When the subject of meditation comes up, I often hear, “I could never do that. My mind is always racing.” Mine too! That’s why I meditate. To be honest though, many days it goes something like this:
Okay, good. I feel comfortable. This is going to be good. Just ten minutes. Wait, did I set the timer? Does it matter if you set the timer? Shouldn’t you meditate without a timer and just “know” that you are done? Maybe I’m not that good at meditating. Obviously, I’m not that good at meditating. I’m not good at a lot of things. Hey, wait, aren’t I supposed to stop with the negative self-talk? Yes, okay. I love myself. I am good at many things. Has it been ten minutes? I’m totally going to have a sandwich after this…
Saying you can’t meditate because your mind is too busy is like saying you can’t work out because you’re not strong enough. That’s exactly why you should work out. Quieting the mind is a practice. You aren’t going to get better at it if you don’t try. “Okay,” you may say at this point, “but why do I need to quiet the mind?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at the science.
The Science of Meditation
What does it do?
When it comes to the brain, bigger is better and meditation is fertilizer. It has been shown to increase the volume of gray matter in the left hippocampus. What does that mean? It means an increase in “learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”
The growth doesn’t stop there. Another study found that “meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus… larger volumes in these regions might account for meditators’ singular abilities and habits to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and engage in mindful behavior.”
It also makes your brain thicker in the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. These regions are important for sensory, cognitive, and emotional processing. In addition, the research indicates that meditation may help slow age-related decline in these areas.
Meditation doesn’t just make your brain bigger, it also makes your telomeres longer. What the heck are telomeres? Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. “Shorter telomeres are associated with accelerated aging and related diseases… long-term meditators have a significantly younger biological age.” So maybe next time you’re fretting over getting older instead of reaching for the wrinkle cream, sit down and don’t think about it.