People who are new to mindfulness meditation often find the hardest aspect of this practice is getting started.
Completely working against our learned behavior to give into distractions and thoughts, meditation can be hard to initially grasp after a lifetime of opposite behaviors and mindsets.
But the good news is that it does get easier with time – and there’s ample research available that scientifically backs this theory up.
Using MRI Brain Scans to Track Results
Consider a recent study by the University of Wisconsin’s W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. During this study, researchers wanted to know if people who practiced regular meditation were able to reach a plateau of relaxation faster than those who were new to the practice.
And to get the most specific results possible, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans to track the results.
During the study, the researchers examined two groups of people:
- People that had up to 54,000 hours of meditation experience
- People that were meditation novices
After the novices were taught the bare basics of meditation, all participants underwent a MRI scan of the brain while they were meditating.
Results Confirm It Gets Easier with Practice
The results confirmed what many meditators can attest – it really does get easier the more you practice.
The experienced meditators had a brief period of activity went they first began meditation, and then it almost instantly came down to a baseline level.
It was “as if they were able to concentrate in an effortless way,” reported one of the study’s orchestrators.
Also, the researchers also tested the meditators’ ability to concentrate by periodically exposing them to disturbing noises – like a baby’s cry.
The scans found that the sudden and unexpected noise had much less effect on the experienced meditators, as their brain scans revealed little change to the areas connected with emotion and decision making. In essence, their brain scans were barely affected at all.
Also, the regions of the brain that are linked to control and regulation of attention were much more activated in the long-term meditation devotees, both during their meditation practice and before and after.
Practice Makes Perfect
Simply put, while the novice’s brain scans showed regular activity throughout the session, the experienced practitioners remained focused and calm throughout, with little change to the MRI imagery.
This isn’t the first study to use MRIs to track the influence of meditation on the brain either. Universities and research centers across the world are embracing the science of meditation, and are coming up with new and promising results every day.
From finding a slower progression of conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia to finding more active bran regions linked to creativity, focus, and memory, MRI-based research is opening doors across the board and is showing just what meditation can do.
Of course, to enjoy the benefits of meditation, the first hurdle to overcome is getting started.
I Can Help!
The good news is that a trained instructor can help fill in the gaps, and can teach the best methods for reaching that calm and clear state of mind.
Enlist help if you’re just getting started, and see how quickly meditation’s benefits can grow, from the inside out.