The human brain is extremely dynamic by nature — seemingly built to be resilient and adaptable. As we unravel many more of the mysteries associated with this complex neural netowork, a growing body of research has indicated that the brain can be influenced in a way that can alter its performance in almost miraculous ways.
The repetitive influence of certain thoughts and behaviors, for instance, has been found to change the actual structure of the brain and the cognitive function of the individual experiencing them.
This phenomenon, now widely known as neuroplasticity, is a revolutionary discovery that is changing our perception of the human mind.
Before this discovery, the brain was seen as a form of matter that deteriorates over time and as we grow old. But what recent research has shown is that under the right circumstances, the power of brain plasticity can help adult minds grow and acquire new abilities.
Brain plasticity is a term used by neuroscientists, referring to the brain’s ability to change at any age – for better or worse.
Although certain areas of the brain tend to decline with age, there are steps you can take to tap into plasticity and strengthen your mental performance.
This flexibility plays an incredibly important role in your brain development (or decline) and in shaping your distinct personality and self-reliance. The science of neuroplasticity and the brain is the basis of clinically proven brain training exercises.
The experience of learning and reinforced activity can strengthen the existing neural connections in your brain. This implies that the brain can be trained in a very positive way — impacting how you grow, behave, and perform on a daily basis.
One of the most amazing things about the dynamic nature of the brain is that it is something that can be developed and strengthened throughout the majority of our lifetime.
Neuroplasticity and Meditation
Meditation is one of the most powerful ways to trigger this interaction by strengthening the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for emotional regulation, judgment, thought analysis and regulating our decision-making process.
While meditating, we are constantly bringing our focus back into the presence of the moment. Each time the mind wanders and is intentionally brought back into awareness, the prefrontal cortex is activated.
When practiced with consistency, meditation has been shown to greatly improve willpower and concentration. This is a prime example of neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change. Meditation has also been shown to alter the brain’s gray matter.
This may be a big part of the reason why practitioners often experience significant improvements in memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress, according to a new study led by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Researchers, upon discovering the nexus between meditation and brain activity, were interested in studying long-time meditation practitioners to decipher how different meditation practices can affect the mind, brain structure, and physical systems of the body.
The study of mindfulness meditation and mantra-based meditation reveals that despite the fact that different types of meditation engage specific neural structures and promoting the brain’s plasticity, the effect of these different forms of meditation are very similar.
The Influence of Meditation on Well-Being
Because meditation triggers the natural production of important neurochemicals such as serotonin, melatonin while regulating other hormones, practicing focused attention through meditation will reatly improve your overall sense of health and self-awareness.
Serotonin as a neurotransmitter impacts the feeling of well-being. Depression, insomnia, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, narcolepsy, migraines, and some other psychological disorders are associated with low levels of serotonin.
Melatonin, on the other hand, regulates other body hormones and controls the body’s circadian rhythm. The combined effect of these hormones results in the meditator’s emotional balance and energy.
Meditation also increases the level of dopamine during and after the practice. Healthy amounts of dopamine will give you pleasure and help regulate symptoms of depression. Among many other important functions, dopamine also affects voluntary movement, sleep, mood, learning, and attention span.
Depression, cravings, addictions, obesity, and anxiety can often be related to low levels of dopamine. Research shows that those who practice meditation consistently over the course of their lives are less prone to experiencing many of these mental and physiological imbalances.
The Positive Influence of Meditation
A multitude of studies suggest that various forms of meditation can induce a positive mood and encourage healthy changes in the brain. Neuroplasticity and meditation as a study has made significant contributions to our understanding of how various stimulations such as meditation can influence the brain and how we experience life.
Meditation not only influences the brain, but can also play a significant role in leading a balanced and healthy life — mentally and physically. These amazing discoveries have given modern medicine a clear insight into how to better treat physiological and psychological disorders.