8 weeks to a better brain? Meditation changes your brain’s gray matter.

Our brain’s gray matter can change in shape and size (for the better!) after just eight weeks of practicing meditation.

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16 participants took part in an eight-week meditation practice at The University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness (est.1979!) (more info HERE). The participants meditated “on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings, and state of mind” and also incorporated mindful yoga and movement. They practiced daily guided mediation via audio recordings at-home, and went to weekly two and half hour group mindful meditation practices. In the end, study participants reported spending an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness meditation. Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital used MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) to take pictures of the participants’ brains two weeks before and two weeks after the program.

The results demonstrated increased gray matter density in the hippocampus, a brain area for learning and memory, self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. Also, participants who reported decreased stress levels also showed associated decreased gray matter density in the amygdala, a brain known for anxiety and stress. Full article HERE. much love.

“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. 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.” – Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology
“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. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.” – Britta Holzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany

Other references:

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

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