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February 21, 2020

Transcendental meditation soothes anxiety by changing connections in the brain

Structures related to mood regulation altered by the practice, study finds

Mental Health Meditation
Meditation anxiety stress Prasanth Inturi/Pexels

Transcendental meditation changes the structures in the brain known for regulating mood, according to a study published by Brain and Cognition. The practice is known for relieving anxiety and stress.

It's no secret that meditation can soothe even the most intense anxiety with enough practice, but now scientists are able to show how it changes the brain.

A study published in Brain and Cognition found that transcendental meditation promotes overall wellbeing by reducing stress. Scientists also found that certain brain structures related to mood-regulation changed after daily meditation. 

Transcendental meditation involves silently repeating one-word mantras to oneself. The mantras typically are only one or two syllables long. In order to see the most benefits, experts recommend people meditate twice a day for 20 minutes.

When study participants followed that recommendation for three months, researchers observed changes in the connectivity of three major brain regions – the precuneus, left parietal lobe and insula. The participants also experienced reduced anxiety and stress levels. 

"The fact that transcendental meditation has measurable effects on the dialogue between brain structures involved in the modulation of affective states opens new perspectives for the understanding of brain-mind relationships," Pietro Pietrini, a director at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, said in a statement

To try this form of meditation yourself, Yoga Journal recommends finding a position that's comfortable to you – either sitting or lying down. Silently repeat the mantra you have chosen twice — once when you inhale and again when you exhale. If thoughts arise, just notice them and then softly return to the mantra. 

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