Meditation May Increase Your Brain Function
By Lara Hughes, Editor-in-Chief
Demi Rodriguez, Photographer
A wise man once said, “Construct something within. Even if a man builds himself a brand new high-rise with a modern penthouse and all the luxuries he can afford, if he is deeply unhappy within, the only thing he will look for is a window to jump out of.” The man who said this is the Dalai Lama. According to many Yogi’s, Buddhist Monks and the Dalai Lama, one of the ways that you can construct something within is to begin meditating.
What is meditation? Meditation is when a person has no thoughts or they are focusing on one thing.
Some of the people who have shed light on the credibility of the positive effects and functionality of meditation are neuroscientist Sara Lazar, Molecular Biologist turned Buddhist Monk, Matthieu Ricard, and Henry Ford, the car maker.
Many people believe that meditation is beneficial to us as human. They claim that it improves our brain function and therefore improves our bodies and lives. Some people who practice yoga say that it is beneficial to us spiritually and that we should incorporate it into our everyday living.
One thing is certain, many of us are stressed. According to a 2008 mental health study by the Associated Press and mtvU, eight in 10 college students say they have sometimes or frequently experienced stress in their daily lives. Aside from stress, people can also suffer from PTSD and depression.
According to experts and the American Journal of Psychiatry, the rate of depression is on the rise. Depression is also considered a global epidemic. If we were to look at statistics provided by the World Health Organization we would see that five percent of the global population suffer from the condition. This might not seem like a big deal, but five percent of seven billion, which is the current world population, is 350 million. The population of the USA is 316 million. Therefore, that would be comparable to all of the USA and Canada suffering from depression.
And if we get stressed out, according to the University of Chicago, that can lead to a negative physical reaction as well, which can manifest itself in disease. We all personally know what stress feels like… Between paying bills, studying, working, taking care of family and maintaining a decent social life, we can tend to get a little stressed out from time to time.
So what can be done about this? One easy simple thing that you can do is to adopt a practice of daily meditation.
Why meditate? Henry Ford said that one of the reasons he believed he was so successful is because he would meditate for 20 minutes every morning. He said that his best ideas came after he had been meditating. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist did a study on meditation. After seeing a study done on jugglers over three months that showed a change in the grey matter in the brain that was responsible for visual motion, she wondered if similar results could be measured in meditators.
She found that there was actually an increase in grey matter in the brains of meditators versus the non-meditators over a period of three months. Meditators showed an increase in the front area of the brain responsible for memory and decision making, no matter what age. The studies also showed an enlargement of the meditators hippocampus, responsible for learning, memory, and emotional regulation. There was an increase in the grey matter of the temporal peroidal junction, above ear, which is important for perspective taking and compassion. There was also a decrease in the amygdala, which is responsible for our fight or flight and stress response.
You may ask, “Who has this worked for?” Well, the Dalai Lama for one. Sara Lazar meditates daily and so does Matthieu Ricard. Ricard is a Molecular Biologist turned Buddhist Monk, and he has written books and given speeches about the benefits of meditation.
How can you start meditating? According to an article by Goddess Leonie titled, Eight Ways to Make Meditation Fun and Easy, Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives, you could try different things. Leonie suggests picking a time that you know will work for you and say, “That is my meditation time.” Some ideas, as far as timing is concerned, might be first thing in the morning, when you wake up or at night after your dinner. Even after a shower could be an optimal time. Whatever you know will work for you. She says that you can lie down or sit in a chair, but the key is to make sure that you are comfortable, and close your eyes.
You can start by trying the 100 breaths technique. This is where you count your breaths, inhalations and exhalations, up to 100. Some people burn sage or they like to focus on an idea or word, for example, health, patience, abundance, and or a color. Continue on after the 100 breaths up to 15 minutes a day, and work your way up to half an hour.
There are even some people who are olympic meditators and do it for about 12 hours a day… for months.
So, if you are stressed you may want to give meditation a try. It’s been shown to work for Henry Ford and there is even scientific evidence to back it up. It only takes five minutes! The sooner you begin, the calmer you may be and, according to Sara Lazar’s research, the better the possibility that your brain will function at a higher rate.