What is Mindfulness
The basic definition of mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a non- judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences” (Merriam- Webster Dictionary).
One form of mindfulness is referenced as mindfulness meditation. But meditation is not required, just the simple act of staying present each moment of your day is an active act of Mindfulness. The basic idea is to focus on your body, mind, and the things around you. Many studies as well as empirical evidence exist as to the effectiveness of mindfulness.
Why Does It Work, and How Do We Know It Works
If you still have your doubts about the benefits of mindfulness. There have been studies in neuroscience in mindfulness and mindfulness meditation and what it does to the brain, as seen through neuroimaging.
A Look At One Study
Sources: The Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation” by Yi- Yuan Tang, et al. published in Nature Review Neuroscience in 2015.
Since the 1990s, mindfulness meditation has been applied to different medical and physical conditions and has received psychological research attention.
It suggests that mindfulness can be broken down into three stages of practice, early, intermediate, and advanced. The early stage focuses on one’s effort in doing. The intermediate is an effort in the reduction of mind wandering. The advanced stage is effortless being.
In the past ten years, 21 studies were conducted on brain morphometry-which refers to the process of measuring the outside shape and dimensions of living organisms (definition by Oxford Languages). The studies done vary in design and practices, and the results of such reported diverse effects covering various brain portions.
In general, the findings demonstrated that eight brain regions were altered by those who meditated. The portions of the brain that was affected were the frontopolar cortex (which suggested enhanced awareness), the sensory cortices and insult (which relate to body awareness), the hippocampus (which has to do with memory processes), the anterior cingulate cortex, midcingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex (which relates to self and emotional regulation) and the superior longitudinal fascicles and corpus callosum( which are areas involved with communication).
Overall, studies on this are not yet conclusive because it is a relatively new field of research. However, there is evidence that mindfulness causes changes to the structure and function of the brain regions about emotion, attention, and self- awareness.
Further research needs to happen, but if supported by rigorous research, this practice might be a promising treatment for disorders such as depression and might help develop a healthy mind and increase well-being.
Mindfulness and Depression
Depression triggers a part of the brain associated with emotional response. Although results are not conclusive, both operate and change the structure dealing with an emotional response. Practicing mindfulness may be good combat for depression.
According to Mindfulness Holds Promise For Treating Depression by Stacy Lu from the American Psychological Association, there has been growing research on this. In short, mindfulness trains people to be more aware of their negative thoughts and to observe them rather than control them. mindfulness is also being practiced as a form of behavioral therapy, and one of its strengths is the lack of side effects that one may get from medication. It may also give patients a greater sense of self- efficacy.
According to Helpguide.org and a Harvard Health article, mindfulness can greatly improve your well-being. The practice promotes and contributes to greater satisfaction in life. First, with mindfulness you get to savor life’s pleasures in real time. Second, mindfulness promotes full engagement in minute to minute activities which promotes your ability to deal with negative events. Third, not focusing on the future or past, but staying present in the moment helps alleviate a lot of stress, worry, and overwhelm.
Help Guide further notes, “If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can: help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.”
Mindfulness causes physical, structural changes in the brain. And by practicing mindfulness, you can enrich your life.