Mindfulness and the Brain
￼Mindfulness is a Key Tool to Shift Stress
“Meditation has the power to reverse negative physical and emotional effects of stress. To be mindful is to be more aware, in the moment of our experience: to be more present and more open.”Sharon Salzberg
By becoming more mindful of our stress as it affects our body sensations, emotions, thoughts, and actions we can begin to manage it much better. By non-judgmentally observing our “personal data” composed of sensations, emotions and thoughts, we can gain insights into the limiting self-beliefs or programs that are triggering our stress response system. Mindfulness is an ancient meditation practice to increase Self-Awareness, leading to greater Self-Knowledge and Realization. By applying the principles and practices of mindfulness to get to know how our brain operates, opens up the possibility that we can learn how to operate our brain/mind more consciously and effectively.
What Mindfulness Does To Your Brain
The effect of Mindfulness Meditation has recently been studied by neuroscientists at major US universities like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. It was found in one study that people who regularly practice mindfulness meditation report feeling less stressed and more emotionally balanced.3 Another study gathered evidence that meditation serves as a realistic and maintainable stress management technique.1
Harvard researchers found mindfulness meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter. Using brain imaging techniques, neuroscientists have observed shifts in the threat system of the brain. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces physiological changes such as:
Increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory,
Increased the prefrontal cortex which affects vision, planning, emotional regulation and more,
Decreased brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress
Yale University found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network, responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts –a.k.a., “monkey mind.”
A study performed at Stanford found that an a mindfulness course reduced the reactivity of the amygdala and increased the brain activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex that help regulate emotions, subsequently reducing stress. 2
1. Hölzel, B., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S., Gard, T. & Lazar, S. (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Neuroimaging. 191. 3643.
2. Goldin, P. & Gross, J. (2010). Effects of mindfulnessbased stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion. 10, 1. 8391.
3. Tang, Y. Y., Tang, R., Jiang, C. & Posner, M. I. Short term meditation intervention improves self regulation and academic performance. J. Child Adolesc. Behav. 2, 4 (2014).