Study Shows Meditation Provides Psychological Benefits

Spending a little time meditating everyday may result in cognitive and psychological benefits.

For the very first time in medical history a study led by a Harvard team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital has shown how meditation produced significant changes in the brain’s gray matter. To put it simply, it showed that meditation provides psychological benefits.

Test subjects had to take part in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program. The results have surprised even the most experienced neuroscientists at Harvard.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.” (sciencedaily.com)

The participants in the study spent an average of 27 minutes practicing mindfulness exercises daily:

What did this do?

1. It stimulated a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus of the participants. The hippocampus is the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.

2. The participants also reported reduced stress which correlated to the decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which plays an important role in anxiety and stress.

Meditation

None of these changes seen in the test subjects were seen in the control group, showing that the changes were not a result of time.

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” said Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany.

So, looks like it would do us all a world of good to spend a little time everyday in mindful mediation and consequently increase our well-being.

You can access the entire study here.

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