People have been practising meditation for thousands of years- and for very good reason, it seems.
Two new surveys published in the journal Science Advances have found that different forms of meditation can have different positive effects on your head, from improving your attention span, to making you more empathetic, reducing your stress degrees, or helping you stay cool under pressure. Most remarkably, however, it appears practicing different kinds of meditation resulted in a different part of the brain changing its physical structure.
“Even though brain plasticity, in general, has long been studied in neuroscience, until now little was known about the plasticity of the social brain, ” explained Professor Tania Singer, principal investigator of the ReSource Project. “Our results render impressive proof for brain plasticity in adults through summary and concentrated daily mental practise, leading to an increase in social intelligence.”
Their study met over 300 people to take part in three different training modules, each focusing on a different type of meditation. One of the techniques was based on mindfulness meditation, a psychological technique used to help focus your attention on experiences being carried out in this moment often through simple breathing techniques.
The other two were both more socially-inclined. The second involved facilitating people to open up emotionally by allowing them to talk to a stranger about everyday annoyances. The final method fostered people to think about issues from a different perspective within their personality, such as the “worried mother” or the “curious child, ” to foster a deeper compassion.
After being trained in these techniques, they then analyzed the participants through an MRI brain scan, a behavior exam, and psychosocial stress test.
They found that particular parts of their brain’s thickness changed substantially depending on which train technique was practised. For instance, compassion-based meditation demonstrated increases in the limbic system, a brain region associated emotional regulation. In the mindfulness-based practises, they observed changes in the cortex relevant to attention and executive functioning.
All three groups reported less stress in “peoples lives” after discovering the meditation techniques. Nonetheless, only those who practised socially-inclined meditation exhibited reduced signs of physical stress. These volunteers proved up to a 51 percent drop in stress hormone cortisol levels compared with controls.
“In the two social modules, focusing either on socio-affective or socio-cognitive competencies, we were able to show selective behavioral improvements with regard to compassion and perspective-taking. These changes in behaviour corresponded with different degrees of structural brain plasticity in specific regions in the cortex that support these capacities, ” first author Sofie Valk added.
So, the moral of the tale: meditation has verifiable positive benefits for your mental well-being. However, which of these benefits you receive depending on the type of meditation you practise- so choose wisely.
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