Practice Mindfulness to Sharpen Mind and Perhaps Build a Bigger Brain

Studies have shown that if you spend a lot of time juggling or playing a musical instrument the parts of your brain that supports these activities grows bigger.  London taxi cab drivers that spend a decade memorizing elaborate routes experience significant brain changes.  These facts support a major premise behind this blog namely, we are far more in charge of the shape, size, longevity and performance of our brain than we realize.

It would stand to reason that people who meditated extensively should have bigger brains.  I have found a few studies that that support this idea but there is not enough data for a firm conclusion.  In one study:

“Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being,” says Sara Lazar, leader of the study and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. ”

In a second study:

“Using MRI scans the scientists show that there was “significantly larger cerebral measurements in mediators”.

No matter, even if mediation does not grow your brain there have been studies that demonstrate improved clarity of thinking, enhance self-control, reduced stress and self-reported well being. As such it is an important option for improving cognitive performance and will be a frequent topic on the Next Brain Blog.

Buddhist insight mediation that advocates focusing on sensation rather than our thoughts of sensation seems to produce results. It is similar to the more modern movement of mindful mediation that focuses on “being in the moment”.  Finally, there is a third, non-mediative approach to mindfulness that we will explore. It is based on the contemporary work of Ellen Langer and seeks to achieve a heightened state of situational awareness of conscious control over thoughts and actions.  Insight mediation, mindful mediation and cognitive mindfulness.

If you are interested in giving it a try I suggestion action over reading. Try this simple five-step experiment in mindful meditation.

Source: Mindfulness Image

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