It’s been well known for a long time that meditation practices can reduce stress levels, and elevate a sense of calmness and wellbeing. Improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure readings, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol add to the benefits of regular meditation.
It turns out that mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques can trigger structural increases in the size of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region intimately involved with attention, impulse control, and conscious emotion regulation:
These brain changes happen through the process of neuro-feedback and neuroplasticity, the biological method for how the brain responds to and learns from its environment.
Other brain changes from meditation include increases in the temporo parietal junction (associated with empathy) and a reduction in size of the amygdala, which processes stress, anxiety and fear responses.
The Dosage Effect of Meditation
It doesn’t take the training of a Buddhist monk to achieve these results. About 30 minutes of meditation practice daily can produce the desired results.
Use this basic meditation guide:
1. Create a quiet place and 15+ minutes of uninterrupted time. Sit upright in a chair with both feet on the floor, or sit on the floor with legs crossed, keeping your spine straight.
2. Focus on your breathing. Consciously note the rise and fall of your chest and diaphragm. Breathing is the anchor that keeps you in meditation practice.
3. Be casually aware of sensations and feelings in your body as you breathe. You are taking inventory for a few minutes, but not passing any judgment on what you note.
4. A good result of meditation is a “real-time” awareness of what is happening in your life, and how your body is reacting to it.
Curiosity is a useful attitude to have when practicing meditation – each practice will likely be a different journey from the one before.