What Does Your Brain Do When You Meditate?
When you think about meditation, you may immediately picture a Buddhist monk, a yoga class, or somebody with tons of extra spare time on their hands. The reality is, meditation is for everybody and it has great benefits. Whether you suffer from addiction, mental health conditions, or are looking for another way to manage the stress in your life, meditation is a great way to start the day. Keep reading to learn more about what your brain does when you meditate and ways you can start practicing meditation today.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is focusing on one particular thing, such as breathing, and achieving a mentally clear, emotionally calm, and stable state. By paying attention to your breath as it goes in and out, take notice of when your mind wanders from this task. You may naturally start thinking about work, your family, or the day’s plans — however, redirect your focus back to your breathing. The longer you can go without redirecting your focus back to your breathing, the more mindfulness you have achieved.
According to Mindful, when we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgment.
Why is meditation important? It offers benefits, such as:
- Understanding your pain
- Lower your stress
- Connect better
- Improve focus
- Reduce brain chatter
Meditation Strengthens The Brain
Even though meditation looks like a rather relaxing and calm activity, there is a lot happening in the brain. Whenever you repeatedly perform an activity, you become better and better at it. Think about solving math equations, crossword puzzles, or learning driving routes in a new town. It is difficult at first, but eventually, your brain strengthens and it becomes easier.
Meditation may lead to increases in:
- Grey matter. The hippocampus and other frontal regions of the brain are responsible for cognition and memory. An increase in the grey matter will improve this to aid in learning, better retention of facts, and better problem-solving skills.
- Anterior insula. The anterior insular cortex is responsible for a wide range of conditions and behaviors, from bowel distension and orgasm to cigarette craving and maternal love, to decision making and sudden insight. An improvement in this area by meditation plays a huge role in your mood and decision-making.
- Cortical thickness. There is a correlation between general intelligence and cortical thickness because this is how information is distributed throughout the brain hemispheres.
Meditation Eases Mental Health Symptoms
A study by Yale University found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network. The default mode network is responsible for all of your wandering thoughts, whether it is a worry for the future or regrets about the past, and it can lead to depression and anxiety. Through meditation, you are able to decrease this activity and have better control over your thoughts and stress levels.
Meditation also calms the sympathetic nervous system. Your sympathetic nervous system is where your fight-or-flight response lives. When activated, this system releases stress hormones and once it passes, your parasympathetic nervous system activates and allows you to rest and relax. On a chemical level, meditation decreases the release of stress hormones. This is very beneficial for those experiencing mental health conditions and addiction.
How to Start Meditating
Meditation is a very important practice for individuals experiencing addiction or mental health conditions and is a tool that is taught at mental health treatment centers. Here is how you can start meditating today:
- Find a calm, quiet spot to sit comfortably.
- Set a time limit. If you are just beginning, even just five minutes will be fine.
- Start breathing, and pay attention to your breath.
- Notice when your mind has wandered, and refocus it back to breathing. Don’t worry where your mind has wandered, how quickly it happened, or become lost in them. Just refocus back on your breathing.
- When your time limit is up, notice how you feel and what your thoughts and emotions may be. You can even track all of this information in a journal to keep track of your meditation journey.
About The Pointe Malibu Recovery Center
When suffering from a mental health condition or addiction, your mind is constantly wandering from place to place. These can be dark thoughts, and meditation can help you through them. By practicing meditation, your triggers will be easier to manage and your intrusive thoughts will cloud your brain less.
However, meditation is not a cure for mental health or addiction issues. If you need help for your condition, treatment at a mental health rehab in Los Angeles will help you get on track. To comfort you during your healing, we offer discreet, luxurious accommodations. For your added convenience, private quarters are available. Our exquisite residential properties are located in Malibu’s most prestigious beachfront community, with views of the Pacific Ocean, a beautiful place to find peace and begin your recovery. During your stay, you can also look forward to gourmet cuisine prepared daily by our on-staff chefs.
If you’re ready to start your family’s journey to long-lasting recovery, we are here for you.