Mindfulness and Brain
How is it possible to make changes to our brain? Instead of going online or playing another game on your phone, try quieting down your mind.
Not possible instantly!
However, try to pay attention to your thoughts and remain passive without reacting.
Research over the years proves that just a few minutes of meditation may make a big difference. Let’s examine how.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is an active form of brain training. This mental training activates increased awareness of the mind. There are various meditation programs prescribed by experts to approach it in different ways.
A review study conducted by Madhav Goyal of John Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its effect on brain. This research established that “meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.”
Another evidence has linked practising mindfulness to improvements in many parts of the brain.
Researchers suggest that mindfulness can affect the production of chemicals that change our mood. In fact, there are evidences to prove connections between different regions of the brain that change when we are mindful.
“Mindfulness is a kind of mental exercise for your brain. Based on meditation, it helps you to focus on the present moment.”, says Meena Joshi, Mindfulness Expert for Bupa UK.
Technique & Benefit
Mindful Meditation requires focused attention on one specific thing. This object of focus could be anything – it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. Mindful Meditation focuses on one point and continuously brings your attention back to that focal point when it wanders away.
An intriguing study carried out by the Yale University proved that meditation reduces activity in the brain’s “Me Centre”. This implies that the mind that meditates amply does not think about itself. It transcends beyond this realm. Mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN) or the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts.
Being sad or pensive, or moody is typically associated with worrying about the past and future, the ultimate goal of meditation is to prevent this. Several studies have shown that meditation is an effective natural tranquilliser.
For developing brains of children, the results of mindful meditation are even more promising. To deal with modern stresses, many schools have introduced yoga and meditation into their curriculum.
Several studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation on school children as well as adults. Some of the benefits of meditation include:
- Better Focus
- Less Anxiety
- More Creativity
- More Compassion
- Better Memory
- Less Stress &
- More Gray Matter (associated with energy and intelligence)
In fact, a sub-genre of meditation, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have proved its efficacy in reducing anxiety even years after the initial 8-week course.
Benefits of Mindful Meditation
In recent years, the public attention has soared about mindful meditation.
Mindful Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) brings about real time change in brain regions involving attention and relief from symptoms of social anxiety, as per Stanford University team research. Therefore, people with social anxiety disorder can benefit from it as well.
- Well designed studies have shown benefits for patients of depression, chronic pain, and anxiety engaging in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to other existing treatments. Research has also shown benefits of mindfulness meditation on an array of conditions both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- With more studies, researchers have concluded that human mind is a very complex organ and that mindfulness brings about real changes in the brain.
These changes are both simple and very complicated, and that mindfulness is helping us change our minds for the better. Since mind and body work in unison, there are many more unexpected ways that we could expect the results as per the stimuli.
Mindfulness experts reported feeling less pain than people who didn’t practice mindfulness. By not drawing on memories of pain, the experts were able to feel less pain.
- Another significant benefit of meditation was better brain preservation. A very interesting study from UCLA has pointed out to the benefits of meditation. Meditators who had been practicing meditation for twenty years or longer had better preserved brains and the volume of grey matter was significantly higher too. Even the brain loss that happens with prolonged age is lesser in them.
According to Scientific American Journal, “the effects of mindfulness have been great to see it move away from being a spiritual thing towards proper science and clinical evidence, as stress is a huge problem and has a huge impact on many people’s health. Being able to take time out and focus our mind is increasingly important.”
The quasi-spiritual connotations of meditation have so far prevented mindfulness from being hailed as an antidote to this frantic chaos of New Age. Mindfulness has come to stay and in few years time, it could become as much a part of our mundane chores like taking a bath or sleeping are.
Contributor Bio – The article is presented by Sharda Hospital. Sharda Hospital is one of the largest super speciality hospitals in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR).