Several studies demonstrate the profound benefit of meditation on emotions, the brain, and mental health. The use of sophisticated technologies has made it possible to prove empirically what many therapists have believed for years. Results also align with what Buddhists, Hindus, and other religious and spiritual schools have taught for millennia. Regular meditation in particular has a measurable effect on a several brain structures related to attention, and can actually change the physical structure of the brain.
In September, a team of Emory University researchers reported that people using Zen Buddhist techniques were much better than control subjects at refocusing their attention on their breath. The study, “‘Thinking about Not-Thinking:’ Neural Correlates of Conceptual Processing During Zen Meditation,” was published in the Internet journal PLoS ONE. Its conclusion that “meditative training may foster the ability to control the automatic cascade of semantic associations triggered by a stimulus and, by extension, to voluntarily regulate the flow of spontaneous mentation,” added force to similar findings at Emory last year.
The same researchers reported in 2007 that frequent meditation over many years actually preserves neurons, often known to laypersons as grey matter. It is normal to lose neurons as we age, and this affects concentration. But Zen practitioners in the Emory study had no detectable loss of grey matter. “There are a lot of potential applications for this,” said Milos Cekic, one of the researchers. First and foremost, any condition associated with repetitive negative thoughts – such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, may be improved through a meditation practice.
© Copyright 2008 by Daniel Brezenoff, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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