Altering the brain

Altering the brain

In 2005, studies began to point out that meditation can change the structure of your brain by thickening the cortex. The cortex controls your attention and emotions.

You can reap the benefits if you practice meditation for half an hour a day over eight weeks.

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It typically refers to a practice for training your attention. It is an awareness that comes through paying attention in the moment, but non-judgmentally.

It involves sitting down with closed eyes and focussing on feeling your breath go in and out. When your attention starts to wander, you take note and bring your attention back to your breath.

Meditation shows reduced activity in the amygdala, our brain’s threat detector. When the amygdala perceives a threat, it sets off the fight-flight-freeze response.

In a study, after practicing mindfulness for 20 minutes per day over just one week, participants showed reduced amygdala reactivity only while they were engaged in mindfulness, suggesting they need regular practice.

Loving-kindness and compassion meditation involves cultivating a love for people who are suffering. Loving-kindness meditation can change your neural circuitry even faster than mindfulness meditation.

Typically, in loving-kindness meditation, you repeat certain phrases in your head, such as "may I be safe," "may I be healthy". After you wish these things for yourself, you wish the same things for people you love, and then you circle out.

Loving-kindness or compassion meditation affects the brain by boosting the connection between the brain's circuits for joy and happiness and the prefrontal cortex that guides behavior.
Among Buddhists, you’re likely to hear about “skillful” and “unskillful” means for minimizing suffering and maximizing the possibility for liberation.

The idea is that in order to lead a good life, you need to engage in certain self-cultivation practices. 

Meditation is not for everyone. For some people, meditation can provoke intense mental distress of impaired physical functioning.

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RELATED IDEAS

Mindfulness

... is a collection of practices aimed at helping us to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness of ourselves and our environment.

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IDEAS

Mindfulness Meditation

Practitioners of mindful meditation focus their attention on only one thought. The goal is to be firmly affixed to the present moment. This typically means concentrating on the breath - observing each inhalation and exhalation - and without consideration to other thoughts.

Being Compassionate

Compassion can be understood as a mental state of cognitive recognition of suffering, with an emotional feeling, and a desire to do something to end that suffering.

Everyone of us has some level of compassion built in, but no one was taught in school how to intentionally strengthen such inner skills.

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