What does meditation do to your body and how does it work?

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

Today, our lives are taken over by busy schedules and stress. It’s easy to lose control of your mind and self when you are constantly active and thinking of a million things at once. When a person takes the time to add meditation to their daily schedule, it can affect a person in many ways. Below, I give a few examples of what meditation effects and the impacts it has on our bodies. The effects and benefits of meditation are endless!


REMEMBER!

The results of meditation are dependent upon the length of your session and the number of days you consistently practice it. The effects on the body also vary depending on the type of meditation.


Brain Waves

There are 5 categories of brain wave states: gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Gamma is a state of hyperactivity. Beta is the state that humans are typically in day to day, when we are carrying out daily tasks. Alpha occurs when our minds and bodies are relaxed and feel calm such as during a relaxing walk in the park or during a yoga class. It’s the natural resting state of the brain and is said to protect the brain from paying too much attention to unnecessary things. Theta waves occur during deep relaxation, dreaming, and sleep. Finally, Delta is typically activated during very deep sleep.


Most people’s brains are usually in the beta state. The balance between brain wave states and activeness of certain brain areas is crucial to our emotional and neuro-physical health. For example, when we don’t get enough sleep, we lose valuable time in those slower frequency brain wave states. Different frequencies activate different places in our brains. Brain activity is characterized by our brain waves, so our brain waves are directly correlated to our thoughts, actions, moods, perceptions, etc. However, it’s important to note that different intensities and techniques of meditations impact our brain waves in different ways.


Mindfulness or light meditation typically activates Alpha waves. When your brain waves are in that state, intuition becomes clearer. It is a great state for learning and studying; creative ideas flow, fears subside, and relaxation begins.


It takes a deep meditation to activate Theta waves. When our brain waves reach this frequency, our brain is at its best state for visualization, creativity, advanced problem solving, better sleep, and feeling openness and connectivity.


It’s very difficult to activate Delta waves through your typical meditation, but is possible through transcendental meditation. This is a very beneficial state for your immune system.


Areas of the Brain

Meditation not only effects specific areas of the brain but a study by Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that after just 8 weeks of practicing meditation for 40 minutes a day, there were noticeable changes in the brain structures of her tested patients. Two areas of the brain that are affected are the hippocampus and amygdala.


The hippocampus is responsible for many things, but its main function is memory, specifically making new memories. What we see when scientists test the effect of meditation on the hippocampus is that there is an increase in volume of cortical thicknessand grey matter density. Overall, the greater volume of cortical thickness and grey matter density, the more efficient and stronger your brain becomes.


The amygdala is responsible for feelings of anxiety, fear, or stress. The smaller your amygdala, the less it triggers its functions. Researchers found that meditation can actually cause the amygdala to shrink, which may reduce emotional responses.


Neurochemicals

Meditation has a direct impact on the serotonin levels in one’s body. When we meditate, we release serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that provide us with happy and feel good sensations.


It’s typical for humans, when stressed, to have an abundance of cortisol and adrenaline. In fact, high levels of cortisol are typically associated with physical or emotional stress. A study from a University of California, Davis, student found that meditation could significantly reduce levels of cortisol and therefore, reduce stress.


Meditation has also shown to boost endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that the body uses to stimulate less pain, so you could call it an “internal pain killer.”


 

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