9 benefits of meditation

September 2, 2017

 

for mental clarity & focus - taming the 5 senses

 

-growing world of Facebook/Twitter updates, shiny new blog posts, up to the minute

breaking news, and other “click-me-now” mediums competing for our monetised minds — it’s no

surprise that our ability to focus and concentrate has taken a dive.

 

In just over a decade (2000 to 2013), researchers have measured a whopping 33%

downgrade in our average attention span, from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, one second shorter

than that of a goldfish (9 seconds). By making it this far in the article, you can pat yourself on the

back, as 17% of website page views last 4 seconds or less.

 

It’s quite normal nowadays to have 20 open browser tabs while only reading 10% of the page

content — the endless rabbit hole of distraction made available to us by the internet is part of its’

lure and essence. The problem is when we apply this same principle in other areas of our life.

Focusing on everything effectively leads to focusing on nothing, leaving you a master of

nothing — accomplishing zero in the end.

 

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to

a focus.” — Alexander Graham Bell

 

Why are we so “not-in-control” of our thought focus?

 

It has been said that our senses are like five wild horses pulling a carriage, with the mind serving

as the rein-holding driver. If you cannot learn to effectively harness the speed and direction of

your senses, they can and will run wild on you, galloping randomly anywhere at anytime,

dragging you against your will, kicking and screaming — to places you don’t want to go.

Your ability to focus and concentrate comes down to how successful you are

at taming, controlling, and eventually fully harnessing the incessant push and pull of your socalled

“wild horse” senses.

 

Our ability to cultivate meaningful relationships, problem solve effectively, reach personal goals,

achieve any kind of success are all directly linked with our ability to focus our attention.

Thankfully, there is an ever-green, time-tested, bulletproof way to re-train and re-focus the

mind that works for everybody. It’s called meditation.

 

In much the same way that a river dam ensures the perfect amount of water is always available

to downstream households, agriculture, and industry — meditation optimizes the flow of sensory

information (remember the5 wild horse senses?) that can reach your gatekeeping/ bottlenecking thalamus. In turn, without the distraction of having to micromanage the trivial day to day tasks of its’ components, meditation allows your higher function “CEO” cortex to think more deeply, clearly, while problem solving more effectively. With less stimuli and minimised arousal, meditation makes your brain much more efficient, armed with only the highest and best available information, while ignoring the information responsible for lapses in attention and other undesirable disorders like anxiety, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Meditation spring-loads your brain

 

Meditation also healthfully grows and thickens your brain’s hippocampus/ frontal gray matter, while increasing its’ ultra-important “crinkles” and “folds” (gyrification), effectively strengthening the “spring-load” of your cerebral cortex. All of this extra coil catapults you to a world of amazing benefits: more positive and stable emotions, diminished age-related brain wear and tear, better information processing, more clear/accurate long & short term memory formation, better decision making, all while magnifying your focus & attention. In time, meditation strengthens your ability to confidently tackle any challenge with surgical precision, illuminated by clear, sure-footed steps showing you how to get there. You will have the laser-like mind focus to immerse yourself in whatever you are doing, pouring your all into the task at hand. What is the secret to accessing the limitless benefits of meditation?

 

Harnessing Neuroplasticity: 9 Key brain regions upgraded through meditation

 

So, What Is Neuroplasticity? Effectively blowing away the scientific dogma of decades ago, the

newly discovered principle of "neuroplasticity" means that our brain's potential is not set at birth

— we can actually strengthen and improve our brains in ways once believed impossible.

Rebecca Gladding M.D., author of "You Are Not Your Brain" recently wrote: The brain, and how

we are able to mould it, is fascinating and nothing short of amazing."

 

Scientists agree: Meditation is the number 1 brain changer. Backed by 1000's of studies,

neuroscientists now view meditation as the top way to upgrade your brain, with the potential to

transform your life in many big ways.

 

Here we dive into 9 key benefits by meditation, as well as the massive implicated benefits.

 

1. You feel connected. Everybody knows that you have to eat right, exercise, and get

enough sleep if you want to be a happy and healthy person. But very few of us know the

importance of human connectedness to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

In fact, one 2010 study published in "PLOS Medicine" found social connectivity increased

longevity by over 50%! Another study by UCLA Professor of Medicine Dr. Steve Cole showed

feeling connected to others strengthens immunity, while other studies have shown less

anxiety and depression, higher self esteem, more empathy, the list goes on.

