Practicing meditation consistently has always been found to have an array of benefits for our brains, bodies, and souls. For the brain, the benefits have been improving its general performance, improving our learning abilities, helping us focus and concentrate, and enhancing our memory, to name a few.
However, further research on the effects of meditation on the brain is now revealing that the old-aged practice is doing more than just the above benefits. It can also help keep our brains young.
Here, we explore this topic at length and look at several research studies in this area and what they have found.
Research Studies on How Meditation Can Keep The Brain Young
There have been a couple of scientific studies done on the brain with regard to meditation, and most of them have shown rewarding results that point towards the power of meditation being able to positively influence the brain.
Here’s a couple of those studies and their findings.
First, a study from Harvard University found that meditation brings about quantifiable changes to various key regions of the brain which are linked to learning, sense of self, and memory (1).
The 2-month study involved 16 participants who went through the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine before and after going through the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Two weeks before they received the training program, the researchers took magnetic resonance images of their brains to capture their initial state.
After that, they were led through the MBSR program by the researchers at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness and they also received weekly meet-ups where they worked with guided meditation audio recordings for mindfulness meditation for 27 minutes each day.
There was also a control group that didn’t receive any of the meditation training that was also included in the study at the same time the meditating group began their training.
The meditating group answered a mindfulness-based questionnaire before beginning the training and were also given another questionnaire to fill out at the end of the training. Comparing their answers before the training to the ones they gave after the training, noteworthy improvements were visible.
On top of that, the images from the MRI machine showed that the density of the gray matter in the hippocampus in the brain had increased. This is a region that was identified by previous similar research studies to be affected by meditation, and which is linked to self-awareness, learning, compassion, memory, introspection, and compassion.
The amygdala that is associated with stress and anxiety in the brain was also found to have decreased and participants reported a reduction in stressful and anxious feelings.
Second, another UCLA study on the effects of long-term meditation on the brain concluded that consistent meditation for years can bring about brain preservation benefits for the meditators (2).
This study involved 50 meditation practitioners in the meditation group and 50 other participants in the control group that had not gotten involved with meditation. In each group, there were 22 women and 28 men in the age bracket between 24 years and 77 years. Their years of practicing meditation varied from 4 years to 46 years.
All the participants went through brain scans at the same time, using the same site and scanner and all their scans were done using similar scanning protocols.
The results suggested that there was a lesser age-related decline of the gray matter in the meditating group compared to the control group. This shows that meditation can protect the brain from age-related mental decline if it is combined with a reliable self-improvement routine.
Other than the above-mentioned studies, other studies focused on the influence and effect of meditation on cognitive function, cognitive and neurodegenerative diseases also concluded that the practice can help to preserve the brain tissue, have a positive effect on cognitive flexibility, maintain emotional and cognitive reserves and reduce the chances of struggling with age-related brain conditions such as dementia and others when we age (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10).
Something to note is that, while current studies show that meditation is a potentially effective method for keeping the brain youthful, research in the future this area will help us really determine for sure how effective meditation is, which meditation styles provide the most rewarding effects on the brain and which approach to meditation is the best for brain preservation benefits.
Ideally, meditation is practically a gift for humanity, to keep them at peace and improve their overall health and experience of life. More and more research on it keep proving to us how important it is for us to meditate if we hope to live a balanced life that’s peaceful and happy.
Practicing meditation is not that hard. All we have to do is determine the kind of benefits we would love to get from it, pick a meditation style that offers those benefits, and get started doing it for as little as 2 to 5 minutes a day.
From there, we can keep increasing the duration of our meditation sessions as we get comfortable with it. Have you begun meditation? What are your experiences with it? If you haven’t already begun, what is stopping you?
Please let us know in the comments below.