The benefits of meditation for health and stress release are countless. But did you know that this daily practice can also do a great deal of good for your brain? Well, it can.
Founded in Eastern cultures, this technique has been a path to enlightenment for some and a simple way to relax at the end of the day for others. Just like other Eastern practices like yoga and acupuncture, meditation has made its way into the norm of Western society. What are the benefits of meditation and how can they help you become smarter?
What Is Meditation?
Before we can get into why this method can boost your brain power, it is important to cover exactly what it is. The short answer to that question is the breathing technique, which should bring the user to a place of contentment and enlightenment if practiced long enough.
Yet, there is no definite answer to this question since meditation means different things to different people. For the most part, though, this practice is about self-awareness and perspective about our place in the world. These are achieved through breathing intervals that are taken in and then exhaled while sitting comfortably.
Benefits of Meditation
Some of the many benefits of meditation include stress reduction, a better control on your anxiety, emotional health, self-awareness, longer attention span, reduction in age-related memory loss, and a general improvement on your quality of sleep.
Yet, there is one benefit we are focusing on for this piece, and that’s a good boost for mental capabilities.
The primary idea behind meditation is to be mindful or be “at the moment”. We spend plenty of our lives living in the past or the future without focusing on what is right in front of us. By focusing on your breath, it is impossible not to be in the moment.
As it turns out, this focus is better for your brain than we originally thought. A study using two groups, one full of regular meditators and another full of non-practitioners, showed that the people who meditated regularly showed more gray matter in their scans. Gray matter is linked to the ability to perform. To sum it up, the more matter, the better you can think.
Subjects also showed thicker gray matter in their insula, a part of the brain associated with thought, emotion, and sensory integration. That’s not all. The gray matter in the prefrontal cortex was also thicker and this part of the brain handles IQ, memory, and fluid intelligence. All of this evidence suggests that the benefits of meditation make it a wonderful workout for the brain.
How to Meditate
All you need is a comfortable seat, silence, and the ability to count to ten. Sit in the area you have chosen to for your practice. You can sit in a comfortable chair or with your legs crossed on a blanket, pillow, or mat. For an added boost, diffuse some of your favorite essential oils to better get in the zone.
Close your eyes and begin to breathe in through your nose. Don’t control your breathing. Just take in air through your nose until you can’t anymore. Then exhale through your mouth naturally and count to ten.
Be aware of your body and focus on your breath. If you find that difficult, counting breaths in and out helps one focus. If thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and refocus on your breathing. Before you know it, the thought will move on.
What Does That Mean for Me?
Staying within the ideologies that come along with a practice like meditation, this new exercise can mean anything you want it to. Since you are reading this article, there is no denying you have an interest in meditation and its abilities to strengthen your brain. So, it’s safe to assume this is the most important factor in your pursuit of mindful breathing.
If that is the case, then it is important that you incorporate meditation into your daily routine. The busy people reading this are probably thinking, “I don’t have time to add another thing to my schedule.” To that, we say – if it’s important, you will find the time.
All you need is five minutes a day, preferably in the morning. Find a place that means something to you, where you can be alone without any distractions. Let your family know to give you space while you practice.
If you find focusing on your breath for five minutes a day difficult, then keep trying. Don’t give up. They call it a practice for a reason because there is truly no end goal to reach.
As with anything else, you will get better, and in no time, sitting alone focusing on your breath will become a breeze. Also, you will find that the more you do it, the more your mind will seem clearer and calmer.
The practice of meditation is old that its origins go as far back as prehistoric times. This is because it works. When meditating, the vibrations of our breaths is soothing, the mindfulness to our breathing clears the mind, and the benefits of meditation are too numerous for us not to give it a try.