Wellness

Meditation Medication: Why Your Brain Needs to Meditate

By | March 9, 2016

A healthy mind is important. Over the past decade, evidence of meditation’s helpful health benefits have increased its popularity. Now, scientists are saying meditation is an easy, low-cost method to keep people happy and healthy.

Anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation have persisted in various cultures for millennia, yet only in the past few years have neuroscientists and psychologists teamed up to back these claims with scientific evidence. They’ve found meditation is proven to strengthen the mind and lessen emotional turmoil, along with promoting overall physical health.

Woman sits meditating on sunrise mountain peak
lzf/Thinkstock

The Benefits

Meditation is effective at improving mental health because it literally changes the chemical composition of your brain. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found one particular and very important difference in the brains of long-term meditators when compared with those who don’t meditate: a much larger amount of grey matter, according to the Washington Post.

Gray matter isn’t just some gooey brain mess. It’s a type of tissue located throughout the central nervous system. Grey matter facilitates two critical brain functions: information processing from sensory organs and neuron nutrient transport. Cognitive Therapy and Research studies have found that increased gray matter makes the brain more efficient or powerful at processing information, which can reduce stress and anxiety, increase attention and memory capacities, and produce a generally calmer outlook while problem-solving and decision-making.

All of these important mental health facets contribute to a healthier being by strengthening emotional clarity and mental resilience in everyday life scenarios.

As we grow older, our cortex shrinks, reducing the amount of grey matter, making it harder to remember things and solve problems. Lazar’s study, however, found that 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds. Meditation is a low-cost, low-risk activity with high rewards.

Getting Started

As with everything new, it can take a while to incorporate meditation into your daily routine. These helpful tips go a long way in directing you to the path towards a successful meditation practice.

Start Small

In a busy life, it’s hard to square away even just 20 minutes to meditate — there’s always seems to be something that needs to be done right now. Just think about it this way: 20 minutes is just 1.3 percent of your day. It’s half of the average time Americans spend on Facebook per day. And Stanford University claims that just seven minutes of meditation can increase feelings of social positivity and connectedness — so try establishing a small, manageable routine that can then grow as you practice and become more comfortable.

If you need help getting started, try one of the many apps available on iOS and Android phones. Some, like HeadSpace are free and have celebrity support from the likes of Emma Watson on Twitter. Others, like Bhuddify are paid, but have over 80 audio guides to help you find your zen.

Practice Daily

According to Psychology Today, a daily routine will not only encourage you to establish meditation as a fundamental part of your life, but it will also keep your meditating muscles strong. In other words, the cultivated and improved grey matter will stay present and resist reverting back to its old state or old habits.

Find a Community

Sharing your experience with others can be an effective way to improve your own techniques, learn from others and deepen your personal practice. Find a meditation community near you!

Mental health is important. When you need it, getting the right care can also be expensive, especially if you come up against an insurance limitation or are paying out of pocket. SingleCare is there to support you with anything else you may need. By providing access to discounted therapy and low-cost mental health services, SingleCare members save 48% on mental healthcare and gain access to top providers in various disciplines, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors, so you can find what’s best for you.

With SingleCare’s extensive network of mental health professionals and a little bit of meditation, mental and emotional health can finally have the priority status they deserve.

(Main image credit: evgenyatamanenko/Thinkstock)