We’ve often heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” In fact, the late Norman Cousins famously healed himself through laughter, which you can read about in his book, Anatomy of an Illness. While I agree that laughter is healing and good for just about whatever ails us, meditation is another gentle, non-invasive and very effective method that helps heal the brain.. I value meditation as a healing technique right up there with laughter.
At Serenity Wellness and Counseling Center, we approach healing through an integrative holistic approach. When it is appropriate to use medication, we do, however, our preferred approach is non-invasive. We choose meditation over medication whenever possible.
Studies Show How Meditation Affects The Brain
The research on meditation’s effect on the brain continues to grow and show great promise. Back in 2015, a team at Harvard published research results that showed mindfulness meditation can change the physical structure of the brain. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus. This is the area of the brain that governs learning and memory. Changes were also seen in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. In this same study, there were decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress.
Harvard isn’t alone in showing how effective mindfulness meditation is. A Stanford University team also found the MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety.
Meditation Is Found To Be As Effective As Antidepressants
In a more recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins in which researchers looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain, the team found that the “effect size” of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. The researcher Madhav Goyal states that “If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good.” He adds, “Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training.”
How Long Does It Take Meditation To Change The Brain
Studies point to an average of 8-weeks of meditation practice to see results. One study found improvements to memory, emotional regulation, and mood with 8 weeks of 13 minutes of meditation a day. Of course, there Is no magic number, and everyone responds differently and individually to any and all treatments.
Mindfulness Meditation Plays An Important Role In Mental Health Challenges
A mindfulness meditation practice could be one of the best things for any mental health challenge you may be facing. We have seen the calming effects of meditation and the changes it has on the brain have positive ripple effects in the lives of our patients. Hopefully, you’ll give meditation a chance over medication or in combination if required.