Many medical experts and experienced practitioners of mindfulness meditation benefits have long believed that it can cause not only a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, but also bring about lasting cognitive and psychological benefits.
In short, that it can “re-wire” the brain to enhance your mental well-being and overall quality of life.
Previous studies have documented differences between the brains of long-term meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation. These studies have shown notable changes in areas of the brain associated with attentiveness and emotional integration. However, until now, no scientists had been able show that meditation had caused those differences.
All that changed with the research of Sara Lazar, PhD. Lazar and her team were the first to find clear evidence showing that meditation produces changes in the brain’s grey matter.
Measurable Changes in the Brain
Dr. Lazar, who conducts research at the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, has long been fascinated by mediation. For her latest and most revolutionary study, she and a team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers carried out an 8-week analysis of mindfulness meditation benefits, and found “measurable changes in parts of the brain associated…”
• Sense of self
Past studies have documented significant improvement in a variety of symptoms as a result of meditation, says Britta Hölzer, PhD, first author of the paper and researcher fellow at both MGH and Giessen University in Germany. But the MGH study is the first to investigate “the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”
Shedding Stress—Now and in the Future
The MGH study highlighted the promise of mindfulness meditation benefits as an effective and lasting treatment for conditions such as depression and anxiety. Amishi Jha, PhD, neuroscientist at the University of Miami and expert on mindfulness-training, believes this is just the beginning.
The results shed light not only on how dramatically a person’s stress can be reduced with just 8 weeks of mindfulness training, but also how the perceived change in mental state “corresponds with structural changes in the amygdala,” says Jha.
She believes that this finding in particular opens the doors to many possibilities for further research on how mindfulness meditation may “protect against stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.”