Mindfulness Meditation Enhances Brain Structure
Researchers at Harvard Medical School report that those who practice mindfulness meditation for about 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks had measurable changes in gray matter density in parts of the brain associated with anger, memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. MRI brain scans taken before and after the participants meditation routine found a reduction of gray matter density in the amygdala, the region connected to experiences of anger, anxiety and stress. The images also showed increased density in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. A control group that did not practice mindfulness meditation showed no such changes. Dr. Britta Holzel, the study’s lead author says, “The main idea is to use different objects to focus one’s attention, and it could be a focus on sensations of breathing, or emotions or thoughts, or observing any type of body sensations… It’s about bringing the mind back to the here and now, as opposed to letting the mind drift.”
There are now over a thousand publications documenting medical and psychological research on mindfulness meditation which demonstrate its validity and effectiveness. Practicing mindfulness helps individuals to:
- Recognize, slow down or stop automatic and habitual reactions.
- Respond more effectively to complex or provocative situations.
- See your situations more clearly.
- Become more creative.
- Achieve balance and resilience at work and in relationships.