A new study shows that the ancient yogi masters and Buddhists were right… Meditation makes your brain sharper.
And researchers at Trinity College in Dublin have discovered how it works.1
There are different kinds of meditation. Types that focus on breathing have long been known to have particular benefits, such as better ability to focus, and a more positive state of mind. A reduced tendency to emotional reactions is another plus.
Science was at a loss to explain these apparent benefits… Until now.
The brain contains a chemical messenger called noradrenaline. It is a neurotransmitter that is released when we are feeling challenged, curious or emotional. At certain levels noradrenaline creates new brain connections.
The new research shows for the first time that the way we breathe directly affects our levels of noradrenaline. This is apparently why the sort of controlled breathing practiced in meditation and yoga can enhance brain health and mood.
The study was conducted at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity.
Participants were given a task that demanded their attention. The subjects who focused best were found to have better breathing patterns that synchronized with their work.
Researcher Michael Melnychuk was lead author of the study. He described noradrenaline as the brain’s “all-purpose action system.” When we feel stressed, we produce excess noradrenaline and can’t focus. When we feel sluggish, we “produce too little…and can’t focus,” he said.
But there is a happy medium of noradrenaline “in which our emotions, thinking, and memory are much clearer.” This is what meditation and yogic breathing seem to attain.
Here’s an easy breathing-based meditation method…2
Sit comfortably in any quiet place and focus on your breathing. When your attention wanders, return.
Find a seat. Sit on a chair, a park bench, a carpeted floor—anywhere that is comfortable. You want a stable, solid seat…not a porch swing or rocking chair.
Position your legs. Many people like to cross their legs, but that’s not necessary. Sit so that you can relax.
Sit up. Straighten your upper body, but don’t be stiff. Your back has a natural curve. Let it be there.
Drop your hands. Let your hands rest naturally on your legs.
Look ahead. You can close your eyes or gaze forward without focusing on anything in particular.
Feel your breath. Pay attention to the physical act of breathing. Notice your chest and belly rise and fall. Mentally note breathing in and breathing out.
When your mind wanders… Don’t worry about it. That’s normal. Just go back to paying attention to your breathing.
Stop. Open your eyes if they were closed. Notice how your body feels. Pause for a moment to consider how you’d like to continue with your day.
As little as five minutes a day is beneficial. But longer sessions—up to a half hour—or two or three sessions a day, work well for many people. It will not only help your mental focus… Mindfulness meditation can make you feel calmer, put you in a better mood, and even improve your job performance.3
Editor’s Note: And while we’re on the subject of keeping your mind sharp… There’s important information you should know if you or someone you love is worried about Alzheimer’s…HERE