How Meditation Increases Grey Matter in the Brain

Moyan Brenn @ Flickr

Moyan Brenn @ Flickr

When I was growing up (which was not that long ago) we were taught that once your brain was done growing it couldn't really grow anymore.  Now we know that's not actually true.  

Neuroplasticity.  That's the fancy word for "your brain can grow and change."

A really cool discovery is that mindfulness-meditation can grow and change your brain.  And not only that, it can grow and change your brain in some pretty important ways.

Empathy.  Compassion.  Resilience.   The areas of the brain responsible for these attributes INCREASE with those who meditate daily.  I want you to check out a 8 minute TedTalk on this research in a moment but before you do it's important to understand what type of meditation will grow your brain.

How to Meditate So Your Brain Grows

  1. Go somewhere where you won't be distracted (put your phone on "airplane" mode).
  2. Bring a pad of paper and pen as you will inevitably remember something important you won't want to forget right before you meditate. 
  3. Set a timer on your phone for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Sit in a somewhat comfortable seated position with your limbs uncrossed.
  5. Close your eyes.
  6. Breathe so that your stomach is expanding and contracting, not your chest.  This sends a signal to your brain to "chill out," decreasing anxiety.
  7. Breathe for counts of 5 in, hold it for 3 and breathe out for a count of 5.
  8. Just focus on your breathing.  You'll notice you will get distracted but that's ok just bring your attention back to the present moment.
  9. Do this until your timer goes off 

A Word to Christians

If you are a Christian your anxiety might be rising thinking about meditation in this way.  "What about talking to God?  Where's the Scripture I'm supposed to think about?  Isn't this practicing another religion?"  

Good questions.  Rather than address all those you can check out this article to learn more about how mindfulness meditation has Christian roots.  

What I will say is this: mindfulness meditation is exercise for your brain.  You can make it spiritual if you like but it doesn't have to be a spiritual practice.  We all know that pausing and taking a few breaths calms us down, this just extends that simple act.  I often find that my own prayers become more clear after I've taken a moment to be still for a few moments.    

If You Are In Recovery

After you are done with your mindfulness I recommend reading something from these two books: Answers in the Heart (for Sexual Addiction) or Rooted in God's Love (any addiction, Christian).  

Rooted in God's Love is a really great book that uses Christian scripture to talk about the journey of recovery.  After the Scripture and meditation a prayer is offered.  

Answers in the Heart uses more 12-step language, like "Higher Power" and has a meditation for each day of the year, a provocative quote and an affirmation.  

Are there people who would be helped by this article?  Feel free to share it.  If this article has helped you let me know by "liking" it.  

Alex Lerza

My goal as a therapist, speaker and writer is to help people experience the gift of sexual and relational wholeness. Currently I work at Christian Counseling Center in San Jose as a Marriage Family Therapist, Intern. Though I come from a place of faith I have treated clients from all creeds and orientations. I completed my Master's degree from Santa Clara University in 2012. Because I felt called to the area of sexual wholeness I became an Associate Sex Addiction Therapist in 2013. However, I quickly learned that trauma is the cause for a significant amount of sexual and relational brokenness so I also became certified in two trauma-reduction therapies--Affect Management Skills Training and Affect Centered Therapy (similar to EMDR). PSYCHOTHERAPIST. Trauma and Sexual Addiction. One of my passions is to help people break free from sexual addiction and heal from trauma. With hundreds of hours of training in trauma and sexual addiction, I provide clients a clear path out of addiction so that they may enjoy healthier relationships and lead more focused lives. Couples. I love helping couples discover the gift of a healthy marriage. I excel at teaching couples how to communicate, how to heal from betrayal and how to deepen their level of passion and intimacy. Teens. Being a teen is tough. I enjoy helping teens who struggle to connect with peers, have questions about identity or want to kick a pornography addiction. I also run a 10 week program for teen guys looking for a band of brothers and accountability with sexual compulsivity. Individuals. I believe that everyone has something to offer the world that no one else can. I hate to see depression or anxiety limit a person's ability to make their special offering come alive. I offer clients the compassion, tools and strategies they need to make their mark and fulfill their personal vision.