Woman practicing mindfulness meditation

What Happens to the Brain During Meditation?

Benefits of meditation allow you clear your mind and focus on the present moment using various mental and physical techniques. There are different types and ways to practice it, allowing you to choose the method that works best for you. For instance, mindfulness meditation is popular for individuals in addiction recovery because it involves letting your thoughts pass without judgment. 

Let’s learn more about this ancient practice and what happens to your brain when you enter a meditative state. 

How Does Meditation Work? 

People who meditate often do so to relax, reduce stress and reduce anxiety. There are many forms of meditation. because it is practiced all over the world. When you see someone meditate, it might not look like they’re doing anything more than breathing or repeating a sound or phrase over and over. But, it’s what is happening on the inside that is the incredible part. 

Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible for researchers to see how meditation affects the brain. In your brain, there are billions of neurons, or cells, that send messages all over your body. Research shows that people who meditate often have differences in their brain structure, including denser brain tissue and stronger neural connections.

Meditation can also impact the parts of the brain responsible for managing or controlling your senses, your ability to think and your ability to process emotions. This means that people who meditate often are healthier and less likely to experience age-related loss of function.

What’s Going On with Your Brain When You Meditate?

Meditation has been studied for a long time, and its benefits are undeniable. People who practice meditation regularly experience lower levels of stress, lower rates of anxiety, and improved concentration. But why is this the case? What’s happening with your brain when you meditate? 

Meditation is an intentional practice that requires you to concentrate on the present moment to gain awareness. Doing so can increase neurotransmitters in your brain—dopamine, serotonin, GABA. But, instead of one big dump of neurotransmitters, they are released in a slower, more consistent way. 

Meditation can also alter brain waves, shifting high-intensity waves to slower, more relaxed waves. Additionally, the regions of the brain involved in rumination become less active, causing you to worry less. On the flip side, the part of the brain responsible for body awareness becomes more active, allowing you to be more aware of your emotions and bodily sensations. 

Benefits of Meditation on the Brain 

Meditation has significant effects on the brain, such as:

  • Stress reduction. Meditation is known to decrease activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing stress and anxiety. Regular meditation also leads to lower stress levels. 
  • Increased gray matter. MRI scans show that meditation can increase gray matter density in the brain, especially in regions associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. This suggests meditation doesn’t just change brain function, but improves it. 
  • Improved concentration and attention. Meditation can enhance the brain’s ability to concentrate and maintain attention. This is linked to increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and attention. 
  • Enhanced connectivity. There are even “neuroplastic” effects that meditation can have on the brain, reshaping and strengthening its neural networks over time.
  • Maintained brain health. Regular meditation might slow down the natural aging process of the brain, which includes a thinning cortex and decline in cognitive functions. 
  • Emotional regulation. Regulating your emotions is easier when you practice meditation. You’re activating and reinforcing certain neural pathways, allowing you to have better control over your emotions. 
  • Increased mindfulness. Meditation encourages a state of mindfulness, which is characterized by increased awareness and acceptance of the present moment. This is especially beneficial for those in recovery, as it prevents the mind from wondering and worrying about the past and future. 

Holistic Healing in Agoura Hills, CA

Meditation is one of the many therapeutic practices offered at Awakenings Treatment Center. We are committed to giving our clients the tools they need to succeed at recovery and cope in healthy ways. Meditation has been a wonderful recovery tool for many of our clients, and we hope you will find the same success with it. To learn more about our outpatient programs and specialized holistic practices, contact our admissions team today.