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Meditation Strengthens the Brain

Years of meditation can improve decision-making and information processing.

Sit down on a comfortable cushion, with your legs gently crossed. Gaze softly at the floor in front of you, and bring your attention to your breath. When your mind wanders to thoughts of work or the woman across the room, come back to your breath. Repeat. Even a simple meditation like this can alter your brain, shaping it to improve how it processes information, makes decisions and forms memories. The changes are more pronounced the longer you meditate. Researchers at UCLA found that the brains of people who meditated regularly had increased folding in the cortex. This is the outermost layer of the brain. It gives us many of our human qualities, such as memory, attention, thought and consciousness. The extra folding, in addition to giving your brain a stylish wrinkly look, may enable meditators to process information faster than non-meditators. One of the areas of the brain that changed the most was the insula, which is involved in emotions and awareness. "Meditators are known to be masters in introspection and awareness as well as emotional control and self-regulation, so the findings make sense that the longer someone has meditated, the higher the degree of folding in the insula," said Eileen Luders, an author on the paper. The meditators practiced several different styles, from simple breath-focused meditation to insight or Zen meditation. If you’re ready to improve your brain function, many meditation groups offer classes for beginners. You can also find a variety of meditation resources such as books, audio and videos.

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