Meditation – Brain Reps
May 22, 2021
By now, most of us are probably aware that meditation is something we should be doing. But there can also be a few barriers to entry to the practice, including a misunderstanding of how meditation works. Before we started the research for our book, it is safe to say that our immediate thoughts when we heard the term ‘meditation’ were of flowing robes, incense and monks sitting in the lotus position – none of which were the sort of thing that we found relatable as special operations soldiers. If we’d known the neurophysiology behind meditation, however, I reckon we would have been much more likely to adopt the practice earlier.
In short, meditation is a workout for your brain, changing not only your state of mind, but also the shape of your mind. Recent research into the neuroplastic effects of meditation have shown brain-changing benefits including increased attention, an increase in brain gray matter, and even an ability to thicken your corpus callosum – the bridge between the two hemispheres of your brain. Of particular interest to those of us prone to brain snaps, meditation has also been shown to suppress the knee-jerk reactions of our amygdala – the ancient ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain that is occasionally responsible for us doing dumb stuff in the heat of the moment that we later regret. We’re certainly all for anything that helps us put our pre-frontal cortex (the ‘thinking’ part of our brain) back in the driving seat when we’re getting worked up.
Just like working out in a gym, meditation takes some practice. A common complaint when people start to meditate is that they can’t stay focused for very long. That is totally understandable – this is the exact thing you are trying to improve! Most people understand that they won’t be able to squat 150kg the first time they walk into a gym – there is a recognition that you need to work up to this. The same goes for meditation. Instead of beating yourself up because you can’t concentrate, remember that this is the muscle you are working on. Gently bring your attention back to your meditation practice – and get another rep in!