I love meditation and recommend everyone to not only try it but to make a daily habit out of it. My impression is that a lot of people would like to meditate, but are unsure of how to do it. Unsure of the “rules” and what to expect from it. First of all – don’t believe all the crazy stories about people levitating and having the most blissful or transformative experience in their life. It’s not like that. The essence of meditation is this: a calm mind. No more, no less. Secondly, you don’t need anything, not even rules. If you just sit (or lay down) in a quite room and breathe, that’s enough. You might want to try to focus on your breath or try to feel your body from withing, but it’s not mandatory.
Your brain on meditation
The cool thing with meditation is that you can actually (physically) change the structure of your brain! Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) it’s possible to see these differences. It’s also possible to detect differences in the emittance of brain waves.
(To the left) is me in one of the biggest daily newspapers in Sweden, showing the reporters my brain measuring devices! 😀
Parts of the brain being affected by meditation
- Lateral prefrontal cortex (LPC)-The part of the brain that deals with logic and reason.
- Medial prefrontalacortex (MPC) – “The me center”
- Insula – “gut feeling” and empathy
- Amygdala – The body’s alarm system, “fight-or-flight”. Amygdala + Insula is responsible for “uh-oh” feelings, and Amygdala + MPC give raise to anxiety and impulse based behavior.
Your brain off meditation
Among non-meditators it’s possible to observe a strong neural coupling between MPC and Amygdala. That is a connection between the “me center” and the alarm system. It means that whenever you experience anything physical, you feel the urge to react. If you experience hunger you will put something in your mouth, if you get nervous it quickly escalates into more nervousness (for example)
Your brain on meditation
Meditation weakens the connection between MPC and Amygdana, which makes you less reactive. When a physical sensation appears, it becomes second nature to observe rather than act.
If you suffer from anxiety, you will stop associate the physical symptoms of anxiety to something dangerous. I was suffering from severe anxiety for many years, and I remember the first time that I could just sit through a panic attack. It was a war inside of me, and I could accept it and observe it with a calm mind, until it passed. Everything that arises, passes away.
Amygdala decreases with meditation, and LPC gets an increase in neurons and actually grows bigger. That increases your skills in logic and reasoning.
My personal benefits of meditation
The most profound benefit for me is that I don’t take my own thoughts all that serious anymore. When I think a thought, or feel something – I acknowledge it, accept it, and I let it pass. I was acting on my impulses a lot more before, and nowadays I almost never do that!
I also experience better endurance with mundane work, I can sit for longer hours and just work until the work is completed.
Meditation is truly one of the coolest hacks, do you meditate?