Regular Meditation Promotes Regulation of Emotions
Emotions play very significant role in everyone’s life, though they can be quite painful at times. Emotions are experiences characterized by intense mental activity and a high degree of pleasure or displeasure. So they are responses to significant internal and external events. They form the core our consciousness.
Broadly, there are two kinds of emotions - negative and positive. Negative emotions signal threat to needs and goals and energize avoidance, whereas positive emotions signal opportunity to meet needs and goals and energize approach.
Regular Meditation Tames Emotional Brain -
A new study from Michigan State University suggests that meditation can help tame your emotions even if you're not a mindful person.
The study demonstrates further that meditation improves emotional health and that people can acquire these benefits regardless of their natural ability to be mindful. It just takes some practice.
Mindfulness, a moment-by-moment awareness of one's thoughts, feelings and sensations, has gained worldwide popularity as a way to promote health and well-being.
Mindfulness involves paying precise, non-judgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides. It doesn't reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we practice being able to be with them. Similarly, we bring mindfulness to pleasant experiences as well.
Structural Changes in Emotional Brain Due to Meditation -
The amygdala, a part of human brain, has been implicated in emotional processing of both positive and negative-valence stimuli. The studies suggest that the amygdala response to emotional stimuli is lower when the subject is in a meditative state of mindful-attention, both in beginner and expert meditators.
Reductions in stress resulting from the practice of regualr meditation are correlated with decreased gray matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.
The beneficial effects of meditation training may be due to improvements in attentional skills, which are themselves associated with better emotion regulation skills. The experts suggest that the interactions between attention and emotion regulation are complex and likely involve several interrelated brain networks.
Besides emotional processing, amygdala is involved in the interactions between attention and emotion. It facilitates attention toward emotionally significant or relevant stimuli of both positive and negative valence.
While doing meditation, one is paying attention to one’s breathing, to sounds or to the present moment experience, and shutting cognition down. It stands to reason that one’s sensory perceptions would be enhanced.
The experts suggest that the changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements. Structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation have been noted.
The experts found that long-term meditators have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex, which are associated with attention and emotional integration.
They also found that long-term meditators have more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making.
The Bottom Line –
Emotions play a pivotal role in our life because they prepare an individual for action. There are differences in emotional temperaments in people. Some will have negative emotional systems that are easily triggered, generate more intense reactions, and are harder to sooth. Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has been found to tame such emotional systems.
Mindfulness meditation is the process of accomplishing mindfulness through the practice of meditation. Its purpose is to become aware of what is currently happening around the practitioner as opposed to focusing on something different than the present.
The brain’s plasticity is its fascinating quality. By practicing regular meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.
Michigan State University. "Does meditation keep emotional brain in check?" ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2016.