Thinking back, when were your happiest times? Laughing, playing, enjoying quality time with

loved ones, friends, and family tops many people's lists, where the natural human connection

redirects our minds away from our past/future tense worries, directly into the present moment.

Meditation is the cure for loneliness. While the very best cure for feeling isolated is a strong inperson

social network and a loving family, this isn’t possible for everybody.

Luckily, meditation activates the so called "social connectivity" parts of our brain, unlocking many

of the same mental, emotional, and physical benefits that come along.

A University of Pennsylvania scientist, Dr. Andrew Newberg, took brain images of Tibetan Monks

during meditation. As expected, their frontal lobes lit up on the screen, just like countless other

studies have shown.

 

Meditation is your best friend. However, what surprised him most was that the meditators’ "third-dimensional"

based parietal lobes cooled off immensely, which happens to be the same area that becomes overheated when we feel lonely.

 

Dr. Newburg, now a bestselling author, writes "When people lose their sense of self [in

meditation], feeling a sense of oneness, [this] results in a blurring of the boundary

between self and others...[with] no sense of space or passage of time."

This feeling of oneness achieved through meditation results in feeling less lonely and separated,

releasing a cascade of scientifically proven psychological and physiological benefits, in turn

making you a happier and healthier person. While friends come and go, meditation will always be

there for you!

 

2. Fortifies the bridge between your brain hemispheres. Your brain has two

hemispheres, left and right. Logical, left-brained people tend to be more practical, most

often good at math and science. Creative right-brained people tend to be more intuitive,

usually best at art and philosophy. Most people use one hemisphere more than the other,

creating an imbalance. Which side is dominant for you?

Unlike the rest of us, brain imaging studies have shown that highly successful people use both

brain halves together, in balance. If only it was possible to train our whole brains to work in

harmony? Thankfully, it is.

 

A 2012 UCLA School of Medicine study found that meditators "corpus callosum", the grand

central station-like cable of nerves connecting the brain hemispheres, was remarkably stronger,

thicker, and more well connected. This bridge-like structure is super helpful in getting your brain

halves to communicate with each other like never before. What does this monumental healthy

"neuroplastic" brain discovery mean for you?

Integrated brain benefits. Harmonizing both of your brain hemispheres gives you an array of new

abilities: increased focus, deeper thought, more creativity, optimized mental health, better

memory, and clearer thinking, just to name a few.

 

You will be happier, more optimistic, at one with the world. Financial, academic, and

career success will come much easier, more naturally. You may even regret that you didn’t sync

your brain hemispheres in meditation years ago!

Like constructing a skyscraper’s floors, meditation’s benefits tend to build one on top of the other,

until you can’t even recognise the person you used to be. Meditation is your 'round the clock construction crew building a more successful life.

 

3. Meditation ends depression, builds memory How to exterminate depression by changing your brain. As 1 in 6 people suffer from depression sometime in their life, there is no shortage of people ready to put their brains under the microscope for a chance at a possible cure. Because of this, we are closer than ever to conquering this ugly mental health issue. A 1996 University of Washington study measured the brains of 10 major clinical depression sufferers. What did they find? The hippocampi of the depressed patients had atrophied considerably, with extra deterioration for each year since their diagnosis. If only there was an all-natural, super effective way to reverse this ugly brain weakening for depression sufferers? There is. A 2008 study published in the Neuroimage Journal found that after only 8 weeks of meditation, the left and right hippocampi of participants had significantly grown in neural thickness, density, and overall size. This incredible finding means that adding meditation to your daily routine can in essence — put your brain on a level too advanced for depression, while putting the depression wheels in reverse.

 

Like a cricket batsman building up his shoulder muscles to prevent future breakdown, meditators

have built up their brain's hippocampi to levels that effectively make them invulnerable to

depression.

The hippocampus is also the brain's memory centre

Everybody has forgotten where they left their keys or blanked on a friend’s name. However,

memory loss is not an inevitable part of the aging process, there are plenty of older people

with perfect memory.

