meditation for the brain


Meditating is the act of focusing the mind to a further extent than usual. This is typically done while sitting in silence, with the aid of chanting, for spiritual/religious purposes and/or as a method of deep relaxation. However, meditation can occur during many different activities. Some find painting to be meditative while others find going on a long jog is their way of meditation. In one way, meditation can be looked at as a state of mind where your focus is narrowed and you can move beyond the inevitable chatter in the mind. However, the concept of meditation is still debated and looks different to everyone. Meditation is deeply personal and can have a huge impact on one’s view of themselves and the world around them.

In this article, we will be looking at a few different things meditation related as well as what happens in the brain when we meditate.


How long have humans been meditating?

Humans have been practising meditation for centuries, which has left a huge mark on different cultures and allowed us to experience spiritual enhancements, diving deeper into the self. The earliest records that mention meditation involved Vedantism, a Hindu tradition in India. These documents date all the way back to 1500 BCE. But perhaps it didn’t start there… Many historians believe that humans have been practising meditation as early as 3000 BCE! Really, there is no way to know exactly how long we’ve been meditating or how exactly how this beautiful practice came about.

As humans, we have always had an endless thirst to push the limits of knowledge. We’ve always wanted to go further, go deeper, go above and beyond! Considering our intense fascination with the unknown aspects of consciousness, it only makes sense that we have been meditating for so many years. The fact that meditation is as old as it is isn’t all that surprising if you really think of it. To this day, consciousness still remains one of the biggest mysteries to mankind.


This is what happens to your brain when you meditate.

Meditation is known as an ancient practice and we have very few studies revolving around the effects that meditation has on the brain. Although the best way to gain an understanding of what meditation can do for you is by performing it, science has contributed to the depths of our understanding of this practice.

Dr Richard Davidson and his team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin have been busy conducting studies with the motive to further understand the effects that meditation has on both the mind and body. Here is what they found.

Their research has primarily focused on 2 major domains; attention and emotion. Essentially, what they discovered is that the circuits in the brain that are important for regulating both of these domains can be transformed by practising meditation. Moving forward, their main goal was to apply such findings with the motive of alleviating suffering.

They used brain electrical measurements and MRIs during their studies, which gave them a direct look at how the brains function, waves and signals naturally shift after there is a shift in consciousness. With these scans and measurements, they were able to carefully analyze the data with the help of powerful computer algorithms and go from there.



This would be expected to take several days of computer processing before they could extract such weak signals. In the brain, there are so many signals occurring, making it difficult for the weaker ones to surface. Dr Richard Davidson described this as ‘finding the needle in the hay stack’. However, they were able to see the signals with their own eyes by just looking at the scans! This is extremely unusual, which lead to them thinking there was some sort of error that occurred during their process. They had to essentially ‘take everything apart and put it back together’ in order to convince themselves that the signals they were witnessing were actually real.

This was a truly remarkable breakthrough because no one had ever reported seeing these kinds of signals before with the naked eye! These particular signals are called gamma oscillations (AKA gamma waves), which are usually too short-lived to measure due to their fast frequency.

What is important to note here is that gamma oscillations can be seen in any ordinary person through very short periods of time (typically one second). However, when the participant was meditating, these signals were extraordinarily large and synchronized… Not only that, but they lasted for several minutes (the length of said meditation session) as opposed to the usual 1-2 seconds!

Moving on, they measured gamma oscillations in a number of participants for more extended periods of time. What they found was that those who meditated for 2 weeks (30 minutes a day) were able to change their consistent brain activity. Even when they were not performing their meditation, their brains behaved differently. This tells us that when we meditate consistently, we can quite literally change the way our brain activity behaves even outside of our practice!

This displays the true plasticity potential that our physical brains hold! The human brain’s ability to change, grow and rearrange never fails to amaze me.




Final thoughts

As always, research is ongoing and we are only getting started! Most of us have been open to the idea that meditation is powerful enough to reduce things like depression, insomnia, anxiety, stress and sometimes other more extreme complications like PTSD. Yet, many individuals found it necessary for humans to complete studies before believing such a thing.

While meditation may come more naturally to some, everyone has the ability to practice meditation. It also seems as though anyone is able to use meditation as a tool for improving mental and emotional wellbeing if they practice. Remember-practice means progress! Additionally, this practice does not require any special equipment or memberships and can be done almost anywhere.

If you are open to trying out meditation but have no idea where to start, don’t worry! There are plenty of free guided meditations available online alongside countless articles and instructional videos for beginners! This is a great way to start your meditation journey. There is a wide variety of styles and techniques that offer different benefits. There is a meditation for everyone and every situation!

Feeling irritated? Meditate!
Feeling sad? Meditate!
Feeling happy? Meditate!
Feeling exhausted? Meditate!
Feeling angry? Meditate!

Need to distress? Meditate!
Need to wind down? Meditate
Got morning brain fog? Meditate!

Meditation is like hygiene for the brain. How ironic is it that narrowing the mind’s focus with meditation can result in mind expansion? What a paradox! Meditate today and your brain will thank you tomorrow.


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