts and emotions to reach a mental state of inner peace and relaxation. This ancient practice has been around for centuries, often used as a method of praying. It has caught the attention of scientists in the modern era as more people now understand the importance of mindfulness – a state of ‘being in the present moment’ that can be achieved by meditation.
While meditation is known for promoting better physical health, its impact on the brain is particularly interesting. Research has proven that meditation can have a range of neurological benefits, ranging from reducing activity in the brain’s stress-centers to changing the brain volume. Let’s look at some ways in which meditation can change your brain.
Changes in the brain’s volume
A study found that mindfulness meditation can actually alter the structure of one’s brain. Within just eight weeks, stress reduction caused by meditation led to an increase in the hippocampus’s cortical thickness (a part of the brain that governs memory and learning) and other brain areas responsible for processing and emotion regulation.
Interestingly, it was also found that the brain cell volume of the amygdala was also reduced. Since this part of the brain governs anxiety, stress, and fear, this led to a change in the feelings and subjective perceptions of stress. Other research has also linked meditation with improvements in mood and arousal and, ultimately, psychological well-being.
Decrease in anxiety
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a sub-genre of meditation, has been shown to mentally and physically reduce a person’s stress levels. Surprisingly, these benefits can be observed even after years of just 8-week long meditation. Research has also demonstrated that mindfulness meditation is helpful for people with social anxiety disorder. It can cause your brain to change in certain ways, leading to increased attention and relief from social anxiety symptoms.
A study also found that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain, anxiety and depression symptoms, in a manner comparable to antidepressants. It may not be a treatment for depression but can certainly prove useful in managing it.
Increased attention and concentration
Many adults face problems with concentrating, and this is another area where meditation can come in handy. Research has proven that meditation can increase your cognitive skills, leading to better focus and productivity. This effect is because one of meditation’s central aims is to strongly focus one’s attention on an idea, object, or activity.
Slowing of the brain’s aging process
Research has found that individuals who have been in the habit of meditating over the years develop more grey matter volume than those who don’t. This part of the brain is responsible for muscle control, speech, emotions, memory, self-control, decision-making, and sensory perception, including seeing and hearing. As we age, our grey matter increases in density but decreases in volume and thickness, leading to a decline in cognitive function. Meditation can help with slowing down this process, which means that your brain will age slower.
Reduced activity in Default Mode Network (DMN)
Do you ever find yourself thinking about random things or obsessing over the past? When you are not thinking about any particular thing, you are using the default mode network (DMN) or the “Me-Centre” of your brain. The DMN is a brain network responsible for self-referential thoughts and mind-wandering, which are typically associated with worrying about the past, being less happy, and ruminating. When we make deliberate efforts to dial down these habits, we are actually attempting to decrease the activity levels in our brain’s DMN. Meditation has been proven to be helpful in doing this, so meditators are better at preventing their minds from wandering and snapping back to the present if their minds do end up doing it.
The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a center of peace.” – J. Donald Walters
Many people may consider meditation something to sneeze at, but the reality is that it is a useful, active form of brain training. It may be mistaken as ‘not doing anything,’ but the science has highlighted many compelling meditation benefits – particularly concerning the brain. If you aren’t already investing some time to meditate, maybe it’s time to try it out. After all, a quieter brain is a more focused brain, and that’s what leaders like you need to get ahead in the game.
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