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Building Brain Matter through Meditation

Homepage Forums Brain-Based Learning Q&A Building Brain Matter through Meditation

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    • #31279
      Lisa Baker

      While it once believed that brain cells could not grow, a lot of research now supports the idea that our brains, like the rest of us, continues to grow. Increasing brain matter seems to be made possible my one of the world’s oldest traditions: mediation. Practitioners have long since discussed the importance of daily meditation. Many have reported improvement in mental health and concentration as a result. Now medical science has solid data proving these claims. ( ) Dr. Sara Lazar is an associate professor at Harvard University. Her team recently used MRI scans to document growth in the brain over the 8 week study in which participant engaged in daily meditation. The subjects of the study reported a feeling less stressed and were more able to concentrate. Not only did the subjects feel better, but the images of their brains were better too! The MRI images showed growth in Brain matter density in areas like the hippocampus. This is exciting research that helps to prove the importance of daily meditation.

      How many of my fellow BBL’s engage in this practice and how often? Now that I know that I am growing brain cells, I have a feeling I will be doing this much more!

    • #40923
      Lezley Lewis

      Wow Lisa!
      I know that I feel “clearer” and more “ready to tackle anything” when I take a few minutes to clear the cobwebs and “de-clutter” my thoughts! I wonder if there is a frequency component or a technique that is recommended or if just using the strategies associated with meditation is good enough to stimulate brain growth?

    • #40995
      Dr. Margo Turner

      Another great resource and ? – I try to run daily and find that is a great time to pray/meditate and center. I heard a chapel lecture this semester at JBU by Doreen Dodgen-Megee and she showed some interesting clips and stats on what technology overload is doing to our brains and souls…she encouraged being on “point” like a dancer and learning to be focused or “still”, even for just 10 minutes a day. Fascinating…she is a psychologist and shares about brain health.

    • #41335

      Lisa, teachers often feel that life flitters by with such an amazing pace. There is always something to do – planning, grading, conferencing with students/parents, learning new things… What would you suggest as either a great resource to steer teachers toward or a couple of good practices that would help teachers be intentionally mindful. I think that once a teacher gets started, a positive life practice could be next!

    • #42989

      Lisa, Thanks for starting this post. Definitely, one of my favorite topics and part of what we teach in Yoga in Schools. Craig, there has been an interesting study by the Niroga Institute in California about dosage. They have found evidence to suggest that 15 min per day is more effective than one hour per week. This is really a key piece of information. When I am teaching adults or children how to meditate I wish I could say, “Sure, do this once a week and you will see results”. Perhaps it could be true, but like many things, skill building takes frequent repetition over time, which is why meditation is called a practice. One of the leading researchers in the field of yoga and mindfulness, Sat Bir Khalsa, Harvard Medical School Associate Neuroscientist, talks about the practice as mental health hygiene; just like flossing is to your dental health. It needs to be done daily to be effective.

      I think 5 minutes is a good place to start. Here are some simple instructions to kick off a practice:

      Minimize distractions
      Set a timer for 5 minutes
      Sit with your feet on the floor
      Start to notice your breathing
      Notice your how you are sitting
      Lift the chest
      Breath a deeper fuller nasal inhale and exhale
      When the mind wanders, notice without judgement, don’t engage the thought
      Bring your mind back to your breath
      Do this as many times as you need to
      The more you practice, the easier it will be to redirect your mind

      This is one of many ways to get started. Happy breathing!

    • #43551
      Lezley Lewis

      I observed a wonderful kindergarten teacher in action who applied meditation as a key component of her classroom management strategies. She used a Tibetan Song Bowl and it worked like a magic flute with the children. I wrote about her classroom under the strategies tab. I continue to reflect on how effective teaching our youngest learners about meditation is as a tool to managing their own behavior versus classroom management.

    • #70063

      Most of us live and have been raised in the city. Cities can be stressful. The results are seen in the brains and behaviour. I read about a study published in Nature , that links city living with sensitivity to social stress. MRI scans show greater exposure to urban environments can increase activity in the amygdala. The researchers also found that people who lived in cities for their first 15 years experienced increased activity in an area of the brain that helps regulate the amygdala. Cognitive psychologist David Strayer’s hypothesis is that “being in nature allows the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s command centre, to dial down and rest.”
      What I found relevant and practical is that researchers showed that even brief interactions with nature can soothe our brains. In an experiment conducted by Gregory Bratman from Stanford Universtiy,People who took the nature walk experienced decreased anxiety, brooding, and negative emotion and increased memory performance. Further, Korean researchers found that there were differences in brain activity when volunteers just looked at urban versus natural scenery. Areas of the brain associated with empathy and altruism lit up for those who viewed natural scenes.
      Another simple practice that can be introduce to daily rutines in schools. Preferably spend some time out of the classroom, in the backyard, or any Green area. In case it isn´t possible, watching natural scenery for some minutes would also do, and I would add together with soothing music on the background. It just seems to be common sence, but yes Lisa, it´s good to have the science evidence to back it up.

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