We hear the term "mindfulness" a lot, but how does it actually benefit us?
Our brains are malleable, which means that they can alter both structurally and functionally. Structural changes are physical changes in the brain, while functional changes refer to changes in how the brain works. Studies show that mindfulness is linked to both types of changes in the brain.
One of the most well-known forms of emotional and behavioural regulation training is mindfulness. It has been practised for thousands of years, and experts have recently become increasingly interested in the impact of mindfulness on the human brain. We're now seeing how it can help increase activity in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for cognitive tasks including emotion control and expression, judgement, problem solving, memory and behaviour.
The last part of the frontal cortex to develop is called the prefrontal cortex. It is located at the very front of your brain and is involved in many important behaviours such as planning, inhibition and decision-making. Some studies show that the prefrontal cortex activity appears to be more associated with the salience network following Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) interventions. This network plays a role in communication, self-awareness and social behaviour, all of which are important aspects of human success!
MBSR interventions also help strengthen the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, a key brain area for learning and memory. Did you know that it's shaped like a seahorse? According to research, the hippocampus has been linked to mood regulation, as well as influencing cortical arousal and responsiveness. It's no surprise that we feel more focused after meditating. Some studies report that following mindfulness interventions, the hippocampus becomes more active and contains more grey matter, which is made up of the cell bodies of neurons, also known as brain cells.
These structural and functional changes in the brain may explain the improvements that studies have seen in emotional regulation, anxiety and a variety of other areas following mindfulness programs (such as BrainAhead’s 8-Week Mindfulness course).
HOW CAN BRAINAHEAD HELP WITH MINDFULNESS?
The Mindfulness video program offered by BrainAhead contains and is based on MBSR ideas. It allows students to target and improve not only their emotional regulation and mindful awareness, but also their overall well-being. It is a vital component for success in the classroom.
Check out the following resources to learn more about how mindfulness affects the brain.
Gotink, R. A., Meijboom, R., Vernooij, M. W., Smits, M., & Hunink, M. G. M. (2016). 8-week mindfulness based stress reduction induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice – A systematic review. Brain and Cognition, 108, 32-41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2016.07.001
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2010;2011;). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research. Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36-43.