Does Meditation Grow Your Brain?

“You should sit in meditation for 20 mins everyday, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

            -Zen proverb

When Sara Lazar developed running injuries while training for the Boston Marathon, she, like many people,  went to a physical therapist for help. She was told to stop running and stretch, so she took up yoga.

Unlike most people, however, Lazar was also doing a PHd in molecular biology. When she began to notice that she was calmer, able to handle more stress and was more open-hearted as a result of the yoga, she began to wonder why.

That why took her in a new direction, and Sara is now a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where she studies the impact of meditation and yoga on the brain and body. And the impact is pretty amazing.

Meditation=More Brain?

Lazar’s research shows that meditators have more grey matter in several areas of the brain, which are involved in functions ranging from focus and learning to memory, empathy and neurotransmitter production.

“We also found they had more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making.

It’s well-documented that our cortex shrinks as we get older – it’s harder to figure things out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds.” <1>

In other words, it looks like meditating literally changes your brain. For the better.

Exercise Your Brain

Who doesn’t want the same grey matter they had at 25? Count us in. Perhaps the best part of this, though, is that you don’t need to be monk to get benefit from meditation. Lazar’s study participants showed changes in the brain in just after eight weeks.

How much do you need to do to see a benefit? Lazar isn’t sure, but when it comes to meditation, what do you have to lose? It’s free, and you can start anytime.

If you’re new to meditation, there are resources everywhere—try Headspace for a great, newbie-friendly resource, that includes an app for your phone or tablet.