How does meditation affect our brain as we age?

It is known that many areas of our brain tend to shrink with age, but Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Lazar and her team have shown via MRI brain scans that 50-year-old meditators have key brain structures similar to that of 25-year-old non-meditators. This suggests that meditation may slow or even prevent some of the natural degradation of brain tissue that happens with ageing. This is thanks to neuroplasticity. While it is likely that other factors are involved, such as lifestyle and diet, it is feasible that meditation and the resulting mindset contribute significantly.

Research also suggests that our brain can start to make these changes in eight weeks. A daily 30-minute mindfulness practice (including a body scan, yoga, and seated meditation practice) has been shown to change the brain in ways that result in better memory and improved problem-solving. A mindfulness questionnaire also showed that eight weeks instruction and practice improved three key qualities that may contribute to a positive mindset as we age, observing internal and external environment, acting with awareness instead of reacting; and the non-judgment of inner experience.

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