Mindfulness & the Brain

Mindfulness is a state of being, achieved when one bring’s the mind’s attention into the present moment.

Training the mind to attune to the present moment, rather than focus on the future or the past is an art, and may be easier said than done. This is especially true because the mammalian brain is geared towards survival and thus limited thinking.  This limited thinking leads to cycles of negative thinking rather than creative use of the mind.

What can we do about this? The latest research about neuroplastic changes in the brain suggest:

Attention is like a spotlight, illuminating what it rests upon, thus neuroplasticity (flexibility within the brain) fosters our ability for heightened attention or focused awareness acting like a vacuum cleaner, sucking contents into the brain.  Thus DIRECTING attention skillfully, the essence of  mindfulness, is therefore a fundamental way to shape the brain and one’s life over time.

Opening to mindfulness requires us to slow down and be still.  Stillness helps us recover and heal, literally creating new neural pathways in the brain.  Below are several ways to step into stillness:

  • Breath in the positive
  • Sit in a quiet place, close the eyes and tune in to station 101-Quieting the Mind
  • Surround yourself with positive reflections
  • Choose esteem-able actions
  • Ask for help
  • Surrender to change, and receiving wellness
  • Sit still for five minutes and breath
  • Bare witness to the present moment
  • Choose new patterns
  • Journal

Research shows meditation increases gray matter in the following parts of the brain:

  • the Insula controls self-awareness and empathy for emotions;
  • the Hipppcampus controls visual-spatial memory and establishes context, inhibiting amygdala and cortisol–stress responses;
  • and the Pre-frontal Cortex, which manages executive functions and attention control.

Heidi Most–Associate Professor, MUIH
(Power Point and Text)