Meditation – Quicker Brain with Inner Pace
Mysterious and religious mantra? Or pure psychology and a western lifestyle? There are many different forms of meditation, however they all seem to have the same effect.
Text Astrid Schaug
Practise makes perfect- also with regards to relaxation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is often associated with eastern traditions and religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, however also in Christianity has meditation got a long history. The word itself comes from the Latin word “meditatio”, which means “the act of thinking over something”, “to reflect” or similar.
Meditation is a collective term for systematically applied mental and bodily exercises, which intension is to practise and later maintain the ability to achieve (and preserve) a certain mental state. Exactly which mental state that is desired varies from the different types of meditation, however typical goals are one or more of the following: relaxation (physical and psychological), liberation from uncontrolled thoughts and consequently increased concentration, greater insight and understanding of the world, an emotional break from everyday life.
The methods used to achieve this also vary depending on the type of meditation, but could include: mantras, sensorial exercises (such as visualising), fantasy journeys, affirmations, breathing focus, concentration, contemplation, free association and relaxation.
During the last decade mediation has become widespread in the West. Partly different forms of Buddhist meditation and partly meditation techniques based on yoga, without religious content. The most common, none-religious meditation technique in the Nordic region is called Acem Meditation. Acem Meditation is a Norwegian method for relaxation and personal growth. The method is neutral, none-religious and none- mysterious. It is based on western psychology and lifestyle. In Acem Meditation, you repeat a meditation sound mentally without effort, while thoughts and impressions are allowed to come and go freely. There is no attempt at emptying the mind. Acem Meditation is practiced twice a day, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. Acem is a Norwegian non-profit organization, established in Oslo in 1966, with main purpose to teach Acem Medidation. Today, the organization is experiencing more growth outside of Scandinavia- than within. Acem is established also in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, India and Taiwan.
People who meditate regularly over time develop several folds and furrows in the brain, causing it to process information faster.
Studies show that meditation will give deeper relaxation then normal rest. This is due to waves. Professor Øyvind Ellingens from the Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging (ISB) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has together with Norwegian and Australian colleagues studied brain waves coming from people who are relaxing. There is always electric activity in the brain, regardless of if you are awake or not. The activity can be measured with EEG (electroencephalography). The test people had long experience with meditation. They were asked to rest normally for 20 minutes, and then meditate for 20 minutes. During both sessions they were wearing EEG-hoods, which measured how their brainwaves fluctuated.
There are five normal types of brainwaves: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and theta waves. The different waves oscillate with different frequencies depending on which activities that goes on in the brain. The level of stress is lower with theta waves. When the test people were meditating, the theta waves were most prominent. This type of waves is most likely caused by a calm attention that registers inner impulses. There were great differences between meditation and normal relaxation.
The scientists observed that the people with long experience with meditation generated more prominent theta waves. That might suggest that practise makes perfect, -also with regards to relaxation.
The alpha waves are more prominent during meditation than relaxation. They are characteristic for an awake resting state. This type of wave has for many years been used as a measure of relaxation, both during meditation and generally. The waves increase when the brain is not preoccupied with targeted exercises.
Studies suggest that the mind’s normal resting state is a quiet stream of thoughts, images and impressions, not originating from sensory input and targeted thinking, but that comes spontaneously « from within”. While meditating, one becomes more aware of this spontaneous reaction. Scientists believe that there is a reason to believe in a form of mental digestion or psychological “stress processing”, which connects different impressions and put them in context. When we sleep, the delta waves normally emerge. Almost no delta waves were measured during relaxation and meditation, confirming that meditation is different from sleep.
Studies that have focused on the effects of different forms of meditation suggest that psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression, can be reduced. Normal results of the Acem technique is better sleep, increased concentration, less pains and more energy. In the long term will practising Acem lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth, it is claimed.
Meditation Against Pains
Several studies suggest that meditation can to a certain degree reduce pains. While meditating, one channels attention in a special way. After some practising, one will become better at relaxing and consequently the experience of pain is often reduced, Ellingens says.
– So far none of the different methods of meditation has been compared, however based on experience from people who have studied different methods, it can be assumed that the effect on the brain is approximately the same., says Øyvind Ellingens.
The Brain Changes
Previous studies from UCLA (University of California, Los Angels) shows that mediation makes the brain thicker (in a positive way) and strengthens the contact between the brain cells. Recently a new report from UCLA points out another advantage: People who meditate regularly over time develop several folds and furrows in the brain, causing it to process information faster, make decisions more rapidly, create memory etc. There is a correlation between number of years with meditation and how much the brain has changed. The article is published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.