3 Ways Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain
For those of you who think the practice of mindfulness is merely a woo-woo concept, think again. Recent research offers strong evidence that mindfulness, or practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness for just 30 minutes a day can cause measurable changes in gray-matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is associated with stress, sense of self, empathy and memory. This is incredible news and proves the mind-body connection that I have known exists for many years and backs my belief: change your thoughts – change your health – change your life!
Here are 3 specific ways mindfulness can change your brain:
Improves Your Ability to Focus
Mindful meditation helps you focus in a couple of different ways. First, it allows you to better focus on something specific while at the same time ignore the myriad distractions around you. Second, it helps you notice what is really going on around you in the present moment. And this incredible new ability to focus is not just for those people who have been meditating for years. The research proves that mindful meditation activates regions of the brain that are critical for controlling attention even in those people new to the practice. Of course in the study, experienced meditators showed even stronger activation in the regions.
Mindfulness changes the way the brain responds to negative thoughts. This is huge and can greatly impact those who suffer from anxiety disorders. No more feeling like you are incapable of escaping your own destructive thoughts and emotions. MRI scans conducted after study participants practiced mindful meditation showed decreased activation in the amygdala, which is a region of the brain associated with stress and anxiety. In other words, practicing mindfulness helps sufferers witness their own negative and stressful thoughts from a place of non-judgment which prevents them from going into full-blown panic mode.
A Greater Sense of Compassion
Research is also pointing to evidence that suggests mindfulness has the ability to cultivate and increase a person’s ability to feel compassion. Imagine the ramifications of this! Another study revealed an increase in the meditator’s daily levels of hope, gratitude and joy, and a greater sense of purpose in life.
Start Changing Your Brain Today
Hopefully you feel a spark and are ready to embrace mindfulness and let it do for you what it has done and continues to do for countless others. You may be saying, “But Pru, I’ve never practiced this before. How much (or how little) mindful meditation do I have to do before I experience positive changes in my brain and my life?” The good news is there is evidence which indicates you can experience amazing benefits early on in your practice, even within days. You simply need to start. Just commit to 10 minutes of meditation and work your way up to more and you will soon discover that mindfulness holds benefits that even science hasn’t discovered yet!
I’ve put together a 10 minute meditation to get you started. Try this everyday for a week and pay attention to how you feel and how you react to things. Leave me a comment below. I’d really love to know how you are doing.
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