Meditation and the Brain: What Happens

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It started when the girl was nine. She would go to a quiet place, sit in
silence and slowly push the muck and chaos of her world out of her mind.
No more bullies, demanding parents, loud classrooms, or anything else
that comes with the tough life of the elementary-age schoolgirl. Just
her; absorbing stillness, basking in tranquility.

Meditation is so nice, even nine year-olds get it, right?

This particular youngster was Lena Dunham, popular actress and creator
of the HBO show "Girls." Dunham told a crowd at an NYC benefit that she
thought any busy lady could benefit from the practice of meditation.

"It gathers me up for the day and makes me feel organized and happy and
capable of facing the challenges of the world, both internal and
external," she told the audience.

We talk a lot about meditation on this blog. We've even created a
tutorial on how to get started. The proven benefits are just innumerable, and the only cost is your time.

But what really happens when you meditate?

First, your brain calms down and stops trying to keep up with every
little thing around you. Scientific studies have shown a decrease in
beta waves - or brain waves, if you will - even after just a few minutes
of meditation. Literally, your brain just stops caring about irrelevant
things.

Imagine your brain as a busy downtown during a workday. Lots of moving
parts and things rushing to and fro. Then you begin meditating, and the
frontal lobe, where you're emotions and problem-solving skills come
from, goes into sleep mode, as does your parietal lobe (home of
sense-related stimuli.)

Then, your anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex
fire up. The former regulates your worry, the latter risk and fear.

It's the equivalent of someone kicking out all the crowds and putting up
barricades for you and you alone to relax in the park. If your brain is
still downtown, meditation takes it from a busy weekday to a cool,
gentle Sunday morning.

In other words, meditation isn't just a bunch of mumbo jumbo - it's a
process that causes very real, and very beneficial chemical changes in
the brain that reverberate through the rest of the body. You'll feel
better, worry less, be more inspired, focus more and have a sharper
memory to recall it all - and that's just in the brain.

Your kids may not get into it like you want them to (timeout, anyone?)
or like Lena Dunham did, but you can start today. For those of you who
have tried meditation, what benefits did you see? Let us know in the
comments!

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