How often have you found yourself having an argument with a person when they are not in the room? Do you drive to work and think of things you would like to say to your boss, but know you probably wonâ€™t? When you mind wanders, or you are introspective, you tend to focus on negative thoughts, which creates more stress. By relieving stress you brain is able to function better. Mental rehearsal and thoughtful reflection are certainly useful at times, but if your thoughts are leading to anger and stress it is important to refocus your attention on the positive to clear your mind. Once you have gotten rid of the â€œmental fogâ€ that goes with wandering you can address the reasons for your stress from a more mentally healthy perspective.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the hottest new emerging field of study is researching how meditation affects the brain. What once was considered holistic and â€œhippyâ€ way to making your mind blank in order to escape from reality is now being examined as a realistic form of therapy. Scientists are finding that relieving stress, by being able to focus on something as simple as your breathing, can stop your mind from wandering.
Research has shown that those who are experienced at meditation â€œshow less activity in the brainâ€™s â€˜default mode networkâ€™ when then brain is engaged in focused thought.â€
A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers looked at 12 experienced meditators (having an average of over 10,000 hours of mindfulness mediation experience) and 12 healthy volunteers who were beginners in meditation. The volunteers were asked to utilize three different types of meditation â€“ attention to breath (concentration); wishing well being (Love-kindness); and focus on whatever comes up (choiceless awareness). Researchers examined brain activity during these exercises using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.
The results revealed that the experienced meditators showed less activity in the default mode network, less mind wandering, and â€œincreased connectivity between certain brain networksâ€ than those of the beginners â€“ during meditation as well as when they were not meditating.
“It doesn’t matter what they’re doing, they have an altered default mode network,” said Dr. Judson Brewer, medical director of the Yale University Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic and lead author of the study. “We were pretty excited about that, because it suggests that these guys are paying attention a lot more.”
Although this study could not give a definite answer as to whether meditation is beneficial to the brain, but looking at the results of this and other studies show the positive implications resulting from meditation training to improve the outlooks of those who suffer from depression and other forms of anxiety, pain or substance abuse.
“Putting all those together, we might be able to start get at what the mechanisms of mindfulness are,” Brewer said.
The question is: Does meditation change the brain, or do people who already have these brain patterns built in get interested in meditation? “Emerging data from our group and others suggests that some things thought to be result of meditation might be cause of meditation,” said Dr. Charles Raison, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. If the latter is true, the Buddhist idea that Karmic path is preordained, then some people are simply better suited than others in keeping their minds from wandering.
If nothing more than beneficial to leaning how to focus and de-stress, meditation is a useful memory tool, and I believe it will help anyone to improve memory.
CNN Health – How meditating may help your brain: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/21/how-meditating-may-help-your-brain/?hpt=hp_c3
Belief Blog – Can meditation change your brain? Contemplative neuroscientists believe it can: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/26/can-meditation-change-your-brain-contemplative-neuroscientists-believe-it-can/