Meditation: an update from Neuroscience studies
Mindfulness is paying attention moment- to- moment to ourselves and our environment w/o analytic and decisional purpose.
During the past 25 years or so neurosciences have been very productive in trying to understand how mindfulness works. But, like for any scientific research, some studies regarding mindfulness and mindfulness-based meditation are very good, others are lacking true scientific data and many questions remained unsolved.
Here is an update meta-analysis from Berkeley Univ.
What mindfulness meditation does?
Reduces mind wandering.
Reduces the activity of our “default network” – the part of our brain that, when not busy
with focusing activity, have the tendency to ruminate over and over on thoughts, feelings , past
Enhance problem solving.
Increases resilience to stress and anxiety-related stress.
Stressors remain but the practice of meditation is helping our mind and body to bounce back from
them. How? By:
Lowering the activity of our stress processor called amygdala localized in our primitive brain.
Increasing connections between amygdala and our rational prefrontal cortex.
Reducing the release of cortisol our #1 stress hormone.
All the above is related by modifying our brain neuro pathways thru neuroplasticity.
Probable effects of mindfulness ? mindfulness based meditation
Does appear to increase compassion and make it more effective.
Seems to improves our mental health, but no better than any other approaches. (From JAMA 2014
3,515 participants from 47 randomized controlled trials.
May reduce psychological bias such as focusing on negativity and mind-set behavior.
Possible effects :
Could have positive impact on our relationships and social skills.
A 2016 neuroimaging study showed that mindfulness practice activates the part of the brain involved
in empathy, emotional regulation and non-judgmental mental behavior.
Could enhance our physical health and longevity. Not yet confirmed 100%.
May reduce frequency and intensity of chronic pain. Not yet proven scientifically.
Meditation is not effective for everyone all the time.
Future research is needed to select who can benefit the most and who cannot.
How much meditation is enough?
That also depends for each person. There is not perfect numbers to give regarding length of time and frequency. However, long term, consistent meditation is definitely benefic.
My recommendations: try different types, durations and frequencies and see what work the best for you. Group meditation is easier and more effective than the solo one but they are complementary.
Finally: the practice of mindfulness meditation is cumulative as far its positive impacts are concerned.