Meditation has many scientific benefits. From improving attention to reducing anxiety and helping millions of people sleep better at night. But does meditation improve memory? Memory and the brain are very complex and are rarely understood by scientists and neurologists. However, we know a lot about how memory works and how meditation can relate to it.
How memory works
First, it is important to understand how memory works to see how meditation can influence or improve memory. Brain memory is divided into 3 processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval.
Coding is the process of how information is processed and learned. Our memories can be encoded through our senses, such as sight, sound, and smell. Once the information about the world around us is encoded, it is stored. The brain can store information in our short-term memory (such as what we plan to cook for dinner tonight) or in our long-term memory (such as remembering an important life event).
How and why information is stored in short-term memory about long-term memory is not fully understood, but there are many theories, some of which are intuitive, such as a traumatic event stored in memory. in the long run to avoid it. repeating (like the first time you burned yourself on the stove).
Finally, the recovery is that our mind pulls out a memory as needed, consciously or unconsciously.
Meditation and memories
Often, as we meditate, images such as thoughts, perceptions, and memories appear. It is often done unconsciously and part of the practice is to recognize this unconscious action and turn the mind’s attention to the object of focus for the practice. For people who sometimes dream awake while trying to meditate, long-term memories come out, almost as if the mind finally has time to sift through its large roll of memories. This is because this state is the default setting of the mind when it is not preoccupied with a task that requires immense focus. This is called the default mode network and is the idle state of the brain (and mind). This is why many people have their best ideas when they are in the shower or in bed at night.
Free meditation appDeclutter The Mind is an application that will teach you to meditate, help you acquire the habit of a common practice and expand your mind to the teachings of mindfulness.
Thus, when you are not distracted by work or entertainment, the mind often shifts to thoughts, memories, and planning. Playing these memories over and over again reinforces their storage in your long-term memory. So, unwittingly, meditation helps to improve and build long-term memories. By sitting quietly and allowing your mind during the day to finally go through its default settings, memories can appear. However, this is not the answer we want or the ideal, because as we meditate, we do not seek the mind to go as far as possible. Instead, especially in a meditation of consciousness, we want to take the mind out of thoughts whenever it wanders and return to the object of practice (such as breathing).
Does Meditation Improve Memory?
Earlier we talked about the 3 processes of memory and how each one works. The two most important parts are encoding and storage, and these processes occur more easily and easily when we are more aware of them and the information we are processing. Meditation can help us live more conscious lives and practice mindfulness throughout the day.
This awareness and more present living can also help to strengthen our memories, thus improving our memory. So yes, meditation improves memory. But what does science say?
Over a 4-week period, 79 study participants regularly practiced mindfulness meditation. The results were an increase in hippocampal volume that helps negate working memory impairments and improves overall memory, especially long-term memory. This aligns with what we said earlier when it comes to mindfulness meditation and how this and the default state network reinforce long-term memories.
What about short-term memory? Does Meditation Improve Short-Term Memory?
In a 2013 study, mindfulness meditation showed that it can improve memory capacity by both reducing distracting thoughts (affecting the way the brain encodes and stores information) and improving short-term memory.
Thus, both intuitively and scientifically, we see that meditation improves memory. Now that we know this, how can we apply it to improve our memory and what kind of meditation practice should we do?
How to practice meditation to improve memory
The best meditation practice to start and do regularly to help improve memory is a mindfulness meditation practice.
Mindfulness meditation trains our mind to be more present, more often. This can help you better encode information before it is stored in the brain. For example, if you are better at managing distracting thoughts and being more present through meditation, you can sit in a conference room while a teacher reviews a lesson and learn much more. So much so that you become less distracted as you pay attention (helping with coding) and more present and aware of the information that is coming in (helping with storage).
Here is a simple mindfulness meditation practice you can do at home to train your brain and improve your memory.
Time required: 10 minutes.
How to meditate to improve memory
- Look for a seat
Find a comfortable place to sit, such as a chair, and sit with your hands on your lap.
- Pay attention to the breath
Close your eyes and pay attention gently to your breathing, watching each inspiration and exhalation as they pass without changing or modifying your breathing.
- Observe the distractions
As you observe your breathing, you will notice that thoughts, feelings, and perceptions appear in your consciousness. Whenever you notice it or get lost in your thoughts, gently turn your attention to your breathing.
- Practice for 10 minutes
Do this for 10 minutes. This is the practice. It is putting an open mind to the breath, noticing the thoughts that come out and go through the mind and turning your attention to the breath every time it deviates.
Remember that you can practice mindfulness anywhere. There are countless ways to practice mindfulness and be more present. But you don’t have to be stylish here. You can be alert while waiting at the doctor’s office, sitting at a red light, or when you get up from your desk at work.
If it helps, you can use a reminder such as a coin of conscience to help you remember that you need to be present or practice mindfulness. Keep it as a witness in the pocket of your most used coat so that every time you arrive, it is a reminder to be present.
Meditation is not meant to be a tool to improve your memory, it is really a way to improve yourself and live a more examined life. Improving short-term and long-term memory with meditation is just a byproduct, one of dozens that have been studied and verified by scientists. If you practice meditation to improve your memory, you are likely to find other benefits. When you enter the practice, you enter without any expectation or desire for results. Let the practice do for you what it does, and let it help you start living more intentionally and stop living with autopilot.
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