In Norway, a team of neuroscientists at the University of Oslo studied the brain’s activity during two techniques of meditation - concentrative and nondirective. Participants practiced both methods of meditation as an MRI recorded their brain activities and wound up with “remarkable” results.
Researchers found that as participants practiced nondirective meditation, a technique that focuses on breathing or calming sounds, there was higher activity in parts of the brain that were associated with “processing self-related thoughts and feelings” compared to when they were resting. On the other hand, during concentrative meditation, there was approximately the same amount of activity as when they were resting. This may be due to the fact that the latter method focuses on breathing and certain thoughts, which quiets other thinking.
The results suggest that the nondirective method allows the brain more access to memory and emotion processing than concentrative meditation. This may not be such a surprise since the mind can wander during nondirective meditation, but as opposed to a non-meditative state, there is no external activity such as scheduling appointments to get in the way of mental processing.
Meditation has become an increasingly popular practice in the U.S. for millions of people struggling with ailments, but especially for overall wellness. In 2007, 9.4% of respondents from a national government survey had used meditation within the past year, a 1.8% increase since 2002. People continue to use meditation to improve various health problems such as stress, insomnia, depression, and even pain. Other studies have found even more possible benefits of meditation such as better sleep quality and mood for teenagers with cancer and improved memory loss for Alzheimer’s patients.
Find out for yourself and give meditation a try. Here are a few basics:
- Find a quiet place - Steer clear of any sights or sounds that will disturb your concentration
- Get comfortable - Stand, sit, or lie down. Do what helps you relax.
- Get focused - Find a something to focus your attention on so as to not let your mind get cluttered. If you get distracted, just breathe and get back on point.
- Breathe - Take deep, slow breaths and keep it controlled. This can be a good point of focus.