When we meditate, our brains benefit, according to a new study from a team of Harvard-affiliated researchers. The study showed that the act of meditating can actually re-grow gray matter in the brain.
Earlier studies had demonstrated that regular meditators do have consistent, notable structural differences in their brains, specifically a thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration. But this was the first attempt to prove causation and not just correlation.
The study tracked 16 participants' gray matter density in the hippocampus—the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection—through MRIs before and after participating in an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program. Program participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises. A control group that did not meditate also had MRIs taken.
"Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day," lead author Sara Lazer said. "This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."
It's also an excellent reminder that you can give your brain health a major boost with just a little time and intention.
[h/t Feel Guide]