Can Meditation Make You Smarter?

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Most of us know that meditating is a great way to reduce stress. But meditative practice goes beyond taking a chill pill. Meditating is also associated with structural changes in the brain that help sharpen focus and improve memory and multitasking skills. But can this mind-body practice really help you get straight A’s?

Smarty (Yoga) Pants — Why It Matters
It’s not just tree huggers and ultra-yogis who meditate. In 2007, about 9% of American adults tried getting into their Zen zones at least once in the past year. Most people say they meditate to manage stress, but meditative practice affects the brain in many other ways.

While people have been meditating for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists started focusing on its brainy benefits. Numerous studies suggest that regular meditation (about six hours a week) may actually change brain structure. Scientists have found meditation is associated with a thicker cerebral cortex and more gray matter — i.e., the parts of the brain linked to memory, attention span, decisionmaking and learning. But a year of silent meditation isn’t always necessary. One study found people who meditated at least once a week for four years showed increased cortical gyrification, the folding of the cerebral cortex that helps people process information.

It’s still unclear how meditation actually changes the brain, but some scientists say devoting complete attention to one specific object or thought actually alters our neural networks. And just remember, these studies don’t imply meditating will cause any changes in our brains, just that these cognitive abilities are associated with meditation.

Other research skips the brain scans and suggests some practical benefits of meditation. Om-ing is connected to better concentration and multitasking skills — things some of us might wish for when losing focus on the job. Researchers think meditation helps people deal with interruptions and work on multiple assignments more efficiently. Meditation can also help students battle stress on exam day, possibly boosting their academic performance. But before replacing the GCal with breathing exercises, beware of conflicting scientific findings.

Breathe In, Breathe Out — The Answer/Debate
So what’s the real deal? Meditation may be linked to some short-term perks, like acing a memory test, but scientists have yet to figure out how long the potential cognitive benefits of meditation last. Meanwhile, one study failed to find any correlation between short-term breathing meditation and cognitive abilities like memory, intelligence and academic achievement. And some scientists argue that meditation only has brain-boosting power when we expect to see those kind of results.

It’s also worth noting that there are many different types of meditation, and certain people may benefit more from one meditation style over another. So if you’re looking to get some big results from a little inward reflection, choose a type of meditation you like and feel most comfortable doing. From mantra to mindfulness and Zen to qigong, there are plenty of ways to get that third eye in focus.

Do you regularly practice meditation? What do you find are its best benefits?  Tell us in the comments below.

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33 comments
GitaGita
GitaGita

There is Brahmakumaris meditation...that relaxes the mind...nurtures a healthy balance between inner and outer worlds...

sirenslondonuk
sirenslondonuk

Buddhist meditation may do the trick, because I do that ;)

kindh4
kindh4

@alhudaithy @Naaa2000 التأمل التأمل التأمل..فعلا انه عباده

Anne Smithson
Anne Smithson

Personally,

I don’t think that meditation makes people smarter. As someone who practices

yoga and guided meditation, I think what these practices do is to help calm the

mind and body, so that we can use them to our fullest potential. It’s not so much

about improving, I think, but rather helping us get out of our own way.

 

psychotherapist london
psychotherapist london

I think that meditation can be used for all kinds of great things especially dealing with psycho therapy patients.

psychotherapist london
psychotherapist london

I think meditation can be used for many health issues and is often something to consider when dealing with psycho therapy. 

inducares
inducares

Laura i would like to differentiate between 'pranayam'(breathing exercises) amp; meditation.I have been doing Yoga since many years amp; it enabled me to cut down my Thyroid medicine-of 30 yrs' standing by half-this despite the fact that i had ingested radio-active iodine to kill my gland.Despite this part of the gland recouped.I attribute this to Yoga alone i.e posturesamp; pranayam.Secondly my BP medicine too was cut by half.But i do it regularly amp; one has to be patient for the results to show.Yoga has improved my memory AND understanding,like patience,empathy amp; large heartedness.

Unfortunately i am not much into meditation though i try to do it.

For those of you who want more tips on Yoga here is a link 

http://jeeteraho.blogspot.in/2... 

Armando Ribeiro
Armando Ribeiro

If meditation will make us smarter is still a matter for further research, practice it to live the present moment, now!

Charles A. Francis
Charles A. Francis

I generally do about 45 min. – 1 hour a day of mindfulness meditation, and 15 min. of writing meditation. The results I achieved are:

- I am much more focused and alert

- Much more emotionally stable

- My memory has improved

- My relationships have improved.

- I’m more loving, patient, and understanding

- More peaceful and serene

I attribute most of these results to the mindfulness meditation practice, but a great deal is attributable to the writing meditation. While the sitting meditation achieves more long-term results, the writing meditation achieves dramatic changes in my attitudes and behavior toward other people. If done long enough, the writing meditation will achieve long-term results.

