Meditation Builds Brain Muscles

Science has proved that meditation is a useful tool for overcoming anxiety.

Though meditation in some form or another is vital to recovery from panic disorder, some people have great difficulty meditating. In my perpetual search for articles that make meditation user friendly, I came across one that gives literal muscle to the benefits of meditation by proving that beneficial brain changes occur while practicing some form of mindfulness.

The article, “Eight Weeks to a Better Brain,” by Sue McGreevey, referred to a study done through Massachusetts General Hospital that used study and control groups, employing neural imaging and other electronic techniques to measure brain activity. The article appeared in the hospital’s newsletter and cited the study, “Neural Mechanisms of Symptom Improvements in Generalized Anxiety Disorder Following Mindfulness Training.”

The study group went through an 8 week program that included guided meditation developed for Harvard Medical School called “Mindful Based Stress Reduction.” The 8 week session included various forms of mindful activity such as yoga, walking or specific focuses and a system for participants to use for daily meditation at home.

The principal author of the study report, Britta Holzel, said she is optimistic about the role of meditation in mental health treatment. In her words, “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”

I set up a number of activities and practices in my Un-Agoraphobic recovery program that are designed to help create new neural pathways beneficial to your elimination of anxiety.  Such things as daily brain science research, journal writing, visualizations and skill learning are known to alter brain activity in desirable ways. I also set up a time for daily meditation.  It’s good to know that meditation not only rests the mind, it also alters the mind in beneficial ways.

I’m providing a link to the study report below.  The significant discovery was that those employing regular meditation and mindfulness practices showed increased gray matter activity in the hippocampus, in a region of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. The study also revealed a decrease in neural activity in the alarm center, the amygdala, for those who meditated regularly.


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