Functional MRI (left) showing activation in the amygdala when participants were watching images with emotional content before learning meditation. After eight weeks of training in mindful attention meditation (right) note the amygdala is less activated after the meditation training. Courtesy of Gaelle Desbordes
The amygdala is the area of the brain which controls the perception of emotions such as fear, anger, or sadness. It plays a large role in governing your reaction to a stimulus (i.e. how angry, scared, or sad you become after a given stimulus). Thus the FMRI results (above) show a brain which is less reactive to visual stimuli, allowing those who did meditation training to have a less exaggerated anger, fear, or sadness response to the study’s stimulus.
There are several common types of meditation someone can choose from:
Mindfulness Meditation: In this meditation type the participant works to observe the thoughts that come through their mind, but not engage with them.
Spiritual Meditation: Practitioners use this type of meditation for spiritual engagement to further their understanding or connection with God or the universe. Prayer can be a form of spiritual meditation when reflecting on scripture or other religious texts.
Focused Meditation: This involves intentional focus on one thing such as one of the 5 senses, the sound of a gong, the movement of a candle flame, etc. This can be difficult at beginning for new practitioners, but can improve the length of focus if you continue to return your focus to the item at hand each time you notice the mind has wandered off topic.
Movement Meditation: This may include walking through the forest, gardening, forms of Tai Chi or Yoga. Those participating in movement meditation strive to focus on the sense of their body moving through space, the feel of their feet on the ground, the sensation of the wind on their face, or their breath during the movement activity.
Taking time out of the day, just a few minutes, to close your eyes, focus on your breathing, 'taking your thoughts captive' so that your mind doesn't take over, can be very therapeutic. It can reduce stress and anxiety.
Another daily activity that can greatly reduce stress, anxiety and even headaches is writing down 3 things you are thankful for and one positive thing that happened in the last 24 hours. Check out our 'Thankful Challenge'. Text the word THANKFUL to 719-249-5850 for our 21 day challenge.
Mindfulness can help our health
— including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety —
How Can I Get Started?
Fortunately getting started into a meditation practice is easier than ever with the number of resources and applications available.
Some of the more popular ways to get started are: