What do you imagine when you hear the word “meditation”? It’s most likely calmness, zen, and peace… It is not a secret that it increases our mental abilities, it calms us and cleans our perception, it teaches us to live our lives consciously and happy. But have you ever thought about how mental health can be improved by a meditation from the physiological point of view? What are these direct connections between meditation and mental health and how does this all work? Let’s see the scheme of brain work while meditation which will explain to you how it may improve your mental health.
The regular session of meditations influence beneficially not only on our skill to concentrate or think, but they change the structure of the brain itself. You may not believe but 15-20 minutes a day spent on meditation influence a lot your life, your reactions and your relations with others. And it is absolutely unnecessary to visit some Orient ashram and become a real “yogi” – it’s a practice of being with all your true-selves and the practice of self-understanding.
The doctor of medical science, the psychologist Rebekka Gladding in her book “Use your mind to change your brain” writes about meditation mental health interrelations.
How does our brain work?
Different brain regions respond to our different reactions.
Lateral prefrontal area or Estimation Centre is in charge for our rational and logical view on things and actions and for modulation of emotional reactions. It helps us not to overreact in some situations.
Medial prefrontal area or so-called “ego center” mediates decision making and operates with the experience you obtained previously. Why “Ego Center”? Because it analyses information which relates directly to you – your thoughts, dreams, contemplations about yourself or your future plans, your relations with others, your efforts to emphasize people and understand their behavior.
The Island of Reil responds for our corporal sensations and their intensity, for emotional experience and empathy toward others.
Amygdala works for a launch of program “run or fight” and is called “the Center of Fear”.
Brain without meditation
The brain before meditation has strong neural connections inside of Ego Centre and between Ego Centre and brain areas which are in charge of body sensations and for a sense of fear. It means that as soon as you feel anxiety, fear or body sensations (such as itchy, prickly or other feelings), in most cases you’ll estimate them as an anxiety. The reason for such reaction is that our Ego Centre operates with an enormous quantity of information. Moreover, the dependence from this center leads to the situation when we have stuck our thoughts and this is the trap. We start to think unconstructive, we remember something in the past, we sort past situations, feelings and reactions and do it again, again and again.
Why our Ego Center does this? An answer is simple – the connection between our Estimation and Ego Centers is quite weak. Let’s suppose that our Estimation Centre works in full force, what would this mean to us? The activity of the parts responsible for an understanding of other’s feelings and reactions would be higher and we would have the possibility to filter information and react easier and maturely.
Brain with meditation
When you meditate regularly, the positive changes don’t make you wait.
The connection between Ego and body sensation diminishes, that is why you stop get distracted on sudden sensations of anxiety or physical outpourings and you are not getting caught into a trap of your obsessive feelings or thoughts. That is why the people who meditate every day don’t feel as much anxiety as people who don’t meditate.
Another physical meditation benefit is a formation of new strong and healthy connections between the Evaluation Center and corporal sensations or the Centre of Fear. It means that if you have some body sensations which are potentially dangerous for you – your brain perceives them rationally, without panic. When you feel pain – you just observe them – their decreases and renovations – all this may help you to take a good and balanced decision and not to freak out. As an example, when you have deadlines of your writing works coming and you don’t have time to complete them, find help with essay writing the question and react calmly and effective.
And, finally, meditation helps you to build healthy and constructive relations with others. It connects the parts of the brain which are responsible for understanding of people who are not as we are (Ego Centre with corporal sensation mostly). This connection increases our capability to understand where the other person came from, to put yourself on other’s place and to perceive things differently.
Now you know how to improve meditation, thereby enhancing your mental health. If you don’t know what to start with, using several next tips may guide you to this new world.
- First step is to find your type of practice – it may with an object or without it. The best way to start is to find a teacher that could give you some lessons. It is a pleasure to learn from the people with a great experience.
- Your physical body should be prepared for a sitting position without any movement. You may think that it is easy to sit down with crossed feet and straight back during 15 minutes, but when you try once – you’ll understand that it is not as easy as it seems.
- Do your practice daily! Even if you don’t feel any positive effect at once, do it regularly and things will begin to change.
- Meditate on an empty stomach. The best time is before having a meal, but you shouldn’t be very hunger as it will distract you from the process you are doing.
- Keep a slight smile on your face during the whole session.
We may provide you with a thousand of arguments why meditation is useful for your health but nothing will be real and effective for you without your own experience. Then go for it!