Exploring the Impact of Mindfulness, Part 3

Over the last two weeks, we have begun examining the benefits and scientific underpinnings of Mindfulness. We resume the findings studies noted regarding the highly beneficial impact of Mindfulness over a short term period of regular practice.

In their studies isolating the unique benefits of Mindfulness, scientists also found significant changes in the amygdala, or the brain’s center for fight, flight, and freeze responses, following Mindfulness practices. During and after stressful, overwhelming, scary, and traumatic situations, the natural tendency of the amygdala is to increase in size. This prepares us for survival in whatever way is possible. However, in their studies, scientists saw the amygdala shrinking amongst practitioners of Mindfulness. In fact, the greater the stress reduction they noted, the smaller the amygdala become. Such a finding is valuable because it points to the resilience and clarity that Mindful awareness can bring on, particularly useful during difficult experiences. It is important to note that, in these studies, the changes noticed were documented to be independent of any other factors in the environment or personal characteristics of participants.

With this in mind, the studies show that Mindfulness does more than just help us to feel better in the moment. While participating with an improved state is valuable, there are greater benefits with Mindfulness. Understanding this physiology reflects the cumulative impact of Mindfulness. Furthermore, these findings show that not only are the benefits beyond a mere placebo response, but the benefits literally provide changes to our brain.

From a greater quality of life to facilitating depression and anxiety recovery, reducing stress, lowering pain, increasing concentration, cultivating creativity, reducing insomnia, and improving energy levels, the benefits of Mindfulness practice can easily enhance our lives. Furthermore, these findings show that not only are the benefits beyond a mere placebo response, but the benefits literally provide changes to our brain. This positions us to more effectively enact changes in our lives that will cultivate more fulfilling experiences.

One reason I offer the Mindfulness Matters Challenge to the community is because I think everyone can benefit from improving their quality of life through this practice. With the understanding of the scientific and neurobiological underpinnings of Mindfulness, we can see there are a number of benefits from Mindfulness – a practice that helps us to better structure the 50-70 thousand thoughts we have each day. It can be a powerful tool in helping us to restructure what we are looking to build in our lives.

In fact, each of the graduates of my 8 session Mindful Monday group has shared powerful life changes during and after the group. In particular, these practitioners found that, over time, it became easier to practice Mindfulness, that it got easier to bring their awareness back to the present experience, and that the time between their mind wandering was prolonged. In addition, they also noted that it became easier to simply accept that their minds would wander throughout the practice. In conjunction with the physiological benefits, they noticed significant changes in their lives upon the completion of the series. Some still reach out to me to share further gains and triumphs.

Over the last several weeks, we have explored the neurophysiological changes we see as a result of a consistent, brief Mindfulness practice. In conjunction with that, we have investigated some of the noted and unique benefits that this powerful practice can bring into our daily lives. I further discuss these practices with Deborah Turner in her weekly show. Feel free to listen here for additional information.

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