The Science Behind Meditation
The ‘M’ word. Meditation. Eek, we said it. Did your eyes glaze over? We feel you and we know: Everyone’s talking about meditation these days, and it’s a lot of in-one-ear-and-out-the-other. Since your time is precious and we don’t want to waste it, we’ve (happily) done the heavy lifting and compiled our FIVE favorite research-based facts on this powerful practice.
We believe meditation is to your mind what a toothbrush is to your teeth. Would you dare go out into the world and talk to a bunch of people without first brushing your teeth?
We didn’t think so.
Likewise, we hope the powerful health benefits listed below will inspire you to make space in your life to give meditation a try.
MEDITATION FACT CHECK
Here are five fun facts about our favorite happiness hygiene practice:
#1 – Increased gray matter.
A study conducted by Yale, Harvard, and Mass General Hospital demonstrated that meditation increases gray matter in parts of the brain.
Gray matter is positively correlated with IQ, processing speed, attentional capacities, and other important brain functions.
We don’t think it’s a coincidence that geniuses like Einstein and other high-level thinkers attribute frequent walks or creative breaks to revelatory breakthroughs in their work.
They allowed their minds to wander through different brain wave states via meditative activities and arrived back to the present with new insights.
Keep reading for a deeper breakdown of what meditation does to the mind.
#2 – Changing those brain waves.
The brainwave spectrum is divided into five bands (see below), each with an associated state.
During meditation, the brain typically starts off in high-beta (thinking) and gradually moves into alpha (passive), followed by theta (subconscious creativity and inner peace), and eventually delta (healing, regeneration, and pain relief).
The reverse process takes place as the brain moves back into a state of awareness, and the meditator may return to beta with new insights and breakthroughs.
GAMMA waves (30–100Hz): These waves aren’t as well understood as the others but are linked to heightened perception and alertness/anxiety.
BETA waves (12.5–30Hz): These are the brain waves associated with conscious thought and external focus. Analytical thinking. Problem-solving and decision-making. Action-oriented. Higher levels are associated with anxiety, feelings of separation, and fight or flight.
ALPHA waves (7.5–12.5Hz): These waves are associated with a state in which the mind becomes more receptive and passive. Physically and mentally relaxed with efficient focus and mental acuity. If you’ve experienced a state of flow, you’re familiar with alpha waves.
THETA waves (4–7.5Hz): These brain waves are associated with subconscious creativity, intuition, inner peace, and deep relaxation. Increased production of catecholamines (which are vital for learning and memory). Theta waves induce a deep integrative state in which emotional experiences and potential changes in behavior are processed.
DELTA waves (0.5–4Hz): Finally, these brain waves are linked to deep unconscious states of intuition and insight. In this state, healing, regeneration, and pain relief occur. Cortisol decreases. Serotonin increases.
#3 – Catching ZZZs.
One-third of humans have trouble falling and staying asleep. Yes, 33% of us.
And we’d venture to guess this might be an underestimate. But meditation can help with or even reverse sleep issues.
#4 – Mental freedom.
Anxiety is a cognitive state where we’re unable to regulate emotional reactions to perceived threats.
Meditation strengthens the ability to regulate emotions and therefore decreases anxiety’s effect in our lives. Meditation can also decrease stress-related depression.
Are you excited to try meditating yet?
The good news is you don’t have to do as much as you think…
#5 – A little goes a long way.
As little as 10 minutes of meditation a day is all that’s needed to start rewiring the brain.
You can get every benefit we’ve listed before and also learn how to lessen your attachment to your thoughts and emotions. A skill that’s crucial to living in the overstimulated environment we often find ourselves in.
We’ll leave you with this cheeky quote from one of our favorite spiritual teachers, Gabby Bernstein:
“If you don’t have time to meditate then you must have plenty of time to feel like crap.”
LOOKING FOR MORE? START HERE.
For the meditation-hesitant, we recommend starting with Headspace. Click here to get their free 30-day meditation beginner pack.
For those of you who are open to a dash (or two) of woo, we recommend starting with Oprah and Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience. Click here to get daily audio intentions, motivational messages, and thought-provoking journal questions.
For our seasoned meditators, here are the meditation tools and gadgets we’ve used to deepen our practice.
What are your takeaways from this article? Share with us in the comments!
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