-:BENEFITS:-

Archive for ‘mental benefits’

Aids Decision-Making Process

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

meditation-image-12Researchers at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute discovered that mindfulness meditation can train individuals to make decisions informed by logic instead of emotion. While our tendency as humans is to rely on an emotional reaction when confronted with a difficult decision, meditators instead draw on a self-awareness that aids them in thinking rationally before making any decision, researchers suggested. In the study, Buddhist meditators and non-meditators participated in a decision-making game scenario. The MRI brain images of the participants showed different areas of the brain engaged in Buddhist meditators than non-meditators. The meditators were found to activate areas of the brain involved with awareness and a focus on the present moment, facilitating their logical decision-making process.

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Improves Rational Decision Making

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Silhouette of a man figure meditating in the outdoorsResearchers from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute found that individuals who practiced mindfulness meditation were more rational decision-makers than those who did not. The study analyzed Buddhist meditators, who were found to arrive at more logical decisions than non-meditator participants. By practicing mindfulness meditation, the study suggests, people are able to train their brains to think rationally rather than emotionally when forced to make an important decision. Researchers found that Buddhist meditators used areas of their brains associated with internal bodily states and attention to the present moment that helped with opting for the more rational approach when making decisions.

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Increases Visuospatial Awareness

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-57Researchers at George Mason University discovered that Deity Yoga (DY) meditation momentarily increases our visual-spatial awareness. Normally, our short-term visual memory retains images for a matter of seconds. However, a recent study suggests that meditation has the potential to extend that time span. Researchers conducted an experiment testing an individual’s ability to mentally rotate a three-dimensional structure and retain that image through visual memory. The results showed that those who meditated for 20 minutes scored better on the two tasks, compared to those who practiced another type of meditation. This indicates that DY meditation allows us to increase our visuospatial awareness.

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Increases Multi-Tasking Abilities

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-60New research from the University of Washington suggests that meditation training could help in multi-tasking, as well as lower stress levels. Participants who received intensive meditation training before performing a technologically intense test that required high levels of multitasking reported lower levels of stress than those who received no meditation training. Not only were lower stress levels reported, but participants who were trained beforehand also switched between tasks less often and completed the test in the same amount of time as others. Researchers see these new findings as promising, suggesting that meditation may actually help those in high-intensity environments – a benefit that previous research has been unable to prove.

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Quicker Focus

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-62Under the direction of Dr. Giuseppe Pagnoni, researchers at Emory University found that those who practice Zen meditation displayed an enhanced ability to focus, and were able to return to their previous meditative condition after being interrupted with a task, compared to those who do not practice meditation. Using fMRI imaging, the study revealed that a certain part of the brain in meditators—the angular gyrus—was restored back to normal blood flow more quickly after a distraction than in subjects who did not practice meditation. The interrupting task was used to serve as an imitation of random thoughts that we often have when resting. The study’s results suggest that meditation may help those who have a hard time focusing.

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Balances Body and Mind

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-64Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found that those who practice mindfulness meditation are more in touch with the connections between their bodies and emotions, compared to dancers who are thought to divide their focus between time, music, space, and muscles. While dancers develop a strong awareness of their muscles, this does not extend to an overall mind-body connection. In contrast, Vipassana meditators, who pay attention to visceral—or instinctive—body sensations, have the strongest physical-emotional bond than any other participants studied. Mindfulness meditation in particular teaches individuals to recognize arising thoughts or feelings without passing judgment, helping one to become more in tune with the connections between mind and body.

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Improves Concentration

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-65A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that meditating regularly improves individuals’ concentration abilities. Contrary to popular opinion, meditation is not such a mysterious or difficult thing to learn; it’s simply a matter of learning how to concentrate on a certain idea or action while letting all distractions fade away. After three months of regular meditation, participants in the study demonstrated marked improvement in the consistency of their attention span. Not only were they able to concentrate for longer, but participants were also able to concentrate more consistently after they completed the study.

