It is true. It is science. Meditation changes you. Research shows that if you meditate, your brain shifts: tension abates, thinking improves and you relate to others in a better-for-both way. According to this Washington Post article http://wapo.st/1RkHs7e by Brigid Schulte, thickened gray matter in the brain translates into everyday empowerment.
Schulte interviewed Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar who conducted a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. After eight weeks of meditating up to 40 minutes per day, brain anatomy altered and people felt more capable, resilient, calm and content. Changes were observed in five areas including:
- Posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self-relevance. (Self-relevance involves self-definition/ self-esteem)
- Left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation. (We are better off observing before reacting as well as choosing how we react. While losing it upon provocation is human, self-mastery is connected to happiness.)
- Temporoparietal junction, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion. (Empathy and compassion enhance interpersonal exchange.
- Pons, where regulatory neurotransmitters are produced. (Neurotransmitters dictate one’s feeling of agitation versus amiability. When released as needed, we function with greater peace and surety.)
- Amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain, which is important for anxiety, fear and stress. (This area got smaller after meditation. While we need the fight/ flight response for emergencies, over-firing can cause fatigue and flummox.)
Taking time out to meditate if you have many responsibilities can be a challenge. If you are pressed, just a few minutes can influence wellbeing and awaken a solution. You might choose to solidify and deepen the practice in time if you experience benefits. Small steps lead to big changes. The first step catapults you over a psychological hurdle and introduces a life-enhancing habit. Stay the course, and add on a little more when you can.