Five Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
What is mindfulness?
Before we get into the Five Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation, we should first discuss “What is mindfulness?”
Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
The history of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a term we often hear linked to meditation, mental health, psychology, and neuroscience. Since the 1970s, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have developed a number of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques, which have been employed to help people with a variety of psychological conditions.
MBSR was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn who saw a need to integrate teaches from the East with scientific study. The MBSR techniques created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and other similar mindfulness techniques have been employed in schools, prisons, hospitals, and veterans’ centers.
The history of mindfulness goes much further back then the 70s. It is derived from the Sanskrit word Sati, which translated to “awareness. Sati is a significant element of Buddhist traditions, similar concepts are also found in Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan meditation techniques.
The science behind mindfulness.
There is scientific evidence to show it helps with mental, physical, and emotional health. One such study showed that MBSR caused significant improvement in patients with social anxiety disorder. Specifically, mindfulness benefits attention control, more effective emotional regulation, enhanced social relationships, reduced risk for physical ailments, enhanced immune system functioning, and better sleep.
The findings surrounding mindfulness research usually refer to participants who take place in a formalized mindfulness meditation practice such as a body scan meditation. Mindfulness is also something we can bring into our everyday lives, by bringing our whole attention to our daily activities, such as walking, cleaning, preparing food, and getting ready for bed.
Five Benefits of Mindfulness
These Five Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation have been shown to increase neurons and grey matter in the brain’s frontal cortex, decrease grey matter in the Amygdala, increase Social Neural Circuitry, increases activation in the anterior subdivision of the cingulate cortex, and increased activation of the Insula, according to Psychology Today.
1) Frontal Cortex – Increased Emotional Control
Possibly the most promising finding for mindfulness is that mindful states achieved through meditation and other mindfulness practices, boost frontal cortex activity. Over time, the increased cortical strengthening boosts our capacity for rational thought and planning, promoting effective executive functioning, limbic modulation (emotional awareness and control), and impulse control as a function of the amount of time spent in meditative and mindful states.
2) Amygdala – Decreased Anxiety
Long-term mindfulness practice are strongly correlated with a reduction of grey matter and activity in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with fear and anxiety. A reduction in gray matter in this area would lead to a more balance, calmness, and overall mental well being.
It is believed that this reduction of grey matter in the amygdala can also create a buffer against any traumas which could lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
3) Social Neural Circuitry – Stronger Relationships
Mindfulness practices were found to be closely linked to relationship satisfaction. According to several studies, mindfulness practitioners have developed more grey matter in socially germane areas of the brain, compared to controls who did not practice mindfulness. This could mean that mindfulness practices increase our ability to establish and maintain emotionally nourishing relationships.
4) Anterior Cingulate Cortex – Increased Attention Span
MIndfulness increases activation in the anterior subdivision of the cingulate cortex, which plays a key role in motivation, attentional capacity, and motor control. Ultimately this increases one’s ability to sustain uninterrupted attention on cognitive tasks, and may contribute to enhanced limbic (emotional) control, as well as helping to regulate painful emotions.
5) Insula – Clearer Intuition
The Insula is where we get our “gut instinct.” It is the home of interoception, the internal sense of your body. Mindfulness has been shown to increase activation of this area. Which in turns leads to a better sense of what your body is telling you about your current situation and emotional state.
So how does all of this help you?
We hope this helps illustrate some of the science behind mindfulness. We at Eastern Science, like many of you, are more focused on the spiritual aspects of meditation, mindfulness, and right living, however, it is nice to see that there is scientific evidence backing up what these ancient techniques.
Meditation and mindfulness can help relief mental health issues that many of us face from over work, under sleep, stress that modern day life can throw at us. The tools we learn through meditation help to keep us grounded so we can make better decisions as we navigate through the world.