Get your Brain Health Score (in 4 mins) Take the quiz

Shop
Location
Rest of World
Personal Development

The science behind meditation

Neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart and spiritual teacher Adam Martin answer your questions on the science behind meditation.

mental-wellbeing 02 icon
Heights
July 31, 2022
4 min read

How does meditation actually work? what's the science behind meditation? If these questions have stopped you from getting zen and starting this calming practice, you're in the right place. Here's what meditation is and the science behind how it works.

Article breakdown

What is the theory of meditation?

Meditation is the act of gifting something our awareness and attention. It isn’t just about sitting in a lotus position with your eyes closed. It's not necessarily stillness of the mind either.

A lot of mythology is around emptying the mind, but the opposite is also true. We’ve all become lost in music and dance, so in that way, ecstatic dance is also a form of meditation. Sound is an underused resource in terms of modulating brain frequencies. The power of music and sound has the ability to transform us mentally and physically. 

At its essence, meditation is a much broader and richer framework than people may think. 

What happens scientifically when you meditate?

When you meditate, your brain produces alpha and gamma brainwaves that enhance an overall sense of relaxation. With regular meditation, the levels of your stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are lowered. It improves your ability to pause before your impulses and not act out on them.

The phone has been engineered in a way to trigger the release of dopamine in your brain. Although it is a wonderful distraction, it is hard to condition yourself to tear yourself away from it and instead spend time with friends and family. It’s been designed to be addictive and distract us from the important things in life.

So what does meditation do? It helps you to learn to unhook yourself from bad habits and distractions that have become so ingrained and normalized in modern life. 

Get a free guide on taking better care of your brain

Enter your email below to get 10 small habits to build into your everyday routine that are easy as well as weekly braincare tips.

What is the science behind meditation?

There are many studies that have shown the science of meditation and its benefits. For example, a study found that women who do yoga (which is a type of moving meditation) three times a week have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than age-matched women who don’t. 

Another example is a study by Professor Amishi Jha, who set out to answer the question 'is there science behind mindfulness?' by researching US Marines. The Marines were put into two groups- the control group who didn’t meditate, and a group who had to do 12 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily for 8 weeks prior to being deployed into battle.

The results showed that the marines who meditated had increased resilience even after being deployed. Those who didn’t want to take part ended up contacting the lab when they saw the others were able to sleep and were not suffering from anxiety sweating. As they were already on the battlefield, the scientists were sceptical of how impactful the practices would be. The breakthrough results showed that even on the battlefield, mindfulness practices significantly improved anxiety, insomnia, and low mood. 

Experts

This article is based on a discussion by leaders in neuroscience, meditation, and braincare:

  • Dr. Tara Swart: Chief Science Officer at Heights, neuroscientist, medical doctor, executive advisor, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, and author of the best-seller 'The Source'.

  • Adam Martin: Poet, spiritual teacher, and creator of GABA podcast. 

  • Dan Murray-Serter: Co-Founder of braincare company Heights, and host of our Braincare podcast.

Resources


Heights Smart Supplement contains the highest quality plant-based omega 3 DHA, EPA, along with 18 other key nutrients your brain needs to thrive according to science in just 2 capsules a day.

Related articles
Mindfulness
How to meditate: A guide for beginners
Natalia Bojanic
5 min read
  • Smart Supplement
  • Braincare Journal
Location
Rest of World
© 2022
TermsCookiesPrivacy
This product is not designed to replace a varied and balanced diet. Do not exceed stated dose. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication, please consult your doctor before use. Do not use it if the seal has been tampered with. Store in a cool, dry place. Keep out of reach of children.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease