In these crazy times it is easy to feel overwhelmed. The things we used to do that made us feel whole and happy like holidays, partying, music, sport, theatres and galleries , are off the menu for many of us at the moment.
What we still do have is Meditation. It costs nothing and is available to us all wherever we are. That pause that takes us to our quiet centre where all is calm and still, and away from our worldly worries. We close our eyes and learning to be attentive. The benefits flow when we take a rest from our busy thinking lives. We clear the clutter of over thinking by simply focusing on breath or imagery, and allow wonderful things to happen in the Brain.
How our Brains change
Meditation develops certain areas of the brain, those that are responsible for memory, compassion, and empathy. At the same time, parts of the brain associated with fear, stress, and anxiety like the amygdala begin to shrink. Anxiety neurotransmitters decrease, and the pleasurable neurotransmitter dopamine may increase. This has to be good and these changes can have a big effect on how we feel.
A bit about Brainwaves
Brainwaves are electrical pulses created by masses of neurons connecting with each other; a little like musical notes working on different frequencies.
Gamma waves are dominant when our minds are actively learning or are in super alert mode. Their job is to make it easy for us to retain information, but when uncontrolled they can also cause us anxiety.
The famous Experiment with Tibetan Monks
During meditation practice the brains of Tibetan monks gamma waves were actually two to three times higher than their resting level. This created extraordinary levels of alertness even though they were in a profound, relaxed state of meditation. They also showed waves from different parts of their brains were functioning in remarkable harmony.
Then there are Beta waves . The ones that usually dominate our minds when we are active in our everyday lives driving the car or using the computer.
Alpha waves are slower . They arrive when we’re engaged in activities that we find relaxing, like listening to music, being in nature, swimming, taking yoga, mediation and relaxation classes. They protect the brain from paying too much attention allowing release from overthinking and mental edginess. This allows us to feel calm and happy
Neuroscientists now believe Alpha brain waves can be increased through electrical stimulation, Mindfulness and Meditation. When we spend more time in Alpha state we reduce depressive symptoms and increase creative thinking.
Slower still are Theta waves which are active when we relax deeply, and dream.
Finally, Delta waves are usually associated with deep, dreamless sleep.
We are receiving amazing information from new research in Neuroscience. We can reduce pain by training the brain; Meditation can reduce pain from levels that are intense down to discomfort.
How wonderful that modern science can confirm what Yogis have always known, Meditation is good for us. Simply find a quiet place and allow the body and mind to become relaxed and alert. The brain waves will slow themselves down without any effort from you.
Some people find Meditation challenging, as the desire of the thinking mind can resist our efforts to move into quietness. Progressive Yoga Relaxation and Yoga Nidra are great ways to get started. Simply lie down beneath the comfort of a warm blanket. No effort for mind or body is required to be guided that place of deep peace and quietness within.