We’ve spoken about meditation before as a method for relaxing, as well as reducing anxiety and stress. Most of us have heard about the benefits gained through meditation, but even so how many people actually meditate on a regular basis? Let’s look at the science behind this popular practise and discover exactly what meditation does to our brains.
To understand meditation we need to look at our brain waves when we are in different states of mind. When it comes to brain waves the slower they are, the more time we have between thoughts. This means our minds are less cluttered and generally we make better decisions.
This is a state of hyperactivity when brain waves are between 30-100 Hz. It’s the best state of mind to learn new things, to retain information and for memory recall. However too much of this state of mind can cause anxiety and stress.
The beta state is often described as the ‘thinking mind’ and it’s the state we spend most of the time in. Brain waves range between 13-30 Hz, we are alert during beta, but not hyperactive.
This is a relaxed state of mind with brain waves between 9-13 Hz. We come out of the thinking state and enter a peaceful realm. We are aware of everything happening around us however, our reactions and responses are not as sharp during the alpha state.
During theta our consciousness begins to reduce, we are better able to visualise in comparison to thinking and we typically start to feel drowsy. It’s the state of mind at which we can begin to start the process of meditation. Brain waves range between 4-8 Hz.
These are the lowest frequency brain waves recorded in a human. They are important for healing and to restore the body and mind. We experience delta brain waves during sleep with frequencies ranging from 1-3 Hz. Some Tibetan monks have been known to reach this state whilst awake, but this takes years of practise and is not something that is easily done.
Someone who suffers with anxiety typically has over-stimulation of gamma or beta waves and not enough of the lower frequency states such as theta and delta. This is where meditation comes in, think of it as exercising the brain in order to help it reach those desired calming brain waves.The best part is that meditating is easy to do, just 10-15 minutes a day can do absolute wonders in the long run. Here are the steps:
- Find a quiet place and sit comfortably with your back straight
- Focus your mind on your breath and try to follow it in and out
- As you breath in & out say out loud ‘breath in, breath out’. This helps you stay in time with your breath and focuses your attention here to stop it from wandering
- If distracting thoughts pop into your head try to let them pass by and return to your breathing.