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