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The idea that meditation is good for your mind-body health is not a new one – but its benefits extend way past mere relaxation.

There is already an enormous body of research proving that, when it is practised correctly, meditation is one of the most effective and powerful ways to defuse stress, relax, improve mood, normalise and restore the nervous system, and generally nourish and inspire your life. But just how diverse its effects are on mental functioning is only just starting to be understood.

Rewire your mind

According to a new study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her colleagues at Leiden University, published in the journal Frontiers in Cognition, meditation doesn’t just have a short-term stress-busting effect. In fact, certain meditation styles can have a long-lasting effect on how a person actually thinks and processes information, and experiences events – in short, it can effectively rewire your brain.

However, not all forms of meditation are equal in their effect. Colzato tested the effects of both ‘open monitoring’ meditation, which is where a person practises staying open to all thoughts and sensations, and ‘focused attention’ meditation, where participants had to focus on a particular thought or word, and found that the open monitoring style generated far more ideas and possible solutions to a problem.

So if you thought meditation was just about sitting in the lotus position, staring into space, and thinking of nothing, think again. Let your mind roam free and step beyond thinking to arrive at a state of being where answers suddenly become much clearer.

This Nature & Health natural health news item was sourced from materials provided by Universiteit Leiden, via AlphaGalileo, and Frontiers in Psychology.