Scientists, psychologists and physicians believe that regular meditation bestows a multitude of health benefits. Several medical studies on Transcendental Meditation (TM) have shown that this technique reduces stress and anxiety and improves brain function. One interesting study suggested that this form of meditation can actually slow the aging process. That’s why this form of meditation has been championed by celebrities, including Deepak Chopra, Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow, Dr. Oz, and Oprah Winfrey. However, a new study has demonstrated that another form of meditation, mindfulness meditation, also bestows benefits by actually altering your brain waves.
By using brain scanners, Brown University neuroscientists discovered that mindfulness meditation alter alpha rhythms in the brain. These detectible rhythms may help regulate “how the brain processes and filters sensations,” like pain and bad memories. This may help explain the effects of mindfulness on physical symptoms and further shows strong connections between mind and body.
Unlike TM, which is a form of mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation focuses on the present moment. This “present-moment focus,” experts believe, improves well-being “by allowing individuals to become aware of their sensations, emotions and thoughts that arise in the mind without judgement or reactivity.” This form of meditation is used not only in meditation sessions, but also in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and behavior therapy for those suffering from recurrent depression.
With brain imaging technology called magnetoencephalography, the researchers showed that alpha rhythms in the brain change as one focuses on their present sensory experiences. In their study, these changes occured more strongly and clearly in those who have had mindfulness meditation training, compared to those who did not have that training.
Alpha brain waves are one of four recordable brain waves – the others include delta, theta, and beta waves. They are called alpha waves because it was discovered first by using an electroencephalograph (EEG). They oscillate 8 to 13 times per second and are most prominent during restful relaxation.
The change in the ability for a person to alter their own alpha waves may prove useful to improve mood and reduce chronic pain. Some also claim this practice of mindfulness can improve one’s quality of life in chronic debilitating conditions like fibromyalgia, low-back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, or multiple sclerosis.
With this research, authors are hoping to use a mindfulness-based therapy to help those who are suffering from chronic pain.