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Cool new 8 week meditation study came out today. I have mentioned before that I have meditated a fair amount in the past. Nothing like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, but enough to know the affect that it can have. Meditation is great. Anyway one of the big things that meditation does is still the mind so that you are much better able to keep your concentration as well as creativity.
Studies tend to be inconclusive on the physical effect to your brain from meditation but a new report seems to show that in just 8 weeks it can make a big difference.
8 Week Meditation Study
An eight-week program of meditation led to brain structure changes in people participating in a study, researchers say. It’s the first time that meditation, a practice advocated by a range of religious traditions, has been shown to lead to such changes, according to the scientists.
Previous research, they said, had revealed structural differences in the brains of meditators, but couldn’t document that meditation had actually caused those changes. The researchers reported that participating in an eight-week meditation program appeared to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
“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,” said Sara Lazar of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study’s senior author. “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.”
The study is to appear in the Jan. 30 issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.
Meditation Study Shows Changes to the Brain
The investigators scanned the brain structures of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation – which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind – participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A group of non-meditators also had their brains scanned during the same time period.
The meditators in the 8 week meditation study reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and their responses to a “mindfulness questionnaire” indicated significant improvements compared with pre-participation responses, the scientists reported.
Analysis of the brain scans, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Grey matter is the brain tissue that contains nerve cells.
If you are interested in learning more about meditation then check out this article on meditation for fitness that I wrote a while ago that is of course still relevant. Also There was a past study on meditation for stress relief and the science of meditation.
After seeing this 8 week meditation study I say find a quiet corner in the house and just sit quietly and see what meditation can do for you.