How Meditation Works




You sit down to meditate but thoughts won't stop rushing through your mind.

But after a few minutes you begin to step away from the mind and watch your thoughts almost like they are on the big screen. Your thoughts begin to separate like leaves floating down a river. 

Over time meditation helps us to acheive mindfulness, helping to maintain a healthy mind by quieting negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and desire while igniting compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. 

But how does meditation really work on the mind? Researchers at the University of Brigham Women’s Hospital (BWH) are studying how certain cognitive functions help a person develop mindfulness including self awareness, self regulation, and self transcendence (S-ART). 

According to Science Daily:

The researchers highlight six neuropsychological processes that are active mechanisms in the brain during mindfulness and which support S-ART. These processes include:

1. Intention and motivation

2. Attention regulation

3. Emotion regulation

4. Extinction and reconsolidation

5. Pro-social behavior

6. Non-attachment and de-centering

Mindfulness begins with an intention to want to attain awareness of one’s habits. 

"Through continued practice, the person can develop a psychological distance from any negative thoughts and can inhibit natural impulses that constantly fuel bad habits," said David Vago, PhD, BWH Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, and lead study author.

Meditation teaches you to follow your breath or a mantra and stay focused on it rather than being absorbed in the distractions that surround you. That said, meditation is also a practice that takes a lifetime to master. 

5 Steps to Meditation

1. Find a quiet place without distractions.

2. Sit upright, crossed legged on a pillow so the knees fall below the hips.

3. Set an alarm for whatever time you like. Start with 5 to 10 minutes daily. 

4. Close your eyes

5. Follow your breath and resist the urge to move. 


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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.









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