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Maintains Cognitive Abilities in Older People

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-66Researchers at UCLA found that those who practiced meditation for years showed stronger brain connections, less aging in the brain over time, and less brain size shrinkage. The results of the study suggest that practicing meditation regularly may slow down natural withering of brain structure, as well as positively affecting our immune system. The study used diffusion tensor imaging to measure the changes in participants’ brains, revealing a difference in more than one cerebral area. The findings suggest the presence of connections that enhance the relay of rapid electrical signals across different brain regions, indicating that meditation is all encompassing in its positive effects on the brain. With the slower aging of their brains, meditators are able to maintain many cognitive abilities for longer.

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Augments Concentration Abilities

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-67In a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, results revealed that those who practiced meditation, even at an introductory level, improved overall performance and the ability to hone their attention. The study was the first to explore meditation’s effects on the three subcomponents of attention, including the ability to manage goals and prioritize, the ability to remain alert to the surrounding environment, and the ability to focus voluntarily on specified information. The results demonstrate meditation’s effectiveness as a non-medical approach for enhancing cognitive abilities and focus across diverse groups of individuals. Furthermore, the researchers note that their findings have important implications for employee performance and training in the workplace.

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Increases Cognition

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-68Psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that our cognitive abilities can improve after only a few days of practicing mindfulness meditation. In a study, participants displayed higher levels of improvement in cognitive skills compared to a control group that did not practice meditation. More importantly, the findings suggest that these benefits may not require an extensive period of meditation practice. According to Dr. Fadel Zeidan, the evidence also suggests that we may be able to improve our mind’s processing within a week’s time of beginning to practice meditation. Mindfulness meditation can lead to enhanced job or academic performance and the ability to tune out distractions.

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Promotes Creativity

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditationA study at Leiden University indicated that certain meditation practices increase creative thinking. Both divergent and convergent thinking are two keys to creativity. In divergent thinking, new ideas are generated, while in convergent thinking, a solution for a problem is generated. Through a study of two different meditation techniques, researchers found that Open Monitoring meditation, in which the individual experiences all sensations without focusing on any particular one, increases performance in divergent thinking. In comparison, Focused Attention meditation, in which the individual focuses on a particular thought, had no effect on convergent thinking. This suggests that only certain meditation practices offer the benefit of improving creativity.

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Sharpens ADHD Minds

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-278792_640Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin found that certain meditation practices might sharpen minds, particularly among individuals with ADHD. Through investigation of Vipassana meditation, Davidson disproved the long-standing belief against neuroplasticity, demonstrating that we are capable of changing our brains. After researchers meditated for 10-12 hours a day, Davidson found less time was needed for those participating in a visual detection task. Using these results, Davidson hopes to use mental prescriptions, along side with medicinal prescriptions, for kids diagnosed with ADHD. Practicing meditation can help improve and sharpen minds that often have trouble focusing.

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Lengthens Attention Span

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-75Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that subjects who performed a task after practicing Vipassana meditation for three months had increased the capacity of their attention span. Participants in the study were shown two successive targets mixed with numerous distractions, which flashed on the screen for a split-second period of time. While non-practitioners of meditation struggled to focus on and recall the second target,  the brains of Vipassana meditation practitioners devoted more energy to finding the second target, and recalled it with more ease than other participants. These findings suggest that meditation aids in increasing our attention span.

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Enhances Attention over Time

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-76Researchers at the University of California at Davis found that participating in meditation actively improves our attention. As part of the study, two different participant groups went on a three-month meditation retreat. In addition to meditative training, participants also performed tasks like sitting at a computer and watching a series of lines appear on the screen. Participants were instructed to click the mouse when they saw a shorter line appear. The study found that as the retreat wore on, participants were able to better distinguish the difference between the longer and shorter lines, showing an improvement in attention. For some participants, their attention continued improving nearly six months after the retreat had ended.