Why then, do some of us have good memories and others of us can't even remember our coworkers'

names? It's all in your head!

 

Dr. Larry Squire, a world-renowned psychiatrist at UC San Diego, published a groundbreaking

paper titled "Memory, Hippocampus, and Brain Systems" — illustrating just how critical the

hippocampus is in learning and memory. Pinpointing this key brain region has far-reaching

implications for those looking to retain more information, do better in school, and move up the

career ladder.

 

If only it was possible to build up your hippocampus? And, in effect, have a leak proof, ultraenhanced

memory with super-learning capacity?

Thankfully, prominent Harvard neuroscientist, Dr. Sara Lazar and colleagues, have studied the

brains of meditators for years. Among many other monumental discoveries, her research shows

that meditators' super-healthy brains seem to always have well-formed, highly developed

hippocampi.

 

If you want to an air-tight memory with a powerful ability to learn, then many scientists agree that

harnessing meditation's neuroplastic power is the key.

 

4. Makes you kinder & happier

There is truth to the old saying "Give and you shall receive." Many people think happiness comes

from achieving, acquiring, and receiving, but research says otherwise. Scientists are now finding

that our greatest fulfilment comes from living a life of meaning. It is in compassion — helping

others, feeling connected, where we are truly the happiest.

In fact, a brain imaging study at the National Institute of Health showed that our brains’ "pleasure

centres" are activated when we donate to charity. Another study at the University of San Diego

found that like wildfire, helping others spreads to everyone nearby.

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice

compassion." — Dalai Lama

 

Compassion upgrades everything. There are also a host of health benefits that come from practicing kindness and compassion for others, like alleviating anxiety and depression, strengthening the immune system, and helping you live longer. Did you know that there are certain brain regions activated when we practice compassion? And that we can do things to train our brains to make us more compassionate people? It’s true. A highly cited study, in 2012 researchers discovered the "right anterior dorsal insula" to be highly active during meditation. What’s the link? This happens to be the same brain area that lights up like a christmas tree when we show authentic kindness and compassion toward others, as shown by University of Wisconsin neuroscientists’ brain imaging. All of this research means that meditation can dramatically upgrade your consciousness, allowing you to become a more compassionate person in the process. Along with greater connectedness, happiness, and fulfillment, adopting a "service to others" meditative mindset helps you find deep meaning and true purpose. Are you ready to be a beacon of light in a sometimes dark world? It’s time to change your brain — harnessing meditation's potential is the key.

 

5. Focuses the mind, increases happiness We live in a busy world with a limitless supply of distraction. You cook dinner, surf the web, watch the kids, all while catching up on your favourite tv show. But in the everyday scramble that is modern life, our preoccupations make us lose our connection with and appreciation for the present moment. It is so easy to lose touch with what we are actually doing and how we are actually feeling at any given time. Did you take time to notice the freshly bloomed magnolias on your way to work? Did you pay attention to how refreshed you felt this morning after sleeping so soundly? Meditation makes brains happy. Keeping your attention focused on the present, accepting the moment without judgment, has been studied extensively for its seemingly limitless supply of positive psychological benefits. Many scientists are now saying this focused, non-judgmental state of mindfulness is where we find our true happiness. With the plethora of proven benefits of mindfulness, doctors are now even prescribing meditation to their patients! Internationally acclaimed Harvard brain researcher, Dr. Sara Lazar, discovered that one particular brain region responsible for the "wandering mind", the posterior cingulate cortex (PCT), becomes deactivated during meditation. What does this mean? Corralling the so-called "wandering mind" opens up a whole wonderful world of "present mind" benefits, cancelling out much of the real reason for unhappiness. While it has long been known that practicing meditation is the key to cultivating mindfulness, it is a whole new ballgame to actually see it train the brain areas associated with heightened, present moment focus so easily forged and shaped by the millennia old practice. It is human nature to want a more satisfying, fulfilling life. But very few of us really take the time to examine what it is that keeps us from our highest state of being. Meditation helps you to really savour the pleasures in life as they happen, helping you become fully engaged in the present moment. By focusing on the here and now, mindfulness helps to weaken the grip of past regrets and future worries, effectively freeing you to live your life on the highest level possible.

