Welcome to this week’s edition of The Source in which we explore the scientific results meditation has on the brain.
Imagine that some random stranger rushes up to you and starts yelling unintelligible words right in your face! You might interpret it as a scary, potentially violent threat. And you’d have all the emotions that go along with that threat: surprise, fear, shock, terror, perhaps even anger. Picture the scenario and how you think you’d feel. Most likely your conditioned fight-or-flight response would kick in with all those chemical surges and amygdala stress-based reactions like sweating, racing heart, rapid breathing, and suppression of your immune system.
Studies have shown that people who secrete higher levels of cortisol in response to stress tend to eat more carbohydrates than people who secrete less cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol shrink the hippocampus, impacting memory formation, new brain cell development, and our ability to learn. Simultaneously, cortisol increases the size of our amygdala, keeping us in fear-based learning mode.
In my book “destressifying” I outline a meditation study at the University of Massachusetts, in concert with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School, tracked changes to the physical structure of the brain using MRI scans over 56 days. All 16 test subjects meditated on their breath for 30 minutes a day and experienced the following structural shifts:
- An increase in the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and spatial orientation
- A decrease in the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear, anger, and stress
As brain-imaging software develops and improves, we are finally able to look deep into the brain and see what happens when someone meditates!!! The benefits are undeniable, and by cultivating a daily meditation practice, you will feel better, sleep better, make more conscious choices, communicate more effectively improve your relationships, and finally get really clear on what it is that you want in life!!! Let’s get busy!!!