Many people whom meditate do it for an array of different, yet equally important, reasons. Whether it be physical fitness, mental health, cognitive ability, anger/emotion management, or purely surface-related reasons—meditation can play an integral role in the bettering of yourself, both mentally and physically. In this article, we’re going to focus intently on how to, via meditation, achieve what we’ll call ultimate fitness, through a combination of heightening neuroplasticity and neuromodulation, as well as creating a stronger memory formation through the practice of meditation.
Due to the complex nature of this article, I invite you to do some supplemental research in the areas of neuroplasticity and neuromodulation in order to better comprehend the findings. Additionally, I will do my best to break down each point thoroughly enough so as to allow a novice to understand exactly what is going on here.
Let’s explore exactly what the two terms, neuroplasticity and neuromodulation, mean, in definition, and how they relate to meditation.
Neuroplasticity is somewhat of a blanket term used in the medical and physiological worlds to describe changes in neural pathways and synapses* [*a “junction” between two nerve cells] due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, and even changes as a result of bodily injury. In Laymen’s terms, this is a science that shows that one action, behavior, or lack thereof, has a direct impact on our brain. For instance, a newly-learned dance move is, in turn, mirrored within the confines of our physical brains. As a result, we are able to comprehend mentally that in order to perform the learned dance move, we must do “X” and “Y” (a series of dance steps). Our mind’s ability to recollect the steps necessary is an example of neuroplasticity. Neuromodulation is an extension of neuroplasticity in that it is the physiological process by which a given neuron uses one or more neurotransmitters to regulate diverse populations of neurons.
Relationally speaking, meditation helps increase gray matter density in the brain, as well as cortical thickness. These two variables are vital to memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. A recent study, for instance, and one of the only studies of its kind, compares differences in the brain structure of both meditators and non-meditators. For further reading, see https://www.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/~lazar/Articles/Lazar_Meditation_Plasticity_05.pdf
Although there are a number of different ways one can achieve a state of meditation, it is important to research and understand each approach thoroughly before deciding which is best for you. Meditation, in and of itself, is a broad variety of practices that cover techniques designed to promote relaxation, exercise, and a heightened sense of well-being. All forms of meditation can lead to an increase in neuroplasticity and neuromodulation, especially over time. For instance, the Dalai Lama had, not too long ago, given a speech at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. that showed findings from a study that suggested that, over the course of meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the long-term practitioners had essentially altered the structural functionality of their brains.
Whether it be FA Meditation (also known as Focused Attention meditation), Mindfulness Meditation, or OM Meditation (meditation using the repetition of a particular word or sound to reach your meditative state), you can surely reach your goals if you so desire. All it takes is an effort on your part and the will to achieve it. Mindfulness Meditation, for one, is the process of becoming aware, which makes it one of the better options in achieving neuroplasticity increases and better physical fitness results. If you’re new to meditation, try starting here: https://www.tracyquantum.com/blog.
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