Meditation promotes brain health

Meditation also has been shown to encourage the birth of new brain cells.

by Ada Porat — 

Most of us know that too much stress is not good for our bodies because it triggers inflammation and suppresses the immune system. But did you know that too much stress actually hurts your brain?

During high levels of stress, the brain does not grow new connections or new cells. Chronic stress even causes areas of the brain to shrink and can cause brain lesions, just as if you have had physical brain damage.

In modern society where stress is an inevitable fact of life, our brains need as much protection from the damaging effects of chronic stress as the rest of our bodies.

The good news is that new medical research can now show us exactly which tools offer our brains the most effective protection against stress.

Until only a few years ago, we were conditioned to think that problems in the brain were caused primarily by genetics or congenital weakness. Either way, we thought we had little to say in how our brains functioned.

Today, a whole new understanding of the brain is emerging. Current research shows that the brain is affected largely by environmental factors: our thoughts and emotions, the food we eat, how we exercise and even whether we meditate.

One such study conducted at Harvard University found that meditation can be great medicine for your brain. The lab used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the cortical thickness of individuals with extensive meditation experience. The results showed that brain regions associated with attention, interception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than in matched controls. In other words, these regions were healthier in meditators than in non-meditators.

The level of thickness further corresponded to the amount of meditation experience the participant had. In other words, participants who had accumulated more hours of meditation over the course of time had the healthiest brains.

Meditation also has been shown to encourage the birth of new brain cells. Whereas chronic stress causes the brain to shrink, regular meditation enables the brain to grow new cells or to make new brain connections.

The next time you think you are too busy to meditate, choose instead to remember these benefits and make time to keep up with your meditation practice. Your brain will thank you for it.

 

Ada Porat is an energy kinesiologist and life coach. She also teaches meditation as a pathway to wholeness of body, mind and spirit. 602-283-4628 or www.adaporat.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 2, Apr/May 2010.

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