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How Mindful Meditation Changes the Brain

Catharine Willett June 3, 2016 0 comments 0

[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]M[/su_dropcap]indful meditation is the practice of becoming aware of the present moment by paying attention to any and all disrupting thoughts and viewing them in a non-judgmental way. This practice is performed by people all over the globe, including celebrities such as Emma Watson, Anderson Cooper, and Katy Perry. The reason for widespread participation is not derived from blind faith, but from science: mindful meditation has indicated clear improvements in a person’s mental and psychological health from over 1,000 published research articles regarding the practice.

Research has indicated the benefits of mindful meditation to be lowered stress levels, improved work performance, and subdued arthritic pain. Although there are several other benefits found to result from mindful meditation, it is recent research that is eye-catching.

New research has indicated mindful meditation actually changes the way our brains function.

An article published in the journal Biological Psychiatry  discusses a study involving 35 individuals, both men and women, who were going through the stressful process of job searching. Before the study began, each participant had blood drawn and underwent a brain scan; stress levels were benchmarked. After which, the group was sent on a three-day retreat where the 35 individuals were split into two groups: one group was taught mindful meditation, and the other did a relaxation program.

After the three days, each individual underwent another brain scan. Although both groups reported feeling less stressed after the retreat, the group that practiced in mindful meditation actually illustrated brain function that correlated with their feelings.

The scans from those who participated in mindful meditation demonstrated that the brain was coping with stress more effectively due to the increased communication in regions responsible for processing stressful situations. So, when individuals reported feeling less stressed, they actually felt calm; it was because the brain was working to process the situation in a calm manner.

After four-months, all 35 participants were asked to come back for a follow-up. The follow-up indicated that the positive effects as a result of mindful meditation were actually prolonged: the group that had participated in the meditation retreat were still experiencing lower levels of bodily inflammation (a big stress indicator) than those who did not. When the body feels overwhelmed, cortisol levels increase, which is the cause of bodily inflammation.

Although some participants had continued to practice the art of meditation, most had not; nevertheless, the positive brain function had remained from the meditation experience four-months prior.

The results from this study illustrate clear medical benefits to the practice of meditation. Not only does meditation result in an improved mood, but it improves the brain itself. Although the program that illustrated positive brain function was four-months long, the same brain function can result from practicing meditation for only a few minutes every day.

The process of meditation is accessible to all those who are willing to try it. If you’re interested in mindful meditation and its positive effects on brain function, there are several videos, articles, and classes that are available for new learners. But your experience does not have to be guided, you can begin mindful meditation right after you finish this sentence by closing your eyes and focusing on how you feel in this exact moment.

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