Saturday, May 03, 2008

How Meditation Can Lift Your Spirits AND Slow the Ageing Process

A good post from Goodlife Zen.

How Meditation Can Lift Your Spirits AND Slow the Ageing Process

Photo by artct45

Research has shown that our brain changes if we practise meditation. These changes trigger a more positive frame of mind, and may even slow the ageing process.

In his book Destructive Emotions, Daniel Goleman describes a very interesting collaboration between Professor Richard Davidson, a leading brain science, and an experienced Tibetan Buddhist meditator who used the pseudonym ‘Lama Oeser’. The Lama was asked to practise certain kinds of meditation, such as one-pointedness of mind and a meditation on compassion. During each of these meditation exercises, researchers looked to see whether there were any changes in the fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). I’m not a scientist, but this is what I understand about fMRIs: The images can show up activity in particular areas of the brain. Daniel Goleman says:

The EEG analysis bore particularly rich fruit in the comparison between Oeser at rest, and while meditating on compassion.

The results showed an increase in neural activity in an area that Davidson’s previous research had pinpointed as home for positive emotions, such as feelings of happiness, enthusiasm, joy, high energy and alertness.

Goleman continues:

The very act of concern for others’ well-being creates a greater state of well-being within oneself. The finding lends scientific support to an observation often made by the Dalai Lama: that the person doing a meditation on compassion for all beings is the immediate beneficiary.

The research that Davidson did with Lama Oeser and others has shown that meditation can in fact change the structure of the brain.

Reseach at the Harvard Medical school has also yielded some interesting results. Results show some unexpected changes in brain structure through meditation. Sara Lazar, psychologist and leader of the study says:

Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being.

In ‘plain speak’ this means that in some areas of the brain the lining gets thicker proportional to the length of time that a person has practised meditation. These changes indicate that a meditator learns to process emotions and thoughts in a way that makes them feel happier.

Read the rest.

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