Charles A. Francis

The Mindfulness Meditation Institute

Dee
Dee

Enlighted and connected to the universe, yes most definitely meditation does that! If more people mediated there would be more calm and enlighted people, less angry and wanting to cause harm to others, whether it be verbally or physically. Lets meditate on that!

Sami Mandeel
Sami Mandeel

@ Yeshuratnam - most Indians don't meditate! I think that if we extrapolate from from your wild conjecture in the first sentence, we can deduce that your entire comment is utter nonsense.

dub_xion
dub_xion

I practice some loving-kindness (metta) meditation and vipassana as often as I can, although I'm not as consistent as I'd like to be. I've done a few retreats. I can honestly say that after even a modest amount of meditation over the past 10 years I am much more relaxed, productive, happy, and feel I am more attentive to other people and not so worried about my own small problems. I feel that research in this area seems to bear this out, and am happy that this is going on.

More importantly, I don't feel I'm a particularly religious person, and my teachers have never pushed off Buddhism on me. I simply watch my breath and what is happening. This is not a religious practice, anyone of any faith can do it, and it's just like physical training for your mind.

Thank you for posting this piece! 

Vyom Kumar
Vyom Kumar

Meditation is the fourth state of Consciousness, apart from sleeping, dreaming and the waking states. It is the one in which you have both alertness and rest (guess about the other three). This state should be experienced by all.Meditation is also exercise for the mind - mind and body operate on opposite principles - exercise makes the body strong but it is mental rest which makes the mind sharp. Like anything else  it is best learned from a qualified teacher. I learnt to meditate through the Art of Living foundation (artofliving.org) and have directly experienced the benefits over the last couple of years.

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Meditation makes people docile and lazy. Most Indians are lazy, irresponsible and evasive. Action is the need of the hour. Europe and America progressed during the past four centuries, while Asia was receding, mainly because western spirit was active and made giant strides in science and technology. While Asians were meditating, astonishing geographical discoveries were made by Europeans and they dominated the world.  Vivekanada, a great Yoga guru, vegetarian, meditated often and died at age 40. Conversely Churchill never meditated, smoked cigars, drank the best whiskey, ate choice meat and lived up to the age of 91. Adventurous  Europeans of precious centuries never wasted their time in meaningless meditation, but relaxed after a heavy meal. Instead of futile Yoga, they practiced hard games such as tennis, football and cricket. This gave them satisfaction in life- food, wine , long life (unlike Indians) and luxury - and they enjoyed it thoroughly, unlike moody India gurus who waste precious time in meditation.

Nick Oddo
Nick Oddo

Yes, when you meditate you are being present and when you are present you have access to all the information / wisdom available to all of us. This happens to me when I am walking through the woods without my phone or iPod, appreciating and being grateful. 

LoraLyons
LoraLyons

I was a regular meditator until the birth of my first child in 2004. Since then, I re-commit to this essential practice almost on a regular basis. I find meditating essential as it helps me sink into my body and feel the power of gravity grounding me and calming me.

Since becoming a mother, I have found creative ways to incorporate mindfulness (which I consider to be a form of meditation) into every day activities. Even one minute of mindfulness makes a difference and lowers my stress level. And I see almost immediately how it affects my children - because, of course, energy is infectious and my children feed off of my mood/energy.

Thank you for producing this article.

jillianjl
jillianjl

Great to see this topic getting attention because what we do with the brain changes it. Some of the oldest studies on meditation in the 70's show that when we step beyond thinking and arrive at our least excited state, we tap into a very coherent and orderly brain signature. The front part of the brain known as the pre frontal cortex, becomes very active. This is good news - it is also called the CEO of the brain because it governs how we take in information and process it. Very important when it comes to making good decisions.

Jillian Lavender, Director, www.NewYorkMeditationCenter.co...

student_yogi
student_yogi

One major benefit of meditating every day has been my increase resilience to stress. I have been meditating every day for the last 2.5 years and many events or things that used to bother me don't even phase me anymore. I'm not as easily shaken, get nervous or feel embarrassed (of course these things still happen but I'm simply not as bothered by it). The most interesting thing about it is that it just happened, there was no effort for me, it wasn't like I focused on not being stressed out if something happened (for a while I didn't even notice how less I was getting stressed out). I highly recommend trying meditation and practicing it for a significant period of time (like 40+ days). Personally, I have found the techniques from the Art of Living most effective, although many forms are good.

Renee Fagan
Renee Fagan

As a long time meditator, it so heartwarming to see that science and mediation are coming together so amiably.  I wrote about it today on my blog, and my experience in taking a workshop with Jon Kabat Zinn many years ago.  www.therapyandcoaching.com

bojimbo26
bojimbo26

When you meditate there should be no sound whatsoever . Meditation relieves stress . Also , you don't need to pose , be in a position that is most comfortable ; as in sitting or lying down .