The Ancient Brain and Modern Meditation
For decades, meditation has been one of the most time-honored practices for improving the brain’s overall health and well-being. In fact, instances of meditation have been documented all throughout history. While the brain hasn’t changed much over time, humans have been able to find news ways to use their brains for new purposes. This is how we have learned everything from new technologies to insights on modern medicine. There are also new ways that we can help the brain find a sense of peace and serenity using modern meditation.
There is no single definition for modern meditation and what it entails. It is essentially a collection of different practices that adapts to today’s modern world and fits the needs of today’s modern person. Not all people living in today’s technologically-advanced society are able to adapt to the same ancient meditation practices that were popular hundreds of years ago. This is precisely why meditation practices have grown and changed over the years. Transcendental Meditation started to come into play in the 1960s, and long before that in the 6th century, Zen-style meditation swept through China.
Today, it is all about modern meditation, a type of meditating that is more flexible and one that has a more contemporary focus. This type of modern meditation is coming in the form of books, audio tapes, online programs and everything in between. This form of meditation is all about quickly and easily finding time to work meditating into a busy, modern-day schedule, often for less than 30 minutes a day. With the right practice, even this limited amount of meditation can have some seriously positive effects.
Carnegie Mellon published an article on the topic and found that meditating for just 25 minutes per day for three days in a row can alleviate psychological stress in a majority of people. For most people this is all it takes, and with most modern practices meditation, doesn’t have to be in one, long session, such as it was thousands of years ago. In fact, many people practice small 5-10 minute meditation sessions throughout their day in order to find the serenity that they desire.
Modern meditation practices can vary from person to person or situation to situation. There are faith-based meditation practices, yoga-centered solutions and everything in between, but overall finding the time to meditate in short, yet effective bursts even amidst our busy lives in our busy, information-ridden society. The good news is, there are several studies that support the effects of modern meditation and that have revealed some unique perks of routine practice.
- It Can Help Slow Down Aging
According to a UCLA study that measured meditators and non-mediators, those who meditated daily had more grey matter and less volume loss.
- It Can Battle Depression and Anxiety
John Hopkins recently did a number of tests on mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce the symptoms of depression, pain and anxiety. The study found that it had the same impact on people suffering from these conditions as prescribed anti-depressants.
- It Can Reduce Social Anxiety
There are many people who will start meditation as a way to reduce stress, but it can also help improve anxiety, specifically social anxiety. Meditation that focuses on breath, such as yoga, can actually help reduce signs of anxiety. A Stanford University study echoed this sentiment also finding that those who practiced this form of meditation experienced relief from social anxiety symptoms as well.
- It Can Prevent Mind Wandering
When Yale University looked into modern mindfulness meditation, they found that it can actually help with preventing time-consuming mind wandering. While those who meditate may still wander between thoughts, they have much more mental control when it comes to being able to snap out of these wandering sessions.
- It Can Improve Attention and Concentration
So many people today struggle with attention-spans and the ability to concentrate. Studies on the effect of meditation and concentration have found that even a few weeks of modern meditating can actually improve a person’s ability to focus. The study measured its success by using the verbal and reasoning section of the GRE, and participants, on average scored 16 percentage points better after starting to practice meditation.
With modern approaches to meditation becoming more and more common each and every day, there are continued ways that people can work this time-honored practice into their everyday lives. Our brains continue to be one of the most amazing, complex and advanced systems in the universe. While they may not have changed much over the past several thousand years, new practices such as this have only helped the brain learn, grow and push its boundaries to accommodate the growing world around us.