In the past several years, Neuroscientists have found the human brain to be far more malleable than expected. Meditation is a practice centered around transforming one’s inner experience by training the brain to think and react in specific ways. The benefits of meditation are endless, but can all be connected to the habit of slowing down and checking in. Meditation increases awareness of our emotions, our bodies, our connection to the world, on both conscious and subconscious levels.
Increased Emotional Intelligence
Emotions alone are harmless, mere mental experiences. What can make emotions so painful and damaging is our lack of emotional intelligence. When we experience negative emotions sadness, anger, jealousy we have a tendency to over exaggerate their impact on our lives, which leads to increased levels of fear and anxiety. A cycle of negativity and fear is thus created. Meditation helps slow this process, so that we may recognize the negative emotion as temporary and circumstantial: a momentary discomfort that will soon pass, nothing to fear.
No Experience Required
Studies on the brain have shown that daily meditation practice of just twenty to thirty minutes can lead to real changes in the brain and body. These changes include:
- Stress and anxiety reduction (and all the negative effects that come with stress)
- Reduced tendency to respond with anger
- Reduced risk of relapse in cases of depression with at least two serious past episodes
- Strengthened immune system
- Reinforced positive emotions
- Increased attention
- Reduced arterial pressure in cases of high blood pressure
Help Yourself, Help Others, Help the World
“Developing our own positive inner qualities is the best way to help others.” Says Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk with a PhD in cellular genetics, in his book, The Art of Meditation. Meditation has shown to increase activity in regions of the brain responsible for altruism and compassion. These are “the foundation of genuine happiness.” Why? Because the quest for happiness is not a quest of independence. “Things and being are essentially interdependent and in a constant state of transformation.” With increased altruism and compassion, people are more drawn to help each other, and the planet, creating a cycle of positive emotions and prosocial behavior.
The human brain is an exceedingly powerful organ that we may never fully understand. What we do know is that we have the capacity to train the brain to act in line with our desired goals: happiness and health for all. Meditation is the key.