One of the greatest benefits of a regular meditation practice that I’ve found to date is the apparent reduction of lateralization of the brain. It seems that with regular meditation, the ability of our brain’s individual hemispheres to communicate with each other improves. Interestingly, this has expressed itself in me with increased ambidextrous tendencies. I find myself less dependent on any particular hand for physical tasks.
There is mounting evidence to suggest that a regular meditation practice increases the amount of our brain capacity used. For most people, it’s suggested that we only utilize 5-10% of our brain’s processing power. For long-term meditators, there is also a physical alteration of brain structure, specifically in terms of cortical plasticity. This is of significant importance, as plasticity typically declines in adults in areas that are important for cognitive and emotional processing.
As we age, our human cortex, an area of grey matter in our brain, tends to become thinner. Meditation helps to offset this decline. Meditators enjoy thickening in areas that are associated with attention and processing sensory input.
Improvements in brain function are also evident in meditators who begin to regularly experience increased gamma-wave activity in the brain. Meditators who regularly experience this state quite literally have quicker thought processing than those who do not. Moreover, as we practice different activities, brain function pushes the physical brain to improve itself in the same way muscle does.
Musicians feature thickening in areas of the brain associated with music processing. Jugglers feature thickening in the areas of the brain associated with dexterity and hand-eye coordination. When you mix a combination of a meditation practice with a physical pursuit, you push the brain to improve itself. Consider it akin to mental pushups.
The old adage “Unless you use it, you lose it” really is true. If you want to keep your brain fit, you need to exercise it. And just as our bodies need a quiet time to rest and heal, so does our brain. Employing a regular practice of meditation will help you find not only inner quiet, but inner strength as well.
Follow the breath.