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How Different Types of Meditation Effect Your Brain

(Last Updated On: February 1, 2018)

We’ve looked at a variety of meditation benefits for physical and mental health, but did you know meditation actually rewires your brain to help you respond differently in a variety of situations. And it’s not just me saying that – there’s data to back it up!

Here’s the Science

Okay, I’m not Bill Nye (though I think I’m just as cool), but I have a hunch even he’d be impressed with these studies. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Human and Cognitive Brain Sciences in Germany conducted a meditation study where they followed 300 hundred participants through three different types of meditation to see the effects on their brains based on brain scan data. Here’s where it gets cool.

Mindfulness meditation, which is rapidly becoming in vogue, encourages people to focus on their breath and body. After three months of mindfulness meditation, the prefrontal cortex and parietal lobes (which are linked to attention control) showed increased brain matter.

But wait! There’s more…

For participants doing compassion meditation where they focused on emotional connections established during loving kindness meditations and partner based problem solving showed increased gray matter in two key areas. First, the limbic system which processes emotions. Second, the anterior insula which helps bring emotions into our conscious awareness. How amazing is that?!

But wait! There’s more…

Researchers also looked at cognitive skills meditations. In this type of meditation, participants think about issues from a different perspective both with a partner and individually. Maybe you’ve already guessed it – areas of the brain associated with theory of mind and attributing the thoughts, desires, and intentions of others as a way or predicting or explaining their behavior showed increased gray matter.

As yet, there’s no concrete proof that meditation can help individuals with cognitive defects, but you know what – it can’t hurt either! The study certainly suggests that what you focus on when you meditate – your mantra – has a great deal of impact on the biological results. As a spiritual person, I know the focus also has a big impact on the emotional and spiritual results as well.

If you’re ready to give meditation a try, check out this free download to help you get started. Or, for a more comprehensive approach, sign up for an online class.


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