There’s a growing body of research proving that meditation is a powerful exercise to improve brain function.
“Meditation research, particularly in the last 10 years or so, has shown to be very promising because it points to an ability of the brain to change and optimize in a way we didn’t know was possible,” says NYU researcher Zoran Josipovic, a Buddhist monk.
Josipovic used MRI imaging to track blood flow to the brains of monks during meditation. Those with a long history of meditation showed brain activity never seen before. “Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance,” says Josipovic.
It’s like weight lifting for the brain.
The Huffington Post notes some of the findings from brain imaging studies on Buddhist monks:
- Meditation can change the brain’s structure and functioning by dramatically increasing neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to use new experiences or environments to create structural changes.
- Meditation can improve visual perception, linked to attention and awareness functions of the brain. One monk was able to maintain constant visual perception for over 12 minutes compared to the average of 2.6 seconds in non-meditative control subjects.
- Meditation leads to happiness. A 66-year-old French monk named Matthieu Ricard is said to have the largest capacity for happiness on record. Heightened neuroplasticity in his brain reduces the mind’s tendency toward negativity. “It completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,” says Ricard.
- Meditation increases empathy. Studies suggest that empathy may be cultivated by “exercising” the brain through loving-kindness meditation.
- Meditation helps achieve a state of “oneness” in monks by programming the brain to find harmony between themselves and the world around them.