What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is quite often discussed when speaking in terms of wellness and wellbeing however it is very rarely defined and discussed of its impacts to the brain. A very broad and basic definition of mindfulness could be considered a mental state of awareness when solely focusing on the present, while also recognizing any feelings both physical and emotional. There are several different types of mindfulness that one can practice however some research has suggested that two of the most effective mindfulness techniques for university students may be Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Transcendental Mindfulness. Both these types of mindfulness use different techniques but achieve similar goals, to be more aware of one’s self.
How Does Mindfulness Change the Brain?
Mindfulness has many positive impacts physically and mentally, one of these positive impacts is its ability to change the brain. There are many different ways that this happens however some of the most researched and understood changes are as follows:
- Mindfulness can lead to changes in brain volume
There has been extensive research looking into the effects that mindfulness has on brain volume and there have been studies which have shown that mindfulness can increase brain volume in key regions. The two regions in the brain which saw the largest increase in volume were the hippocampus and the temporoparietal junction. These areas of the brain are responsible for memory, emotion regulation as well as empathy and compassion. An increase in volume in these areas can help to better control emotions and perhaps help with stress reduction.
- Mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a very significant form of mindfulness which has major changes on stress and anxiety. This form of mindfulness may also create brain volume changes which may lead to reduced stress and anxiety; however, it also instills many techniques which may be very useful in reducing stress when faced with a situation while increasing an individual’s coping abilities.
- Mindfulness can improve attention
Current research suggests that practicing mindfulness, even for a short period of time can improve focus and one’s attention span. This increase in attention has also been connected with improved memory, cognition and mood, all which is likely to be connected to the structural and volume changes that mindfulness can initiate.
- Mindfulness can reduce aging of the brain
There has been new and emerging research that suggests that consistent mindfulness practice may be a strong factor is slowing the aging of the brain. There has been research which has shown that those who practice mindfulness may be able to slow the decline in grey matter in the brain, which is typically associated with aging. It has been seen that practicing mindfulness will preserve the grey matter in the brain and can help with better brain functioning.
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