10 Nov Mindfulness Series: The Science Behind Mindfulness
Next on our series on this journey through Mindfulness, we discuss the science that has helped make mindfulness a forefront modality of treatment in various areas of medical practice. The regular practice of nonjudgmental, intentional awareness on the moment-to-moment way of life has been around since the ancient civilizations of both East and West. Buddhist traditions, for example, have for thousands of years cultivated these traditions of mindful practice to positively affect the well-being of people’s life. Now, more and more, we are seeing science confirming these benefits. We want to delve into the research findings, which support that daily mindful practice is highly beneficial to our health.
Mindfulness practices include yoga, tai chi, qigong, centering prayer, chanting, and meditation derived from Buddhist traditions. All these practices center on the principle of internally focusing on the present moment, without judgment, but through the impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction concepts established by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Much of the in-depth research has trickled down into the psychological, neurological and physiological sciences.
Research done on the neural perspective of how mindfulness works indicates that it exerts effects on components of attention regulation, body awareness, and emotional regulation. When focusing on how mindfulness affects one’s sense of self, studies have shown that it positively helps in attaining a healthier and more coherent sense of self and identity within the principles of responsibility, authenticity, compassion, and self-acceptance. Neuroimaging studies have suggested that mindfulness practices are associated with changes in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, fronto-limbic network, key areas of the brain known to regulate mood and where the brain processes identity and self awareness.
Dr. Daniel Siegel is a maverick in the neurologic community with his concept of interpersonal neurobiology. Under this concept, Dr. Siegel built a mind-sight approach that applies the emerging principles of “interpersonal neurobiology” to promote compassion, kindness, resilience, and well-being in our daily lives, relationships, and communities. At the very center of both interpersonal neurobiology and the mind-sight approach is the principle of “integration” which encompasses the linkage of different aspects of a particular system whether in an individual or collection of people. The ultimate outcome of integration is internal harmony, the foundation of mindfulness. This field establishes that just as the brain can create neural pathways to learn, speak, and distinguish objects, it can also be taught to learn new pathways to self-health, happiness, resilience, and well-being.
Building on this concept of integration and the development of new neural connections in the brain, Dr. Rick Hanson wrote the book the Buddha’s Brain, where he delves into the science that helped shape the greatest minds of all time. Jesus, Moses, the Buddha along with other great teachers of their time were born with brains much like yours and mine. The difference between them and us is that they harnessed the power of their minds to change their brains. It is the science of how the mind is capable of changing our brains that Dr. Hanson confirms and teaches us how to do in his book. Buddha’s Brain joins modern science with ancient teachings to show you how to have greater emotional balance during stressful, tumultuous times, as well as healthier love relationships, effective actions, and greater peace of mind.
What is Science telling us about Mindfulness?
Scientific Research findings
- Research at the University of New Mexico has found that Mindfulness practice can decrease anxiety and help alleviate certain eating disorders.
- Office Workers who practice mindful meditation for twenty minutes a day reported an average 11% reduction in perceived stress.
- In eight weeks of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) a vast improvement in the immune system of people with breast or prostate cancer was observed, which correlated with decreased depression.
- A prison that offered Vipassana mediation training found that those who completed the course showed lower levels of drug use, greater optimism, and better self-control.
- Fifth grade female students who did a ten week program of yoga were more confident about their bodies and less preoccupied with weight.
- Cancer patients who tried MBSR showed improvement in mood and decreased stress.
- Those experiencing recurrent bouts of depression had a reduction of half through Mindfulness Cognitive Therapy.
These are just a few examples of studies done that show mindfulness has a positive effect on health and brain chemistry. It is as if your outlook on life completely changes. This is highly beneficial to those wanting treatment from addictions. It is especially important to incorporate mindfulness in Sober Living NY programs. Selecting an extended care program that incorporates these types of mindful practices is important for the over all well-being of individuals struggling with addiction.