 

6. Boosts emotional intelligence (EQ) People high on the EQ chart tend to be successful at both work and play, having prosperous careers and long-lasting, fulfilling relationships. They tend to be altruistic, selfmotivated, empathic, with the ability to love and be loved.

 

The brain & EQ. Since we aren’t born with a fixed amount of emotional intelligence, scientists

have long sought ways to increase this elusive personality trait. After all, who doesn’t want to

be more popular and successful?

A 2013 University of Illinois study looked at various brain areas activated during emotional

intelligence-centered activities, like social interaction. An amazing finding, the researchers

identified one particular region, the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) to be prominently lit up on the

brain scan images.

Long thought to be a critical brain area for highly empathic, conscientious people, Harvard

neuroscientists have shown that meditation, builds up big and strong "emotional intelligence".

You can now use meditation to tap into your dormant emotional intelligence, opening your life up

to a powerful and unique set of qualities: self-awareness, adaptability, empathy, self-motivation,

emotional balance, and social grace.

 

7. Transforms your stress response, ends anxiety

New York Times bestselling author Dr. Peter Diamandis, said it best, "Bad news sells because

the amygdala is always looking for something to fear."

Known as the anxiety, stress, and fear centre of the brain, an overactive amygdala can lead to a

whole host of problems, including the unnecessary initiation of our "fight or flight" response. Our

stone-age ancestors needed their survival mode activated amygdala during their daily struggle to

stay alive — modern man does not.

Meditation deactivates fear. The good news is that meditation healthily and naturally transforms

the structure of our brains, resulting in a major stress response upgrade.

In fact, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital MRI scanned participants before and

after an 8 week mindfulness study — with astonishing results. Combined with a massive

reduction in self-reported stress levels, their brain imaging showed remarkably less "fear centre"

amygdalae density, with far less "fearful message communication" to the rest of the brain.

The icing on the cake, researchers also found the brain areas associated with focus and higher

thought remarkably grew in strength.

Author of "You Are Not Your Brain", Rebecca Gladding M.D. recently wrote that meditation

"makes a huge difference in how you approach life, how personally you take things and how you

interact with others. It enhances compassion, allows you to see things more clearly (including

yourself) and creates a sense of calm and centeredness that is indescribable. There really is no

substitute."

 

8. Makes you smart, healthy

In 2012, it came to light that the legendary scientist Albert Einstein’s brain had actually been

preserved for a short time after his death, with a series of detailed photographs available for

analysis.

Florida State University researchers compared the brilliant physicist’s brain images to 85 normal people, successfully confirming that the father of physics did indeed have a one of a kind brain, with many very unique qualities. One highlight of their findings, Einstein’s extraordinary "prefrontal cortex" — the so called thought orchestrator, happiness centre, and "CEO" of the brain, had more tightly packed gray matter, covering significantly more surface area. Meditation & Einstein’s brain. A landmark 2005 study by Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar discovered that meditators had much more density, thickness, and neural activity within their "left prefrontal cortex" — just like Albert Einstein. Increased thickness in this "king of all brain regions" means many great things: far less anxiety and depression, improved decision making, stronger willpower, more success, more processing power, better health, the list goes on. To compound this amazing discovery, Dr. Lazar found that the more years of meditation experience a participant had under his/her belt, the greater the overall size of their superbeneficial prefrontal cortex. Meditation is now seen by many within the scientific community as the "holy grail" for people wanting to be smart, healthy, and successful.

 

9. Ends insomnia We have all stared at the ceiling just hoping to finally fall asleep, salvaging our remaining three hours before its time to wake up for work. However, chronic insomnia is much more than a minor inconvenience, it can take a major toll on your mood, health, energy levels, and your ability to perform your normal daily activities. In the long term, lack of sleep can contribute to a host of nasty health problems. If you still feel tired, drowsy, and fatigued after lying in bed all night, you are likely not getting enough deep, quality sleep. Spending sufficient time in the REM stage is critical to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Meditation trains the sleeping brain. Among many other brain areas, neuroscientists have shown that meditation, builds up a big and strong sleep centre. In fact, whole books have been written by meditators about their lucid dream abilities, which of course is impossible without ample time in deep-stage REM sleep.

 

Source: The EOC Institute, USA

 

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