Mindfulness is a concept created in the 1970s that refers to the mental state that can be achieved when someone brings their awareness fully into the present moment. It is a meditative practice where people focus on the feelings, thoughts, and body sensations they are currently experiencing. Mindfulness practices have been used for decades to decrease stress, navigate anxiety, and form mental agility. These exercises are often used in a wide range of activities, from yoga to anger management.
Research has shown tremendous benefits in people who practice mindfulness regularly. In some situations, mindfulness has been proven to improve mental rumination, encouraging introspective thought. This has allowed people to use mindfulness as a tool to increase their focus, which aids in stress management. In other situations, mindfulness has helped with relationship satisfaction because it helps people understand how to respond well to the stressors in their relationships and communicate effectively with one’s partner. But what is the impact of mindfulness on the brain? Is it true that mindfulness can truly change the way your brain works?
5 Ways Mindfulness Transforms the Brain
There has been research for more than half of a decade that delves into what ways the brain experiences a transformation when someone incorporates mindfulness into their daily practice.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology showed that people with long-term meditation habits tend to have better-preserved brains than those people who do not meditate at all. While the volume loss in the brain is significant, there are many differences in the brains of people who practice mindfulness vs. those who do not. As it seems, mindfulness truly can change the way the brain functions over time.
#1. Meditation helps to preserve the aging brain
This concept has been the most studied by neurologists. As you may know, as the human body ages, the brain does, too. In the past, researchers have observed small effects in the brain that are visible in the regions associated with meditating. Currently, research shows that meditation has a widespread impact on brain functions as you age.
#2. Reducing the brain “Me Center”
Mindfulness is known to decrease activity in the default mode network, which relates to mind-wandering when people are not thinking of anything in particular. Mind-wandering and ruminating are associated with being less happy. People who meditate are more likely to be able to bring their mind back to the present if it wanders.
#3. Meditation reduces anxiety
Meditation is known to reduce stress, physically and mentally. One form of anxiety that many people are familiar with is social anxiety. Similar to the “me center” mentioned before, mindfulness draws people away from their mind-wandering and brings them into the current moment. This allows people to be focused on meeting and connecting people in person.
#4. Mindfulness helps with addiction
One huge benefit of mindfulness practice is that it helps with addiction. Mindfulness and meditation help engage the self-control regions of the brain. This control helps people navigate cravings. Research has found that mindfulness practices, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based relapse prevention techniques, can help treat several forms of addiction.
#5. Meditation helps children in school
Children’s brains are still developing, and because of this, engaging in meditative practices can have a big impact on them. Many educators have been using meditation breaks to help with the stress and traumas that may occur in school settings. For students who have been involved in daily mindfulness practices, their schools have seen an increase in GPA scores, a decrease in suspension rates, and more overall engagement in school activities.
Why You Should Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness has many other benefits for your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Mindfulness has been linked to lowering blood pressure, controlling pain, improving self-image, enhancing self-awareness, and improving sleep. These benefits manifest in your everyday life as well as your long-term brain health. Meditation not only changes the way your brain functions; it also changes the way your brain is structured.
Mindfulness changes the way your brain responds to distractions and changes around you. There is science behind these studies, but there is also a real-life effect. People who practice mindfulness reported that they felt less stressed and more at ease. This is the most important part. These reports from real people are what draw people into mindfulness practices. Meditation and mindfulness not only change the structure and function of the human brain, but they also change how people feel for the better.
Living with addiction can be difficult. You may feel sick at times or be unable to attend work or school. Some people even go to extreme lengths to maintain their addiction. Relationships with friends and family will suffer, and you may not be able to stop on your own. Mindfulness can be highly beneficial for those who are struggling with anxiety and depression. It can also help those who are having trouble with self-control. When it comes to things like addiction, self-control is a key component. Although it helps, for so many, it may take more than taking control of your mind. They will also need assistance from healthcare professionals. This is exactly why facilities like HealthyU can help you in your recovery or if you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety. If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety or substance use, you contact us at (619) 542-9542 for more information.