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Sharpen Mental Performance

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-78Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who regularly practice meditation have improved mental performance such as enhanced learning, memory, and compassion. For participants who regularly meditate, researchers discovered increased grey-matter in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. In the amygdala, researchers found decreased grey-matter, causing significant reduction in individuals’ stress and anxiety. Due to meditation’s promising stress-relieving potential, researchers are considering incorporating meditative therapies into treatment plans for stress-related disorders such as PTSD. Meditation plays a significant role in improving mental performance and well-being and is predicted to continue delivering cognitive and psychological benefits in the long term for regular practitioners.

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Enhances Mental Discipline

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

A recent article published in Neuroimage suggests that mindfulness meditation increases connections in the brain, enhancing mental discipline. Studies conducted at UCLA, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center all generate similar findings that point to improved brain connectivity resulting from this particular form of meditation. One study even suggests that meditation is powerful enough to affect our genes. Researchers explain that meditation evokes the “relaxation response” which allows for the activation and deactivation of certain sets of genes in regular meditators. Although additional research on the connections between meditation and gene control is still needed, the study indicates that the genes affected by this technique control inflammation processes, cell death, and management of free radicals.

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Causes Behavior Enhancing Changes in the Brain

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-80Researchers at Texas Tech University have found that integrative body-mind training (IBMT) causes structural transformations in white matter in the brain which leads to positive behavioral changes in individuals. A Chinese approach to mindfulness meditation, IBMT has proven to have these benefits on anyone who has practiced the technique regularly for at least one month and a minimum duration of 11 hours total. The increased brain connections related to white matter are linked to improved changes in participants’ mood. The findings provide further evidence of enhanced neuroplasticity as a result of mindfulness meditation, which have the ability to positively impact emotional and cognitive development.

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Increases Brain Connectivity

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-81Recent research by a team of researchers from Dalian University of Technology and the University of Oregon suggests that Chinese mindfulness meditation causes an increase in brain connectivity. Known as IBMT, this method is closely related to traditional Chinese medicine and focuses on arriving at a state of restful alertness that facilitates a heightened sense of mind-body awareness. IBMT training is not yet available in the U.S., aside from the research being conducted at the University of Oregon. The study’s findings suggest the brain’s ability to change its structure in an area related to an individual’s regulation of conflict. While yielding promising results, further research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of the processes at work in the brain during IBMT.

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Enhances Regulation of Emotion and Behavior

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-82An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that IBMT meditation enhances the brain’s regulation of emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. After only 11 hours of practicing this traditional Chinese meditation technique, study participants had already demonstrated structural changes in the area of the brain – the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) – associated with the regulation of behavior and emotion. Not only was this brain structure altered, but its connectivity to other areas of the brain were strengthened significantly. These findings suggest the applicability of IBMT to enhancing workplace performance, and controlling emotions in high-stress situations including test-taking and public speaking, as well as many other areas of everyday life.

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Slows Aging of the Brain

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-83A recent study conducted by scientists from Yale and Massachusetts General Hospital indicates that meditating regularly can slow the thinning of brain structures resulting from aging. The practice has actually been found to thicken key areas of the brain related to auditory, sensory, visual, and internal perception. The study examined the brain function of participants who were highly trained in Buddhist Insight meditation, identifying important changes in the right hemisphere, which is associated with maintaining focus and attention. Researchers predict that other forms of meditation will have similar effects on the brain, although more research is required to explore that possibility.

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Enhances Well-being through Neuroplasticity

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

meditation-image-84A study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison marks a significant transition within neuroscience research away from a focus on disease in favor of a focus on well-being. The researchers’ findings suggest that meditation causes neuroplastic changes in the brain that in turn enhance individuals’ well-being. In particular, the study measured meditation’s effects on neural networks that are associated with socially compassionate behavior including altruism, empathy, and kindness. Just as social stressors can damage the brain, researchers explain, positive social interventions like mindfulness meditation can enhance brain function and structure. The study represents an important step in our understanding of the complex process of neuroplasticity.

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