Meditation and mindfulness are growing in popularity year on year with millions of people discovering the potential health benefits.
Interestingly, there are some neurological studies which demonstrate ways the brain can be physically changed by meditation when practised over a prolonged period of time.
Hare, Built for Athletes looks at five ways meditation changes the brain.
Makes The Amygdala Smaller
The amygdala is a structure at the base of the brain associated with emotions and stress responses. A smaller amygdala tends to suggest a person could have greater emotional control, and research has shown that meditation practice can result in a shrinking of this area of the brain.
Enlarges The Prefrontal Cortex
A number of studies suggest that meditating leads to an increase in the number of brain cells in the prefrontal cortex - the area of the brain used for rational decision making. This suggests you can strengthen your mind’s ability by training it just like you can strengthen your body in the gym.
Increases Thickness In The Hippocampus
A study at Harvard found that eight weeks of mindfulness practice increased the thickness of the hippocampus, a conclusion that has been reinforced by other research. The hippocampus is significant because it governs learning and memory.
Reduces The Effects Of Ageing
Meditation has even been shown to protect the brain from ageing in various ways. It is believed to decrease age-related atrophy of the brain’s white matter as well as preserve grey matter.
Boosts Overall Grey Matter
Grey matter contains most of the brain’s neurological cells and meditation appears to boost the total volume of it if practised over many years. The author of one 2015 study which found this to be the case said: "We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain."