By now, you and I are decently aware of the magic of meditation. But have you ever wondered how this magic actually works? Like, how does meditation—a simple act of contemplation—help in lowering your stress and blood pressure, among a lot of other things? If you have, wait till you read about what happens behind the scenes.
When you meditate, there is a lot that is happening inside your body—your body and brain are undergoing phenomenal changes that have phenomenal results. In this article, we are trying to support your experience of the benefits of meditation with facts that will strengthen your belief in its power (as if we weren’t fans already?!).
We read up several pieces of research around the effects of meditation on our body and we’ve come up with a list that is as staggering as it is exhausting. In fact, if you are a non-meditator, we fully hope that by the end of this story, you will be convinced enough to keep aside at least 10 minutes in your day to meditate.
- Develops the Posterior Cingulate, Pons, and the Temporal Parietal Junction (TPJ)
(This headline was written keeping in mind that exact expression you have on your face right now :D) All this mumbo jumbo are actually names of the different parts of the brain that are impacted during and because of meditation.
You know how meditation makes you aware of self and improves your ability to stay in tune with the present moment. The Posterior Cingulate is the area of the brain connected with wandering thoughts and the perception of self. Meditation, studies have shown, increases the thickness of the Posterior Cingulate, thus having the said effect.
Pons, another area of the brain affected by meditation, controls sleep, sensory input processing, facial expressions, and so on. Now you know why consistently meditating gives you good sleep!
The Temporal Parietal Junction (TPJ) is responsible for the empathy we feel for other people. Meditation activates the TPJ and helps you become a good person.
- Shrinks the amygdala
This part of the brain makes you feel all that anxiety, stress and fear. Meditation helps you deal with your mental health issues by shrinking the amygdala and weakening its functional connectivity with the brain. Studies have shown that being consistent with your meditation can significantly decrease the size of the amygdala over a short period of time.
- Lowers cortisol levels
The adrenal glands in our body produce a hormone called cortisol when we experience the stress of any kind. Meditation lowers the cortisol levels in our body, reducing stress and anxiety.
Increased levels of stress also result in the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals, cytokines. The effects of this release include fatigue, disrupted sleep, and more stress and anxiety.
- Increases the gray matter in the brain
Gray matter includes areas in the brain that are responsible for muscle control and sensory functions like seeing, speech, hearing, decision-making, self-control, memory, and emotions. It also helps in learning, processing information, and making decisions more accurately and efficiently.
- Increases brain activity
Our brain produces 5 different kinds of brainwaves—alpha, beta, gamma, theta, and delta. Of these, the alpha waves are produced when your mind is idle, like when you are daydreaming (I must have massive over production of this one, you guys!). Theta waves are produced when you are in a dreamless sleep. Now, the brain also produces these waves when you are meditating. Now put two and two together.
Similarly, gamma waves are associated with learning and memory. Regular meditation can bring about a significant increase in gamma wave activity.
- Reverses brain patterns that cause poor attention
Studies have concluded that meditation can reverse brain patterns that cause poor attention and distractions.
- Relaxes nerve signals
Meditation improves heart health and blood pressure control by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate with heart function and eases tension in the blood vessels. Meditation also increases alertness when responding to stressful situations.
- Decreases the arterial wall thickness
This is how meditation improves your heart health. The decrease in the arterial wall thickness lowers the risk of a heart attack.
- Decreases muscle tension
Certain meditation techniques require you to focus on the different parts of your body helping your muscles relax.
- Improves gyrification
Gyrification is the folding of the brain’s cerebral cortex; it is responsible for improving the brain’s capability to process information, make decisions, pay attention, and make memories. In people who have been meditating for a long time, studies have shown large amounts of gyrification as compared to those who don’t meditate.
Now, a lot of this may have been more technical than what we’re used to, but by now, you must’ve understood that meditation works on a far deeper level than we’ve comprehended. All these facts also make the effects of meditation a lot more tangible. Like, I now know how exactly my body is changing when I meditate, which is a lot more convincing than just highly subjective abstract advantages.
What’s more, is that just about 10 minutes of meditation each day can aid all of this. So, if you are already meditating, keep up at it. And if you are not, you’ll know by now that it is something worth giving a try.
Nikita Jhanglani is a technical and creative content writer, editor and book blogger. Currently, she is into world domination, one checklist at a time.