More on Meditation and Your Brain

By Anett Gyurak | October 16, 2009 | 0 comments

The last Greater Good post discussed how years of meditation practice can physically alter the brain in ways that help us manage our emotions and boost our skills of attention. But if you haven't already been meditating for years, don't give up hope! Other research suggests that you can see meditation's effects on your social and emotional skills after just 20 minutes of practice a day for five days.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year, neuroscientist Yi-Yun Tang and his colleagues reported that people who meditate for as little as 20 minutes a day for five days showed fewer signs of stress immediately after their practice, including lower heart rate and respiratory rate—levels even lower than those of a control group that practiced muscle-relaxation.

What's more, the meditators demonstrated a stronger ability to regulate their behavior and emotions. Specifically, they had higher "heart rate variability," which is an index of how well one can swing into action when startled or stimulated, and calm down when there is no immediate danger. Most interestingly, mediators also showed increased activation in the area of the brain that coordinates the physiological functions, such as heart-rate, that activate in response to threats, suggesting that their physiological reactions under stress are more controlled and adaptive.

Previous research, including a 2007 study on which Tang was the lead author, has also found that just five days of meditation training can boost participants' concentration skills and reduce their reactions to stress. But this study took the previous findings a step further and pinpointed the specific brain and physiological mechanisms that help reduce reactivity to stress after meditation.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work
Friday: Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Berkeley Saturday: DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina
November 13-14, 2015

Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

Self-Compassion By Kristin Neff Learn to be kind to yourself. A society obsessed with competition doesn't always make that an easy thing to do, but seeking after self-compassion, not self-esteem, is our ticket to happiness.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement