The conclusions of a long-term study by medical researcher Sara Lazar show that regular mediation is good for your brain. Discover how, why and why you’d be bonkers to miss out on the benefits!
Sara Lazar PhD from Massachusetts General Hospital, USA, has been studying the impact of regular meditation on the brain, using the latest neuroimaging techniques. For a number of years, her team has been tracking the cognitive, emotional and neurological changes associated with practising yoga and meditation.
The results of their latest study have now been published, concluding that:
Even just 8 weeks of daily meditation can have a positive impact on your brain structure.
The study’s participants took part in mindfulness practices, for about half an hour per day. The study showed that the benefits the participants reported weren’t just “in their heads” but were truly in their brain.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day.
This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
Dr Sara Lazar
Previous studies by Lazar’s team, and others, had found structural differences between the brains of experienced mediation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. However, they hadn’t proven a link between this and meditation practice.
This latest study also used a control group – who didn’t meditate – as well as the study group.
It used neuroimaging techniques to measure areas where meditation-associated differences had been seen in earlier studies, finding increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus. This is known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. No such differences were found with the control group.
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”
Britta Hölzel, PhD, co-author of the research paper.
What does this mean for you and me?
A daily meditation practice does more than just help you relax.
It has a positive impact on your brain – the “hardware” that runs everything we do, think, say and feel.
Imagine being able to:
- Improve your memory
- Focus and concentrate more clearly
- Reduce your stress levels
- Feel happier
- Feel more compassionate and less judgemental towards others (and yourself!)
- Be more self-aware, so you can catch yourself, before you do or say something you would rather not 😉
The results of this research study show that meditation can help you do all this – and more.
And the great news is that the changes were observed after as little as 2 months of practice, so you don’t have to lock yourself in a cave for 20 years, before you see tangible progress!
Want to learn how to meditate?
If you’d like to learn more about how to meditate, or deepend your current practice, then joining a class is a great place to start. While CDs and books can help, a good teacher can tailor sessions for your needs and should be able to give you feedback to help with posture, motivation, technique and advice to help you progress more quickly. Meditating in a group often produces deeper results than sitting at home on your own.
- If you live in Sussex, UK, you could be able to join in one of our weekly meditation & mindfulness classes.
- If you’re a bit further away, then you could consider one of our weekend retreats.
- Want to join our online community? Take part in the 28 Day Meditation Challenge and learn the foundations of meditation in the comfort of your own home, with the virtual support of our online forum.
What are your thoughts?
Do the results of this study surprise you?
Have you meditated before? Does this study make you more likely to start or increase your practice?
What are your meditation questions?