Becoming More Mindful Through Meditation To Increase Brain Power
Mindfulness training is a widely accessible activity which is deeply rooted in centuries old Buddhist meditation practices. Scientific inquiry into understanding the neuroscience behind this ancient spiritual practice, specifically, Contemplative Neuroscience has applied leading-edge neuroimaging techniques showing that regular, mindfulness meditation practice increases aspects of brain function and structure that tend to decline with normal aging.
This includes areas in the prefrontal cortex, responsible for organization, planning, and attention, as well as the hippocampus, responsible for learning and memory, all of which tend to decline in size and activity over time.
Addional supporting research shows that mindfulness meditation strengthens brain activity and connectivity, psychological well-being, as well as brain volume. These data indicate that meditation can counteract memory issues and general cognitive decline associated with;Mild Cognitive Impairment;and;dementia.
How To Practice Intentional Breathing
1. Sit comfortably and observe your natural breath. Start by finding a comfortable position like sitting upright in a chair or lying on your back. Begin to observe your breath just as it is. Notice where the breath flowsupper chest, lower belly, front, back, or sides. As you do, try to avoid placing judgment on how you are breathing or attaching a story to it. Just as if you were a scientist studying a cell under a microscope, see if you can examine all of the details of your breath one at a time and make mental notes of them. Observe how you are breathing just as you are. Its an interesting exercise. You may notice that the act of observing your breath slows down your respiration rate.
2. Place your hands on your chest and belly. Place your right hand on your breastbone in the center of your chest. Place your left hand so that your thumb is below your navel. Continue to breathe normally and observe whether you are breathing more into your right hand or left hand. See if you can resist the urge to change your breath or make it deeper. Breathe as normally as you can and observe how it is to be in your body, breathing normally. How does it feel? What do you notice? Continue for at least 10 breaths.
7. Notice how you feel. Was the exercise simple or difficult? Did breathing slowly and fully seem usual to you? How do you feel physically? Emotionally? Energetically? If you like, write down your experience.
Mindfulness May Help University Students Reduce Stress
Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular intervention in universities . With a growing number attending university, at a stage of their lives in which the onset of mental health issues is more likely , there is a greater demand for student mental health services.
Previous research has shown the effectiveness of mindfulness in improving symptoms of common mental health disorders and evidence has suggested that school-based interventions can have a positive effect on wellbeing and reducing stress . However, to date, there has been little robust evidence for the prevention of common mental health issues in university students.
Galante et al.s recently published;randomised controlled trial sought to find out whether mindfulness training for university students could increase their resilience to stress.
The number of students accessing university counselling in some services in the UK grew by 50% from 2010 to 2015 .
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Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain
The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just;now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits from changes in;grey matter volume to reduced activity in the me centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects arent simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, theres good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.
Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain
Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brains Me Center”
Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety
Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas;of the Brain
Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention;
Meditation Reduces Anxiety and Social Anxiety
Meditation Can Help with Addiction
Short Meditation Breaks Can Help Kids in School
Worth a Try?
Is There Evidence Mindfulness Works
In the last few years, there has been an exponential increase in mindfulness research, according to Dr. Sinha. The research has just completely exploded. There have been lots of different studies, she says. Various findingssome from National Institutes of Health -funded researchhave shown that mindfulness can help reduce stress and increase well-being, and help in the treatment of addiction, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, cancer, chronic pain, heart disease, stress, and many other mental and physiological problems.
Hedy Kober, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology, and director of the Clinical & Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Yale School of Medicine, is interested in the benefits of brief mindfulness interventions. A lot of mindfulness researchincluding some of my own early workuses individuals who are experienced meditators. For some people thats a lot of investment, and what they might want to know is that with a little effort they might start seeing a little bit of benefit, and that can help them to do even more, she says.
One of Kobers most recent studies involved recruiting people who had never meditated, teaching them to be mindful in a moment, and studying the effects of doing so on the brain. The effect was so pronounced that when participants were practicing mindfulness and subjected to physical pain , their brains responded as if they were experiencing a lower, less intense temperature.
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Where Mindfulness Comes In
The concepts of meditation and mindfulness are very similar. While meditation typically involves trying to enter a different state of consciousness,;mindfulness means becoming aware of the present moment. In this way, you might think of mindfulness as one step on the path toward meditation. Both of these practices may be helpful for reducing anxiety because they enable you to reduce worry and be aware without being fearful.
