Don’t worry, be happy: Understanding mindfulness meditation

November 2, 2011

In times of stress, we’re often encouraged to pause for a moment and simply be in the ‘now.’ This kind of mindfulness, an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions, has entered the mainstream as people try to find ways to combat stress and improve their quality of life. And research suggests that mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure, and enhanced cognitive function.

But how is it that a single practice can have such wide-ranging effects on well-being? A new article published in the latest issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, draws on the existing scientific … Read more »

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Meditation causes changes in brain structure

A study by scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany found that deep meditation for 27 minutes a day for eight weeks produced changes in the areas of the brain associated with memory, empathy, and stress.

Dr. Britta Hölzel was the lead author of the study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging on Jan. 30. She says, “It’s fascinating to see the plasticity of the brain, and the practice of meditation can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase prosperity and the quality of life.”

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of tranquility and physical relaxation, doctors … Read more »

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How meditation may change the brain (New York Times)

January 28, 2011

Over the December holidays, my husband went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Not my idea of fun, but he came back rejuvenated and energetic.

He said the experience was so transformational that he has committed to meditating for two hours a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, until the end of March. He’s running an experiment to determine whether and how meditation actually improves the quality of his life.

I’ll admit I’m a skeptic.

But now, scientists say that meditators like my husband may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes … Read more »

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Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks

January 21, 2011

Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study’s senior author. “This … Read more »

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