Neuroscience says 50-year-olds can have the brains of 25-year-olds if they sit quietly and don’t do anything for 15 minutes every day.
According to a report by INC, published at Business Insider, Neuroscientist Sara Lazar of Harvard medical school had to study meditation after she sustained injuries from running training as she was preparing for a marathon. She was asked by her physiotherapist to stretch a lot. Sara Lazar started doing yoga.
“The yoga teacher made all sorts of claims, that yoga would increase your compassion and open your heart,” said Lazar.
I started noticing, I was calmer and I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view.”
Surprised with the effects of yoga, Sara looked up the scientific literature on the effects of mindfulness and meditation.
She was surprised to see, meditation reduces stress, depression, anxiety and also reduces body pain. Along with these characteristics, meditation also helps in getting over insomnia, eventually raising the quality of life.
As a scientist, she started building keen interest in the effects of meditation and began her neuroscience research. In her first study, Sara looked at some long term meditators and soon established a close link of good quality of life with people with a strong meditation background of several years.
With more study conducted, she established another amazing fact that the neuroscientists also found that the meditators had more gray matter in another brain region, primarily linked to decision-making, sense of appreciation and working memory called “the frontal cortex”.
While cortex would shrink as people grow older, the research had an amazing insight. 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter (almost) as those half their age, i.e young people at the age of 25.
This was remarkable research but Sara wanted to make sure the results are not based on the fact that long-term meditators who have been practicing meditation for many years had more grey matter, to begin with, so that prompted her to conduct her second study.
In this second study, people participated with no prior meditation experience, into an 8-week mindfulness program.
Results were even more astonishing and solid enough to conclude a fact.
After just eight weeks of meditation for mindfulness, a participant’s brain condition improved. There was thickening in many regions of the brain, remember these brains had never meditated before so there was no grey area prior to meditation. Their learning, emotional regulation improved and there was shrinkage of the amygdala, a region of the brain that links up with fear, anxiety, aggression and even depression.
The theory also matches the famous body “power position” initially presented by life coach Tony Robbins. It was taken as research at Harvard university later. Meditation affects positive breathing and provides the required oxygen needed by the brain to feel better and function more effectively.