Did you know that meditation can actually change your brain for the better? Recent studies have confirmed that just as regular exercise strengthens your muscles, regular meditative states strengthen the parts of your brain associated with happiness and positive behavior. There is even a new field of psychology called contemplative neuroscience that studies this phenomenon.
Richard Davidson, a long time meditator and trained psychologist at the University of Wisconsin has produced evidence through scanning the brains of Buddhist monks with over 100,000 hours of meditation practice, that meditation permanently changes the brain for the better by increasing concentration and empathy and that meditation has the effect of stimulating the brain’s limbic system thought to be responsible for generating positive emotions. Another study showed changes in the meditators’ brains in as little as eight weeks, and more importantly, showed that the positive changes were sustained over time. The brains had been changed permanently.
In the late 1990’s, researcher Andrew Newberg found evidence from the brain scans of experienced meditators that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for attention, is highly activated during meditation while the region of the brain responsible for our orientation in time and space was less active, giving us scientific evidence of being in the now moment.
The field of contemplative neuroscience is young, but gaining more and more credibility with increased funding from the National Institutes of Health, and new contemplative science research centers at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin.
It is good to see scientific evidence that meditation works for it will result in more and more people turning to meditation as a lifestyle and health choice. For those of us who have been meditating, they are just proving in another way what we all know to be true. Meditation improves your life in many ways, bringing, clarity, peace, well-being, empathy and ultimately Truth. What is interesting about these studies is that the changes are permanent so every time you meditate, it will become easier and easier to reach states of presence and transcendence. Keep going!