Researchers are coming to understand more and more each day just how meditation changes a person’s brain – for the better.

By slowing down and clearing our minds of constant internal dialogue and overthinking, we can tap into many physiological, mental and social benefits says meditation practitioner Maree Hollebone of Mind Massage – Creating Positive Minds.

“Meditation has many positive effects on the body and mind. It helps reduce blood pressure, sugar levels, heart attacks, stress and anxiety. It is used widely for pain relief and management, treatment of depression and mental illness and also just as a coping mechanism for day to day life, besides that it is just fun and feels good” says Maree.

“On a psychological level, studies have done scans on the brain to see how they operate. The frontal lobe controls emotional responses, and studies showed less activity in that area of the brain in a person while meditating. In a scientific sense, the brain is calmer, so the rest of the body is not working as hard.

“And we all know that when a person is working too hard the body shuts down.”

Good news though, meditation is easy to start, it doesn’t take much time to see results, and it can be done anywhere, at any time of day. And, it’s free!

7 benefits of meditation

1. Reduce stress, anxiety and depression

This is a big one. Neuroscientists have studied brainwaves of those who meditate to understand how meditation lowers the wavelengths, leading you away from a state of active learning and towards a deeper state of awareness. (Read more about brain wavelengths here.)

2. Improve concentration and clarity

Mindfulness, which is a form of meditation, makes you more present, and increases concentration. Many people use meditation to clear their minds, at which point they report making decisions and “finding the answers” to be easier. It’s sort of like how clearing a cluttered desk makes finding what you need easier.

3. Improve physical health

In calming the mind for meditation, the body also becomes calmer, lowering the heart rate. A US study showed meditation is also effective in reducing blood pressure.

4. Feel more connected

Meditation helps you feel more connected to your life, your surroundings, and the people around you, your choices and your thoughts.

5. Manage pain and increase resilience

The power of the mind is much stronger than most of us realise. “During injury we are told to breathe through the pain, and we’re taught breathing techniques for childbirth,” points out Maree. That’s why endurance athletes and first response personnel are taught breathing techniques.

“Breathing has a massive effect on our body’s function. Physiologically if we breathe in correctly, we’re oxygenating our body a lot more so we are calmer. If we haven’t got enough oxygen in our body, well you’ve heard of the fight or flight reaction where the brain releases adrenalin, the cortisol is released into the body, which makes us all tense and tight. And then the stinkin’ thinkin’ starts and so forth.

6. Sleep better

A study by the University of NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre found that being tired can be as bad as or even worse than driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.05. And sleep deprivation can negatively impact your cognitive performance, concentration and memory, according to multiple studies.

Meditation practice through the day helps to level out mood and energy, and then helps to allow your body to enter sleep at night. At night, “shutting down” your body through focusing on each part of your body going into rest mode can help give a better sleep.

7. Be happier

Simply because of all of the above benefits.

 This article is one in a four-part series. Read the rest.