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Reduced amygdala activity

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.

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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.

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.

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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Meditation also makes our compassion more effective.

  • Practicing loving-kindness meditation for others increases our willingness to take action to relieve suffering. 
  • For long-term meditators, activity in the part of our brains that reflects on thoughts, feelings, and experiences quiets down, suggesting less rumination about ourselves and our place in the world.

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IDEAS

  • Cognitive: Recognition of suffering.
  • Affective: Arising of emotion.
  • Intention: A desire for relief from suffering.
  • Motivation: Action to remove suffering.
Changes to the Brain

Buddhists have meditated for literally thousands of years. Buddhists are trying to hack their own minds, to harness them.

Only in recent times have neuroscientists discovered that meditation changes the brain physically.