Calming The Nerves Before An Exam
When we are in fight-or-flight mode, our body increases our heart rate, sharpens our eyesight and our hearing and shuts down most other things. So anything learners can do to remind the brain that the exam isnt a threat is really helpful, Amy says.
However, it doesnt hurt to hang on to a bit of that fight-or-flight edge.
Its about finding that sweet spot where the mind is clear and sharp thanks to a bit of adrenaline, but not too stressed so that everything shuts down and we cant think, she continues.
But what can students do to achieve this?
The very act of breathing slowly actively deactivates fight or flight and activates our parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as rest and digest mode. So simply taking a few moments to close the eyes and focus on the breath going in through the nose and out again can be very powerful, she says.
If the heart is really racing, then try purposefully slowing the breath down through counting, making the exhale a little longer than the inhale. For example, breathe in for a count of 4, breathe out for 4; breathe in for 4, breathe out for 6; breathe in for 4, breathe out for 8 etc, says Amy.
Teachers can also help students experience exams with mindfulness. Amy recommends taking two approaches to reduce exam stress. The first one is related to the circumstances of the exam itself and helping students see it as a less threatening event.
The second one is a more long-term strategy.
Heres how to go about it.
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Wish Other People Happiness
You only need 10 seconds to do this practice from author and former Google pioneer Chade-Meng Tan. Throughout the day, randomly wish for someone to be happy. This practice is all in your head. You dont have to tell the person, you just have to set the positive energy. Try it on your commute, at the office, at the gym, or while you wait in line. Bonus points if you find yourself annoyed or upset with someone and you stop and wish them happiness instead. With eight Nobel Peace Prize nominations, Meng might be onto something.
Mindfulness Creates New Connections In The Brain
Mindfulness helps us achieve growth of new neural networks in the brain. By growing neural networks, you are essentially rewiring your brain to find better and new ways to handle tasks and cope with stress and emotions. You are also helping yourself increase your focus.
Practicing mindfulness has been shown in research;to increase gray matter in the brain. Gray matter holds most of the actual brain cells compared the other structures of the brain. An increase in density may mean an increase in connectivity between the cells, and an increase in two areas known as the pons and raphe nucleus can improve our overall psychological well-being.
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A Buffer Against Stress
Based on their own work, Creswell and his colleagues have proposed that mindfulness acts as a buffer against stress. It does this by increasing activity in regions of the prefrontal cortex that are important for top-down stress regulation while reducing activity and functional connectivity in regions associated with the brains fight-or-flight stress response in particular, the amygdala.
Two studies by Creswell and his colleagues on small groups of unemployed adults experiencing stress show some initial findings that seem to support their view. Both examined the effects of three days of intensive mindfulness meditation training. One report found reduced functional connectivity between the right amygdala and a brain region that plays a role in modulating emotions.
Another reported increased connectivity between regions engaged when the brain is at rest and parts of the prefrontal cortex involved in regulating stress. That study also found that mindfulness meditation led to reduced levels of interleukin-6, a biomarker in the blood for systemic inflammation thats elevated in high-stress populations.
Do You Need More Help
Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area. Find your local CMHA here.
Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental;Health Association is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada.;Through a presence in hundreds of neighbourhoods across every province, CMHA provides advocacy and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.
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How To Be Mindful Right Now
Focus on your breath for a few minutes. Feel your chest rise and fall, notice the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits your nose. When your mind wanders, simply return your attention to the breath. Focus on the present moment: the here and now. Notice this very moment; it feels good to be alive, right now.
If you don’t immediately feel a complete release of anxiety, remember: most of the benefits of mindfulness require consistent practice. While some changes bolster against anxiety even after one single yoga class, most benefits require several weeks, months, and even years to create a noticeable change. And, like any skill, you will need to continue to practice mindfulness after you start to maintain the improvements.
Interested in participating in a research treatment study for anxiety? Visit gatestudy.org for more information.
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Ag: Are The Habits You Advocate For Teens Useful As They Grow Into Adulthood Are These Lifelong Skills
DV: Mindfulness is absolutely a lifelong path. And just like any lifelong practice, it will grow, it will evolve, it will change. My mindfulness practice today is not the same as it was one year ago or five years ago or 15 years ago. And I expect the same thing for teenagers. They will grow and develop it as they need it, as their life changes, and as they learn.
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Is Mindfulness Helpful For Everyone
“Mindfulness isn’t the answer to everything, and it’s important that our enthusiasm doesn’t run ahead of the evidence,” says Professor Williams.
