Stress today is hundreds of times stronger than before. It is not accidental that it is called “20th-century disease”, and the 21st does not look very different in this respect. There are many ways to deal with it, but one has been preserved for thousands of years – meditation. Its proven effectiveness is the reason for it to be the subject of increased interest by many people and particularly active trainees.
More and more attention is paid to neurology. With the help of modern technologies and measurement methods, neurologists prove that meditation contributes to achieving fantastic results – delaying ageing, remodelling the brain, and even regenerating parts of it. And all this takes just a few minutes a day!
Here is a short list of five reasons to meditate:
Control of stress and anxiety
The most famous result of meditation is the achievement of a sense of rest – both physical and mental. Stress comes from different sources – physical, mental, emotional and even metabolic. But as the sense of stress is based on the individual’s judgment of the current situation, most studies pay attention to his mental and emotional aspect. The lessons are that meditation helps people feel more relaxed and less stressed, as well as reduce casual and unrelated thoughts.
And how much time do we need to devote to meditation? One study shows that 25 minutes a day are enough to lose the sense of stress. An interesting point from the experience is that participants had higher levels of cortisol after meditation. The probable explanation is that meditation itself in times of high stress is stressful in itself.
Positive remodelling of the brain
Previously, it was thought that with the onset of physical maturity, the brain and the nervous system stopped changing. This is no longer considered absolute truth, and meditation is a powerful tool for achieving positive changes in the brain.
In the most important study on the subject, it has now been found that eight weeks of meditation can lead to a new growth of cortical gray matter, namely, more complex neuronal activities occurring there. What’s more, the size of the hippocampus increases and the amygdala size decreases. Hippocampus is important for emotional control, while amygdala is associated with fear, anxiety, and stress. Thus, by meditating, you simultaneously increase the benefits of one part of the brain and reduce the damage on the other.
High levels of cortisol age the brain prematurely and constant stress forces it to develop negative adaptations. But through meditation, you can slow down this process. Not only that, it is possible to increase the activity of specific genes that are key to the activation of the telomerase enzyme, which regulates the genetic markers for longevity, called telomeres.
Telomeres act as a protective layer on the chromosome and are therefore associated with cell ageing, reproduction, and preservation of the genetic material. Meditate briefly and grow older!
Another benefit of meditation is the cortical thickening of the part of the brain called insula. Among its functions is homoeostasis – the balance between the autonomic and visceral functions of the body; In practice, thanks to this balance we are keeping alive.
Focused focus and focus
By meditating, you can reduce the activity of the system in the body called DMN (default mode network). She is responsible for distraction and lack of focus. As long as this system is active, about 30% of our time think of abduction things absolutely unrelated to what we are doing now.
Thus, by diminishing the power of DMN through meditation, we improve our concentration – both in duration and in strength. In addition, distracting thoughts often lead to a sense of sadness, while focusing on particular circumstances – to happiness.
This is a well-known effect of meditation, which is also scientifically proven. It is also possible, through meditation, to overcome post-traumatic stress and reduce its negative effects.
The scientific explanation is that these beneficial effects result from the increase in gray matter and the increase in hippocampal activity.
So, should you meditate? The correct question is, why have not you started yet? You will improve your health and achieve success not only in the gym but also in life as a whole. What do you want in return? Just a few minutes a day!
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Kabat-Zinn, J., 2009. Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. Hachette UK.
Bergen-Cico, D., Possemato, K. and Cheon, S., 2013. Examining the efficacy of a brief mindfulness-based stress reduction (Brief MBSR) program on psychological health. Journal of American College Health, 61(6), pp.348-360.
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Luders, E., Toga, A.W., Lepore, N. and Gaser, C., 2009. The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. Neuroimage, 45(3), pp.672-678.
Hölzel, B.K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S.M., Gard, T. and Lazar, S.W., 2011. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), pp.36-43.