Mindfulness has been prevalent throughout the world for millennia as a means of dealing with stress, anxiety, and difficulties, but only recently have its beneficial effects been proven scientifically. The brain is a multifaceted organ and, when left on autopilot, can be deleterious to happiness and emotional resilience. However, mindfulness, which will be defined soon, has been shown to impact cognitive functioning and the maintenance of inner peace even in times of hardship. Mindfulness is the ability to be consciously present and aware in the moment, instead of being controlled by the chaotic forces of emotions and instincts. As you may anticipate, this is not easily accomplished and takes disciplined training and focus, but this article will demonstrate the results that are achievable if you follow this path.
What benefits does mindfulness offer? According to the Cleveland Clinic, research has shown that mindfulness optimizes mental health, positively impacts the brain and immune system, assists in the alleviation of chronic pain, ameliorates insomnia, and reduces caregiver/healthcare provider burnout. These are some powerful side benefits, wouldn’t you agree? Life throws many challenges in the face of its inhabitants and mindfulness is an optimal way of facing and overcoming these obstacles.
If the benefits previously mentioned weren’t enough, some exciting new developments have been made regarding the impact of mindfulness on neuroplasticity. In other words, it improves our brains’ processing functions and improves our ability to learn and “re-wire” our prior synaptic connections. The net result of this process is an increased ability to cope with stress and trauma and a higher potential for peace, joy, and happiness. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, has performed MRI scans on people with extensive meditation practice. What she found in the data was a decrease in age-related frontal cortex thinning, with the meditators in their 40s and 50s having the same amount of grey matter as those in their 20s and 30s. She also performed a study with new meditators and found that, after 8 weeks, brain volume was increased in both the hippocampus (responsible for emotional regulation, learning, and memory storage) and the temporoparietal junction (responsible for empathy and compassion) while volume decreased in the amygdala (involved in fight or flight response and reaction to threats).
As you can see from the above evidence, mindfulness has found its place in the scientific community and it is definitely not going anywhere soon. Even though mindfulness is not the answer to all of life’s problems, it definitely is a key ingredient in the solution and can be beneficially integrated into anyone’s lifestyle. As little as 15 minutes per day or even before sleeping to reduce insomnia can profoundly impact someone’s life over the long-term. Here at Residency EQ, I strongly recommend to my clients to pursue and practice forms of mindfulness and research the scientific evidence for themselves. As professionals in the field of medicine, we trust evidence-based medicine and, if the evidence is convincing, we can improve our lives as well as those of our family, friends, and patients.
To learn more about research regarding mindfulness and neuroscience, please visit this site which serves as the inspiration for this article: https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-brain-research-neuroscience/
Another interesting read for further information: https://www.psypost.org/2020/04/new-research-indicates-mindfulness-meditation-training-can-facilitate-cognitive-control-56332#:~:text=New%20research%20indicates%20mindfulness%20meditation,to%20changes%20in%20the%20brain
Have you ever had the feeling of wanting to go back and be given a chance to do everything all over again? I have wrestled with this concept in my mind and thought of how serenely happy I would have been had I made fewer mistakes and handled life's challenges differently. Maybe I’d be married right now and have my life completely together. However, these are just castles of sand. Thoughts can be benevolent blessings or malicious curses. The growth that I sustained through my trying circumstances cannot be replaced and though I may not have the ideal bliss that I wanted, I am more in touch with reality and who I am.
While trying to achieve happiness, we put up blinders that prevent us from seeing reality as it is. I experienced firsthand the craving and the depression that resulted and how these were all manifestations of my inner spiritual naivete. A solid grounding in myself and my mission in life is vitally important to my mental well-being and, only from this foundation, can I open myself up to the whirlwind of emotional highs and lows.
I made the decision to seek help and my first option was to look for books and articles that could give me ideas and solace. I have always been highly motivated to solve problems whether they be external or internal and this was another labyrinth that I challenged myself to escape from.
The first idea I tried was meditation and I dove into some books on it, such as The Power of Now. While reading the book, I felt a profound sense of peace, but whenever I would try to mediate, my thoughts seemed to race faster than ever. I understood that I should “be the observer” and let these thoughts pass, but I would get emotionally caught up in them. Even though the emotions were overwhelmingly positive, the difficulty was reconciling these emotions with an alternate reality – I was facing cognitive dissonance head on. My next attempt at clearing my mind was exercise and fitness – I began working out and running religiously and would get a temporary relief during the activity itself, but my waking thoughts and dreams would still consist of unwanted memories and possibilities.
I was getting frustrated at this point and I now began to read more books on social skills and social interactions in order to understand the roots and fundamentals of interpersonal dynamics. This was super helpful, although not directly alleviative of my emotional troubles. It was difficult at first, but I slowly overcame my social fears (through much willpower) and spoke up more during my rotations and in my personal life. This allowed me to forge new friendships and, after a bit of time, I was able to share my difficulties and troubles with others. What really surprised me was that I was not the only one who has gone through turbulent emotional vicissitudes. Every one of them, guys and girls, had dealt with similar issues, but much earlier on in life, as opposed to myself. I felt so comfortable and connected around them because I realized that we all share a common experience and humanity.
This is when the flash of inspiration occurred and I realized that the way to get over emotional trauma was to share these experiences and vulnerabilities with trustworthy companions. I realized that this is what I was missing my whole life due to my obsessive dedication to medicine. After this deep flash of wisdom, I embarked on creating a website to allow for other people in similar situations as mine to have an outlet to grieve and express themselves unabashedly and fully. Psychology and psychotherapy can be extremely expensive and sometimes too impersonal, so I wanted to create a casual environment of sharing and mutual emotional catharsis. This website and consultation service that you see is the product of my pain and suffering and has helped both myself and my clients improve their mental and emotional well-being.