Updated: Jun 19, 2020
We have heard that meditation leads to greater mental clarity, lower level of stress and reduce anxiety but how does mediation benefit the brain?
Before we jump into the science of meditation, I would like you to imagine (if you have been to India), the old towns and the electric wires are so tangled and tightly connected with pole.
Can you see these old wires, how they are tangled with each other? Just imagine for a moment these tangled wires are like neurons in our brain. They have developed a pattern in our brain with the help of our lifestyle. For example, we jump out of bed, brush our teeth, use toilet etc without any awareness. This whole morning routine become like a robotic. If our mind, try to develop any new habit these old pattern stops them to develop.
This is how our brain with old patterns with neurons including our habits memories, emotions and past trauma and we are so tangled with them.
Meditation is like about rewiring and untangling the wires so we can come into present.
Let me explain when you meditate how our brain works
Our brain is very complex organ in the human body, but thanks to modern science and technology, we can get lots of concrete evidence of effects of meditation on the human brain, there are many different ways to analyse brain behaviour during meditation such as MRI, EEG.
(meditation was always connected with spirituality in the past)
The best way to analyse how our brain is functioning during meditation is by understanding brain waves
What are brain waves?
At the root of all thought’s, emotions and behaviour is the communication between neurons in our brain. Brain waves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses, occurring when neurons communicate with each other.
How it’s detected ?
Brain waves are detected by using sensors placed on scalp ,these waves are like music notes that go in low frequency and sometime high frequency like a instrument.
Types of brain waves ?
There are 4 main types of brain waves
1 Beta (13-30 hz)
2 Alpha (8-12 hz)
3 Theta (4-7 hz )
4 Delta (1-3hz )
Beta waves (alertness)
Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness, when we wake up in the morning and eyes starts to perceive daylight. The movement our eyes pick up day light our brain starts to fire neurons and we begin to pay attention. Now the brains job is to create meaning between the outer world and inner world by using all our senses, thinking about how we feel , if we tired ,if we hungry. In this state of brain waves our outer world feel more realistic than inner world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity.
In order to relax these brain waves we close our eyes during mediation so that we can disconnect ourselves from the external environment. Our attention is no longer on the outer world because we are seeing less information from outer world, as 80 % of information our brain gets is from the eyes. Hence its suggested for meditation a place should be quite and less distractive, so that we get less sensory information to brain. When we disconnected ourselves and our brainwaves change we reach to next waves which we call alpha
Alpha waves (relaxing creativity)
Alpha brainwaves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning. They are also the imaginary world, where the inner world is more real then outer world. We can still sense the outer world but more of your attention is in the inner world. The main job of meditation is to keep us in this alpha state because this is the gateway of higher inner self.
Theta waves (deep meditative)
Theta brainwaves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation. Scientists have found those who are regular mediators have long profound bursts of theta waves, which is our gateway to learning, memory, and intuition. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within. It is that twilight state. In theta we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our ‘stuff’, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares.
Delta (healing, dreamless)
Delta brainwaves are slow, loud brainwaves They are generated in deepest meditation and in a dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state; because our body growth hormones in this state that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process.
Therefore meditation is about having the optimal brain waves most of our life is between beta to alpha, these waves are associated with aggression, insecurities and survival. When beta frequency are higher mostly during anger and stress our brain shuts down the leaning part and focuses on survival. Hence we stop learning and cannot be creative. People often try to come out from this by using drugs and alcohol, which gives them a feeling of relaxing brain waves. Meditation helps us to stabilise our alpha waves which helps us to live in the present moment. The more time we spend in a alpha wave state, it opens the door for the rest of our brain waves, which give us in turn more healing and inner experience that’s why
Don’t just do meditation, Live meditation