8 Transformative Effects of Meditation on the Brain
You Need to Know

Over the years, continuous meditation-and-the-brain research has been discovering remarkable benefits. These studies confirm ancient advantages through modern tools like fMRI and EEG. Meditation’s impact on our brain is diverse – from changing brain structure to reducing self-centred brain activity to enhancing communication between brain areas. Recent research not only shows these changes but also underlines its positive psychological effects like reducing anxiety, and depression and improving attention and overall well-being.

What is Meditation According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?

Patanjali, the sage who outlined the eightfold path of Ashtanga yoga leading to this pinnacle, has intricately woven meditation into this transformative journey. Delving into the final three stages of this path, namely Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (enlightenment), we unravel the essence of meditation practices.

Dharana, signifying concentration, involves fixing the mind steadfastly on a chosen focal point, be it a symbol, mantra, deity, or chakra. It’s akin to steadily dripping water, yet interruptions from other thoughts may arise at this stage.

Transitioning to Dhyana, the stage of meditation, the mind achieves a ceaseless focus on the chosen object. Interruptions dissolve, leaving room for a singular thought to dominate. Picture this as a stream of honey flowing consistently without disruption, differentiating Dharana’s water-like drops from Dhyana’s seamless flow. Here, our concentration is so profound that external disturbances hold no sway. This is true meditation.

At the summit lies Samadhi or enlightenment, where meditation engulfs us to such an extent that we transcend self-awareness. In this state, the boundary of ‘I’ dissolves, and we become one with the object of meditation. To illustrate, meditating on the divine erases our identity, merging us with the thought of the divine. Samadhi’s complexities extend further, but I won’t delve into them here.

Collectively, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi constitute ‘samyama,’ the core of meditative practice. Patanjali elaborates on various objects of meditation for seekers to initiate their practice. In subsequent sutras, he explores supernatural abilities or siddhis that samyama can unlock, cautioning against their allure as they hinder the path to Samadhi.

In essence, samyama is a pivotal concept in Yoga, intricately guiding us through the sutras. Since Samadhi isn’t an abrupt leap, these stages combined form the practice of ‘meditation.’

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8 Transformative Effects of Meditation on the Brain You Need to Know

1) Meditation Keeps Your Brain Young

A recent UCLA study discovered that long-term meditators exhibit better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they age. Meditators of 20 years showed more brain volume, though older meditators still experienced some volume loss compared to the young meditators.
Study author Florian Kurth said, “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

2) Silencing the “Me Center” in the Brain

A fascinating study conducted at Yale University unveiled that mindfulness meditation can actually reduce activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN). The DMN is responsible for wandering thoughts and self-referential thinking, often known as the “monkey mind.” By calming the DMN, meditation seems to decrease mind-wandering, which is associated with unhappiness and excessive worrying. Moreover, meditators are better at redirecting their focus when their minds wander.

3) Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety

Meditation is more than just sitting still. It’s an active brain training that offers remarkable benefits. A review study at Johns Hopkins found that meditation’s effect on reducing depression, anxiety, and pain is comparable to antidepressants. Meditation might not be a magic bullet, but it’s a tool that could help manage symptoms. Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.

4) Meditation Leads to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain

Mindfulness meditation can reshape your brain’s structure. Harvard researchers discovered that just eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus for better learning and memory. This practice also decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala, linked to fear, anxiety, and stress. These structural changes aligned with participants’ self-reported stress levels, proving that meditation transforms both brain and subjective feelings.

5) Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

Meditation isn’t just for relaxation; it enhances concentration and attention. A study found that a couple of weeks of meditation training improved focus and memory during the GRE verbal reasoning section. The increase in scores was substantial, equivalent to 16 percentile points. Meditation’s emphasis on focus makes it a valuable cognitive skill enhancer.

6) Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety

Stress reduction is one of meditation’s well-known benefits, backed by evidence. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) aims to lower stress levels, mentally and physically. Studies show it reduces anxiety even years after an 8-week course. Mindfulness meditation not only soothes anxiety but also impacts brain regions tied to self-referential thoughts. It’s been effective in alleviating social anxiety disorder too.

7) Meditation Can Help with Addiction

Meditation’s influence on self-control brain regions makes it effective for addiction recovery. One study compared mindfulness training with a smoking cessation program and found that mindfulness learners were significantly more likely to quit smoking. Meditation helps people uncouple craving from addictive acts, allowing them to weather the craving “wave” until it subsides. Similar research indicates mindfulness-based therapies can treat various addictions.

8) Short Meditation Breaks Can Help Kids in School

Meditation holds promise for developing brains, particularly in school settings. Many schools have introduced meditation programs and reported positive outcomes, like decreased suspensions and improved attendance and GPAs. Although research on children’s meditation benefits is ongoing, its cognitive and emotional advantages are evident.

You can also meditate from the comfort. Click here to know more about online yoga classes.

Why Everyone should Meditate?

Meditation brings lots of benefits with regular practice. From public figures to top companies, many embrace meditation for its positive impact. Short daily sessions may make a significant difference in your well-being. While some caution is advised, meditation is generally beneficial, especially with proper guidance. Instead of reaching for your phone, try a few minutes of quieting your mind. The research suggests that even a brief meditation session can bring about noticeable change.


Meditation can be a beneficial complement to medical treatment, as it has shown moderate effects in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive approach to mental health.

Yes, meditation has been proven to enhance attention and cognitive skills. Studies indicate that even a few weeks of regular meditation can lead to improvements in concentration and memory.

Yes, mindfulness meditation has been found to help reduce symptoms of social anxiety. Research suggests that by altering brain regions related to self-referential thoughts, meditation can aid in managing social anxiety.

Studies show that meditation can be effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction. Meditation helps individuals detach from cravings and develop self-control, making it a valuable tool in addiction recovery.

Yes, meditation has been found to offer cognitive and emotional advantages for schoolchildren. Some schools have implemented meditation programs, resulting in improved focus, reduced stress, and better academic performance.

While meditation can be highly effective in managing stress and mood disorders, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Individual responses may vary, and it's recommended to combine meditation with other wellness practices for comprehensive benefits.

Meditation, particularly Dhyana and Samadhi stages, can lead to a state of deep absorption and oneness with the chosen object of focus. In Samadhi, the sense of self (ego) disappears, and the practitioner becomes completely absorbed in the object, resulting in a profound state of meditation.

Prof. R. K. Bodhe

Prof. R. K. Bodhe

Prof. R. K. Bodhe is a M.A. (Philosophy & Sanskrit), M. Phil. (Philosophy) Worked as Research Officer, Philosophico-Literary Research Department, Kaivalyadhama, Lonavala, for 30 years. He is invited for delivering talks, workshops at several universities and institutions. In his career of 30 years, Prof. Bodhe has authored several research papers in Traditional Yoga and co-authored several Volumes. Prof. Bodhe is also working as the Associate Editor of Yoga Mimamsa. His areas of interest include Yoga Philosophy, Applied aspects of Traditional Yoga, Value Education and Philosophical bases of esoteric sciences.

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