Meditation is the word we've given a wide series of activities that strengthen a particular part of the brain. The Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) is the part of the brain where physical sensation data, emotion data, and thought data all intersect to give you a broad picture of the world around you.
People who have strong ACCs tend to report a higher pain threshold (including emotional pain), a general feeling of life happiness, positive relationships, greater degree of focus, and a sense of ability to choose one's path in life.
People with weak ACCs tend to slip into one of two camps. They either live primarily focused on logic, or they live primarily focused on emotion. A weak ACC gives you a view of half of your world. The other half is lost on you. It takes an active ACC to integrate both emotion and logic.
The activities that strengthen the ACC are performed without speaking. These events tend to include an overlap of two of the three data types:
- Thought + emotion
- Sensation + thought
- Emotion + sensation
Unsurprisingly, by incorporating two data types, you engage the part of the brain that integrates the data types.
Sitting and thinking about the sensation of the chair against your back is an exercise that includes sensation and thought.
Thinking about your breath is also sensation and thought, but it is a more complicated exercise because you can control your breath. I don't recommend breathing exercises for beginners. Focus on things you don't need to control like the sounds you hear or the feeling of your hair tickling your face. That's much easier.
Watch a sad (or scary or suspenseful) movie and recognize your emotions and the paired physical sensations that go with them. This exercise incorporates sensation and emotion.
Sit quietly and watch your thoughts fly by like clouds. When a thought produces a desire to act, notice it, but do nothing. This is an integration of thought and initiation of behavior which is closely related to sensation.
It doesn't take long. Do exercises like this three days a week for as little as three minutes, and you'll notice that your experience of the world gets richer and less stressful. It's your ACC that's developing in response. Keep it up! Just like your biceps, your ACC needs regular exercise to stay strong.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: