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How does meditation improve brain function?

The stress-reducing benefits of meditation are well documented, but how this ancient Zen practice works to improve well-being is little known. That said, a  study has revealed that meditation may enhance key structures in the brain responsible for learning, memory, and emotion control.

Mind Your Gray Matter

In the small study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were taken before and after an 8-week program that combined about 30 minutes a day of full-body progressive relaxation, yoga, and seated meditation. Compared to a control group, the mindfulness meditation participants experienced an increase in gray matter concentration in the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and other key brain regions responsible for cognitive function and emotion control. The researchers suggest meditation may be an effective tool to reverse certain downsized brain regions commonly seen in people suffering from depression and anxiety.

Do Your Homework

Mindfulness meditation is a practice rooted in the ancient Buddhist tradition of quieting the mind and body in order to focus awareness on the present moment rather than dwelling on negative past experiences, today's problems, or worries about the future. The meditators were also asked to integrate mindfulness techniques into everyday tasks, such as shopping, exercising, cleaning house, and eating. Talk about a convenient, do-it-yourself way to boost brain power and buoy your mood.

You may not think of meditation as "brain healthy" but it may be one of the best things you can do for your brain.

A simple way to think about meditation is the practice of being still within one's self. Meditation offers many benefits to brain health. Meditation is a perfect way to build attention, as it trains us to hold focus. It can also help us more effectively manage pain, stress, and emotional distress, all of which can detract from daily memory performance. Finally, there is emerging interest in the physiological benefits of meditation, with some studies suggesting that meditation may offer a way to target different centers of the brain to maintain function.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.