“There’s encouraging evidence for its use in health, education, prisons and workplaces, but it’s important to realise that research is still going on in all of these fields. Once we have the results, we’ll be able to see more clearly who mindfulness is most helpful for.”
Mindfulness For Stress & Anxiety Reduction
Mindfulness is an ancient form of mind training that builds qualities such as stability of focus, tranquillity, clarity, openness and contentment. Mindfulness first developed in Buddhism, but in recent years mindfulness based therapy has established itself, with research evidence showing it can help depression, anxiety, and symptoms linked to stress. Yet mindfulness is not itself a therapy, and nor is it a religious practice – it can help anyone, and it doesn’t entail any particular belief system.
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How Mindfulness Helps You Cope With Stress
A new study finds that being mindful can affect not only how you feel about the stressors of your life, but how you actively cope with them.
A growing body of research finds that mindful people tend to be happier and feel less stressed. Were not entirely sure why this happens. One possible explanation is that mindful individuals have an easier time taking lifes challenges in stride, and are more flexible in the ways they deal with difficulties. This, in turn, may improve their health and well-being.;
To find out if this might be true, researchers asked 157 undergraduate students at the University of Connecticut to fill out an online mindfulness questionnaire at the beginning of the school year. The following month, students completed a daily online questionnaire at the end of each day for seven days.
The daily survey included a list of 17 potential stressors. Students indicated which of those stressors theyd experienced that day, then rated which event was the worst or most bothersome. They then answered questions about the worst event that day, such as how stressful it was and how much control they felt. Next, they were given a list of possible coping strategies like acceptance, positive reappraisal, self-blame, or giving up, and asked which of these theyd used to deal with their worst stressor of the day. Lastly, they rated their mood using a list of emotions like inspired, active, determined, afraid, upset, or ashamed.
How To Identify Burnout
Before we can combat burnout effectively, we of course need to identify what we are dealing with. Understanding the warning signs of burnout better can be one of the best resources to help ourselves, as well as others who may be displaying the signs that they are in too deep. Here is a list of some of the physical and mental symptoms
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Getting Started With Mindfulness
To start having mindful moments, identify an everyday activity where your thoughts tend to wander into painful memories, ruminating on problems or worrying about the future. It could be brushing your teeth, eating lunch, walking, taking the train any part of your day.
Next time that happens, try this mindfulness starter:
- Focus on what your senses say to you. What can you see, hear, taste, touch and smell? Dont analyse or think about it much, just notice what youre sensing.
- If your attention wanders, thats okay. Noticing is part of mindfulness. Gently bring your mind back to your senses.
- Thoughts and feelings will come and go while youre being mindful. Let them. Theyre just thoughts. Keep your awareness on your senses, anchoring you in the present moment while everything else drifts harmlessly by.
- Now focus your attention on your breath. Feel the air go in and then go out, noticing the pauses in between. Try not to control or change your breath: instead allow the air to come and go.
- Try this for a couple of minutes or so at first. Its normal to feel distracted and find it hard, but that can change quickly with practice.
If its working for you, let mindfulness spread into other parts of your day. Practise more little moments of mindfulness, when youre waiting for the kettle to boil or the bus to come. Try it sitting still or moving around, in the morning, last thing at night.
How Mindfulness Helps The Brain Function More Efficently
Mindfulness can be described as a way of training attention and fostering awareness. This can be done through a formal attention training program or the informal practice and application of being more attentive and engaged during daily activities.
When the brain is not engaged in higher order thinking processess it activates the minds default mode network which can be conceptualized as the brain involved in self-related thinking and mind wandering.
Excess time in the default mode network has been connected to lower mental health outcomes and higher levels of amyloid-beta deposits in the brain. Luckily, mindfulness training can reduce default mode activity, while stimulating other aspects of healthy brain function.
Cognitive processes refers to mental functions that are used to interact with the world around us and perform tasks involved in everyday life. Certain aspects of cognitive processes such as attention, cognitive flexibility, and self-awareness can decline with age. However, mindfulness has been shown to improve these cognitive processes.
Research has shown that becoming more aware of your mental states increases activity in the prefrontal cortex and helps you better regulate your emotional center in your brain . Additionally, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex works in concert with posterior regions in the brain to help seasoned meditators strengthen the brain network that allows us to pay attention to a task at hand and ignore distractions.
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