From the creators of Stop, Breath, and Think:
First, meditation can be used to influence how we think, which in turn can determine how we feel and act:
Thoughts on the brain:
You can rewire your brain just by meditating because our brains change based on how they are used. Every time you have a thought, neurons connect like little impulses across the map of your brain. When these neurons connect, your brain grows thicker and stronger in certain places based on the thoughts you think. We can actually change the circuitry of the brain to help us be more peaceful and compassionate, simply by directing our thoughts and imaginations. Just like a bodybuilder lifting weights to build muscle, the more you think positive thoughts, the stronger the part of your brain that allows you to experience positive feelings will become!”
Second, meditation can help us gain control over our body’s stress response. Anxiety is normally a good thing. We needed it to prevent us from being eaten by sabretooth tigers and to motivate us to store food for the winter. But in our current society, there’s a real problem when our bodies are reacting to something like a test like it is literally life or death.
Stress and the body:
Many of the body’s functions work automatically, like breathing, blood pressure and digestion. These functions are controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is divided into two branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) - the “fight or flight” response during stress, intense activity, and emergencies, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) - the “rest and digest”, or calming response.
When we practice mindfulness and meditation and focus on deep relaxed breaths, we can turn off the SNS and turn on our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which calms us down and helps us to relax. When the PNS is activated, your heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, breathing slows and deepens, pupils shrink, and muscles relax.”
By rewiring our brains and gaining control over our SNS response, we become more capable under stress, boosting our focus, concentration, and performance. Meditation can also positively impact your mood, immune system, and overall health.