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 .

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Sami Mandel speaks nonsense can be proved from historical facts.

Dinesh Kumar Malpani
Dinesh Kumar Malpani

Yes, I am also Meditating Vipassana since 1992....Almost 10 days course every year...No words can explain the benefits I am getting in every activities of my present life, may it be family, business, social life, day to day actions.

May I strongly recommend to experience at least once this very rewarding technique to those, who are interested and really serious in becoming a real smart person through deep concentration along with complete purification and mastery over the mind.

For further details please visit : www.dhamma.org

Also may please check few videos of S.N. Goenka at  Youtube ( Tag - Vipassana )

May all being be peaceful...liberated !

Metta !

dineshmalpani@yahoo.com     

Cosmic_Kumar
Cosmic_Kumar

" Adventurous  Europeans of precious centuries never wasted their time in meaningless meditation"

 Then why are you keep coming back wasting your own time on this article?  Nobody cares what you think about meditation, there are millions of people who meditates and love to do it.

Anthony Galli
Anthony Galli

You seem ignorant of history, particularly Indian history, and your belief that imperialism is something to admire is rather disturbing. Europeans were in fact quite religious, even during the Enlightenment Age, when their socieities went through radical changes (indeed, religion was often used to justify their conquests). Did Christian prayer lead directly to the Industrial Revolution? (Clearly, according to your logic there must be a link, never mind differentiating correlation and causation.) And what are the stats of how many Indians regularly practice Yoga and meditation?

India contributed to science, maths, and architecture, and yes, technology, before the age of European global conquest, by centuries, even millenia. Many civilizations have had their day, and to blame all of India's failures (let alone successes) on Yoga and meditation is bizarre, to put it mildly.

Churchill's longevity was probably due to genes, the fact that he was well-to-do, and as you pointed out, enjoyed "luxury." I seriously doubt smoking cigars had much to do with it, and wine (let alone hard alcohol, such as whiskey) are only good in moderation - more than one drink a day is very bad for the liver and brain, regardless of tannins from grapeskins or bloodclotting effects. Most Europeans, until very recently, never enjoyed quite such a high standard of living as someone like him; Europe had to progress towards it through much bloodshed, toil, and major social-political reforms, which I assume is what you want India to do. Presumably it will accomplished simply when India gets rid of Yoga. Wow, such a easy solution!

I assume you're against being docile and lazy, which is good, but for some reason you do not recommend hard work (what some Hindus, including the lazy unworldly reformer Gandhi, call Karma Yoga - the path of action), individual rights (political liberalism), organized political movements (progressivism) or secular humanism (which is not inherently opposed to meditation, but *is* about empiricism, reason, and anti- dogmatism) as a road to prosperity, strangely. Might, say, the caste system, patriarchy, superstition, and centuries of Islamic conquest and British colonialims have *something* to do with India's problems? Might they deserve scrutiny?

And are you suggesting that Indians don't "relax after a heavy meal"? And are you suggesting that simply eating to excess is the way to health, regardless of what is eaten? (Perhaps look at the obesity and diabetes epidemic in America, which is growing worldwide now, thanks to fast food, overreliance on corn as a staple, too much refined sugar, too much fat and cholesterol, and way too much red meat.) Even that great Western sage Epicurius, despite the way his name became an adjective for gluttony, recommended moderation, and pleasures besides good meals (e.g. good friends, meaningful pursuits).

Speaking of the latter, you wrote "meaningless meditation." Uh, meaningless to whom? Not to those who don't buy into the myth of freewill and know that being at the mercy of neurotic thinking patterns is not the height of well-being humans can attain. Is well-being "meaningless"? If values and meaning don't relate to states of consciousness, I don't know what you're on about (and you probably don't know either).

Of course, you make a good point: "they [Europeans] practiced hard games such as tennis, football and cricket" (although cricket was traditionally a very strenuous game the way it was played prior to 20/20 and the modern style). Except, bat and ball games are nearly universal, and I'm pretty sure Europeans didn't invent them all. Wrestling was practiced in India before the rise of Athens and Sparta, and martial arts before the founding of ths Shoalin Temple in China. Perhaps those sports aren't strenous enough.

Concerning health, you could cite medical studies on all the variables you mention. What really leads to better health outcomes? Also look at the scientific studies (including from the West, which you apparently see as superior to Asia in every single way) on the benefits Yoga and meditation. If these activities are "bad" then that is where to look, not some sloppy, amateur analysis of history.

If you want a fair assessment from a trustworthy skeptic, rationalist, and atheist, look here: http://www.skepdic.com/tm.html.

Sami Mandeel
Sami Mandeel

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 likely to be utter nonsense...

