Studies have found that both mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation help you make better decisions by improving the functioning of your brain's decision-making centers. Meditation has been shown to thicken the prefrontal cortex. This brain center manages higher-order brain function, such as increased awareness, concentration, and decision-making. Changes in the brain show that, with meditation, higher-order functions become stronger, while lower-order brain activities decrease.
In other words, you have the power to train your brain. Still, there are a handful of key areas including depression, chronic pain and anxiety where well-designed and well-directed studies have demonstrated benefits for patients participating in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to those of other existing treatments. meditation strengthens neural connections and can literally change the configuration of these networks. Everyone from Anderson Cooper and Congressman Tim Ryan to companies like Google, Apple and Target is integrating meditation into their schedules.
Future studies will require more participants and a longer follow-up period to confirm the effects of meditation on functional activity. In an interview with the Washington Post, Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar gives an introduction to how meditation affects the brain. For days, weeks, months, or even years of regular meditation practice, the calm physiological state that meditation evokes has sustained benefits on brain health and activity. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, as opposed to attending only one's breath, can reduce anxiety, and that these changes appear to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts.
Desbordes is part of a community of researchers from Harvard and its affiliated institutions that in recent decades has been analyzing whether meditation works and how it works. A recent study looking at the cognitive benefits of meditation found that just eight weeks of constant practice can accelerate the shift from a wandering mind to a focused mind. Meditation is not a panacea, but there is certainly a lot of evidence that it can do some good to those who practice it regularly. Even getting just one or two of the ongoing benefits can make the daily investment in regular meditation practice worthwhile.
Functional MRI (left) that shows activation in the amygdala when participants looked at images with emotional content before learning to meditate. Many people begin to meditate to learn about its benefits in reducing stress, and there is a lot of evidence to support this reasoning. Here are a dozen ways meditation can have a positive impact on the brain in the long term, if you choose to stick to it. Observation is enhanced by open monitoring meditation and can help improve working memory, increase cognitive ability, and reduce cognitive rigidity, which is essential to the creative process.