Mindfulness has been named by many to be the hottest wellness trend of 2015 and researchers are racing to keep up with the public interest. The results of hundreds upon hundreds of studies on mindfulness have been surprisingly positive and significant, showing that mindfulness practice positively impacts everything from parenting to heart health, reducing depression and PMS, even improving test-taking and sleep quality!
How can one practice impact such a diverse array of symptoms and experiences? As researchers continue to seek understanding, there are a few things we know for sure. Mindfulness practice benefits consist in part from cognitive and physiological changes experienced. Physiological changes that occur during meditation include a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol levels and breathing rate. Some cognitive factors that contribute are:
- attention regulation (learning to practice focused attention)
- body awareness (attending to physical sensation as subject of attention)
- emotion regulation (as a product of attention to emotions without attempts to change)
- change in perspective on the self (the awareness that thoughts are not extent of the self)
We have also become aware of some astounding and long-term changes that occur in the brain with as little as eight weeks of mindfulness practice. These include:
- increased gray-matter density in the left hippocampus (important for learning and memory)
- increased gray-matter in temporo-parietal junction (important for perspective taking, empathy, and compassion)
- decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala (known to play an important role in anxiety and stress)
While we have much to learn in terms of HOW mindfulness works, we know for sure that it DOES work. As little as 30 minutes of daily practice can drastically impact your physical and mental health so start today!
If you would like to experience the benefits of mindfulness practice first-hand and are local to the Columbus, Ohio area, join me for my Weekly Mindful Living Group. Each weekly session includes 20-30 minutes of practicing a new mindfulness skill (such as sitting meditation, walking meditation, body scan, breathing exercises, etc) and discussion about establishing a personal practice that works for you. Contact me below for more information!