Vyom Kumar
Vyom Kumar

Meditation and action go hand in hand. Meditation brings forth dynamism naturally. Many meditation practitioners do a lot of service.  Mahatama Gandhi increased his meditation during busier days. But no society is perfect. Laziness crept in the Indian society due to ignorance and misunderstanding. That is why movements like the Sikh tradition formed to inculcate saintliness (meditation) and valor (action) in the people. While the West contributed to science, the East contributed to spirituality. In this way, the East and West have together contributed to the knowledge on the planet. Meditation has given the practitioners great mental abilities. This is how Vivekananda could remember 10 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica by just flipping through them all in a single day! He himself predicted that he would not live to be 40. So the life span example is not correct. Current Yoga master BKS Iyengar is fully fit and healthy at 93. There are even some who have lived for hundreds of years but they have chosen to live in oblivion. Satisfaction in life in subjective. I have never eaten meat, drunk wine or smoked cigars and I don't feel I am missing any of these in my life at all - maybe just like one may never meditate in their whole life and then disappear without a clue of what they missed.

nowhere1111
nowhere1111

Obviously, you are a renown expert on meditating ..... @ least you 'think' you are. Good luck.

Rosie_Sultana
Rosie_Sultana

 Yeshuratnam is an  Indian Christian and hates anything that is remotely connected to Hinduism. His ancestors' oppressors were the high caste Hindus and Yeshratnam is taking it out on all Hindus now. But, meditation is common to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Try it, Yeshu - you will like it.

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Where is the evidence that India contributed to science, maths, architecture and technology? It's all a false propaganda began in the 18th century by producing fake manuscripts. The Asiatic Society played a leading role in this manipulation. William Jones wanted to be knighted and the Society was used to produce fake manuscripts making false claims. Why no such claims were made during the long Mughal rule and even in the Hindu Vijayanagar kingdom? Karl Marx gives us a picture of India at the time of the arrival of the British." How came it that English supremacy was established in India? The paramount power was broken by the Mogul Viceroys. The power of the Viceroys was broken by Mahrattas. A country not only divided between Muhammadan and Hindoo, but

between tribe and tribe, between caste and caste; a society whose framework was based on a sort of equilibrium, resulting from a general repulsion and constitutional exclusiveness, between all its members. Such a country and such a society, were they not predestined prey of conquest"

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

It's a blatant lie that Vivekanada could remember 10 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica. This is how you people propagte false ideas. Vivekanada could not remember even a single page of the Encyclopedia. Iyengar may be healthy because of Western drugs  to handle diabetes, blood pressure (not Indian Ayurvedic medicine). Iyengar's case may be a single one. Why the life span of Indians is shorter than Europeans? If Yoga can give mental peace and happiness, why millions of Indians are wallowing in depression, anxiety and loneliness? It is reported suicide rate is higher in India than any other European country.

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

YOGA AND FLYING

The West should know that Yoga was introduced by

ancient sages to get liberation from this material world by tortuous meditation by sitting and standing in different postures (asanas) to appease their imaginary gods.  Those sages were shocked

by the sexual debauchery and unscrupulousness of Hindu mythological gods and goddesses and, like Buddha, chose meditation in forests to attain nirvana. They

wanted to escape from life and became ascetics. But  modern Swamis and gurus are using yoga to make money  by giving false objectives for Yoga like sex energy, health, long life, mental happiness and what not.  Yoga has nothing to do with health or sex as

propagated by swamis and gurus who are infesting European countries with the sole object of making quick money. Even before Yoga was popularized in the West by selfish gurus, the medieval monks of Europe who retired in the monasteries equated sanctity with escape from the contamination of the world. Thousands of monks like Anthony, Benedict and others lived alone in small groups, spending their time in meditation and solitude.

Disciplined concentration, balance posture while reciting prayers and meditation

helped the medieval  monks of monasteries

perform miracles.  Yogis attract western

clients by claiming to be able to transform themselves into soaring birds, leaping beasts, or mind -  spirits capable of instant transmission to remote planetary bodies throughout the

universe. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi cheated the world by advertising in the papers that Yoga would help people to fly in the air. Why Yoga guru flying in the air has not been photographed? Why there is no video evidence for such feats? It is all to fool people by high sounding phrases like mind power, soul power and all

such nonsense.

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

BREATHING IN YOGA

Not an expert in meditation, but revealing the real facts.The purpose of the lungs and breathing is to bring oxygen into the body to send to the blood and remove carbon dioxide in the blood.. It is also a foolish belief in Yoga that by deep breathing that toxin will be

released. But in reality, the oxygenated blood moves into the heart where it is

pumped throughout the body. Carbon dioxide removed from the blood travels back up the bronchioles, through the bronchial tubes, up the trachea and out of the body when the diaphragm relaxes and the person exhales. The entire breathing

process occurs in normal adults 15 times every minute and more often when the

body needs more oxygen, such as with stress and physical activity. The lungs continue to filter the air and blood from birth to death in their unceasing action to keep the body functioning at its prime. But Yoga gurus misguide people b y saying that by standing upside down with the head touching the

ground (srasahrama) , blood will stream

into brain and improve memory power and intelligence. What a foolish idea! In this sense, blood will be streaming into our feet for they are always touching the ground. There is no scientific evidence that by standing upside down brain power will increase. Did Plato or Archimedes stand upside down every morning?

It’s all foolishness to make money.

.

Guest
Guest

 Why are you keep coming back wasting your own time on this article? Nobody cares what you think about meditation, there are millions of people who meditates and love to do it.