Meditation and Neuroplasticity
In the previous articles, we discussed how meditation has the power to positively impact our brain chemistry. Interestingly, consistent practice of meditation can also reorganise our neural pathways to promote positive changes in the brain. This phenomenon is called neuroplasticity. In this article, we learn what neuroplasticity is and how meditation can enhance this ability to implement positive changes that lead to personal growth and well-being.
The human brain is plastic (meaning easily shaped). The ability of the brain to change is referred to as neuroplasticity where neural pathways within your brain continuously adjust and reorganize themselves based on what you experience. Fortunately, it is this ability that enables you to learn new skills and more importantly drop bad ones, heal from a severe trauma or injury. Meditation is now increasingly recognized to be a powerful tool to promote positive changes in the brain pathways and can even physically change the structure of the brain for improved attention, focus and memory. A randomized controlled trial showed that meditation led to a reduction in depression severity and interestingly this positive effect was associated with improvements in biomarkers of neuroplasticity .
The human brain is among the most amazing and intricate constructs in the entire universe. This three-pound organ contains roughly 100 billion neurons that work in perfect harmony with each other to create what we call the human consciousness.
Thanks to this fascinating organ we can interact with ourselves, the people around us and the environment in which we exist. But that’s not all because the human brain is capable of much more than just helping us interact with everything (and everyone) that surrounds us.
For example, did you know that your brain is capable of incredible changes as a result of learning and experience? This extraordinary property is called neuroplasticity. -the brain’s ability to form new neural connections based on learning and repetition.
It is because of this fantastic property that your brain can adapt to the environment and integrate new information. In other words, from a purely biological perspective, any changes you want to make – be it getting rid of a bad habit or learning a new skill – is mediated by this phenomenon.
The purpose of this article is to help you gain a better understanding of what neuroplasticity is and how it can help you implement positive changes that lead to personal growth and well-being.
The Inner-Workings of Neuroplasticity
In the last decades, mental health professionals and researchers have begun to realize the incredible potential and implications of neuroplasticity.
Although experts have yet to come up with a ‘practical’ way of harnessing neuroplasticity, the growing interest in this topic suggests that the scientific community is actively pursuing a breakthrough.
What we do know for sure is that neuroplasticity manifests in three crucial contexts:
- During human development, when our brains begin to model under the influence of external factors.
- During learning experiences, when we study and exercise new skills.
- During recovery following an accident or disease that has affected us on a sensory or cognitive level.
As you can see, neuroplasticity plays a crucial role not just in learning, skill acquisition, and personal development but also in recovery and well-being.
The neurons in your brain are always changing and forming connections to help you integrate new information and acquire skills.
But how exactly does it work?
First, neuroplasticity wouldn’t be possible in the absence of one crucial characteristic that each neuron has – synaptic plasticity. In other words, every neuron in your brain can change its structure and form strong bonds with neighbouring neurons. Thanks to this amazing process, your brain can build neural pathways that help process information better and faster.
A neuron has three main parts, a cell body and two types of extensions: the dendrites and the axon. These extensions are like ‘branches’ that grow from the cell body and extend until they reach the ‘branches’ of other neurons, thus forming a connection. The result is a network of neural pathways that run through your brain like highways, streets, and alleys. Each of these pathways is designed to serve a certain purpose. For example, the reason why you can read and understand this article is that your brain has developed a series of neural pathways that help you decode written language and attribute meaning to each word and phrase. The more you read, the stronger those pathways become. And it’s all thanks to neuroplasticity.
As for meditative practices, different forms of meditation can generate significant changes in the overall structure of our brain; changes that often translate to emotional and psychological benefits.
A group of researchers Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC USA who’ve looked at the brains of yoga meditation practitioners concluded that people who practice regularly exhibit greater grey matter volume . In case you didn’t know, grey matter is the part of your brain that’s packed with neurons that exert various functions. The higher the volume of grey matter, the “sharper” your brain and consequently the mind.
I hope you found this article on The Positive impact of meditation on human physiology as fascinating as I do. My aim is that it’s provided you with valuable insights into just how powerful meditation is at holistically healing the body and mind, and reducing the risk of psychosomatic stress-related diseases.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Transformational Meditation Teacher so you can facilitate deep holistic healing for yourself and your clients, I invite you to book a complimentary strategy call.
During the 30-minute call, I will help you create a plan and get crystal clear on how to:
- Deeply heal and transform your own life and help others do the same.
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1. Tolahunase, M.R., et al., Yoga- and meditation-based lifestyle intervention increases neuroplasticity and reduces severity of major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Restor Neurol Neurosci, 2018. 36(3): p. 423-442.
2. Froeliger, B., E.L. Garland, and F.J. McClernon, Yoga meditation practitioners exhibit greater gray matter volume and fewer reported cognitive failures: results of a preliminary voxel-based morphometric analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2012. 2012: p. 821307.