One of the most powerful effects of meditation lies in how it changes the brain. When practiced regularly, meditation improves how the mind functions to manage emotions and intense feelings. It also releases endorphins that promote feelings of calm.

In fact, the impact of meditation on the brain is one of the primary ways meditation enhances overall wellness.

Meditating Makes the Mind Less Busy

Meditating Makes the Mind Less Busy

Meditating makes our minds more efficient and less distractable by changing how the different brain areas communicate.

When at rest, your brain will tend to wander and drift to whatever thought or feeling grabs its attention. In fact, this activity is called the default network; (1) in other words, your brain’s factory settings or what it defaults to when there is no task to direct its focus.

Experienced meditators show decreased activity in their default network. This means that when an experienced meditator sits down to rest or lies down to sleep at night, the brain doesn’t as actively start to wander. For instance, imagine if your brain was less busy when you were trying to fall asleep. Meditators can enter relaxation states easier as their resting mind is more peaceful. (1)

Meditation and the Shrinking Brain

The amygdala is the area of the brain where emotions are processed and given meaning. In fact, it plays a crucial role in our experience of intense feelings and how past emotional situations trigger current responses.

The amygdala decreases in size in response to regular meditation practice. (2) This change can result in less reactivity to strong negative emotions and reduced stress and anxiety. In particular, it becomes easier to remain calm in difficult situations and to allow the rational part of the brain to be in control.

Meditation and Brain Waves

The brain demonstrates different kinds of electrical activity depending on what state it is in. When focused on a task, it will exhibit beta waves, whereas, during deep sleep, delta waves are present, indicating deep rest.

In meditation, especially for experienced practitioners, two types of brain waves are prevalent. (3) The first is gamma waves which indicate intense focus and awareness. The second is alpha waves which relax and recharge the brain. The ability to increase both types of waves contributes to meditations’ stress-relieving effects.

A Healthy Mind Can Be Active as Well as Relax

A Healthy Mind Can Be Active as Well as Relax

We need active, focused minds. This allows us to be productive, creative and achieve our goals. But a healthy brain must also be able to relax easily; otherwise, we face burnout, stress, and anxiety.

Meditation produces changes in the brain that make it more efficient at entering a state of relaxation and rest. The more quickly we can relax, the better we can manage stress and build resilience in difficult times. Meditation is a brain changer, and it’s a change we can all benefit from for improved wellness.