Mindfulness meditation affects the brain in remarkable, powerful ways. However, sitting still can be challenging when we live busy lives. But what if tiny nuggets of silence every day could strengthen your memory, help you deal with stress, expand your self-awareness, and offer a pause between cause and response?
There are many different types of meditation, but mindfulness meditation specifically is a practice that has been around for centuries, gaining popularity in recent years. But what exactly is mindfulness meditation, and how does it affect the brain? Let’s take a look at the science behind mindfulness meditation to see how this age-old practice can improve cognitive performance.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing on your breath and other bodily sensations while sitting in silence. The thing that you focus on is called the “anchor”. This can be an anchoring thought or an anchoring breath. The anchor keeps you grounded in your meditation while becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment without criticism. A common visualization in mindfulness meditation is to “observe your thoughts as they come and go in your brain like clouds, without judgment.”
With practice, the ability to observe without having to label things as “good or bad” eventually expands to other parts of your life — not just your thoughts. Those who practice mindfulness meditation consistently often find that they have more “space” between the things they find upsetting and how they respond to them. Imagine having the natural ability to pause, instead of react.
Practicing mindfulness meditation can help you cultivate more self-awareness, decrease pain and discomfort, reduce stress, and increase your focus and concentration.
The Brain Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Research suggests that mindfulness meditation can affect certain areas of the brain responsible for decision-making, memory formation, and self-control. A study conducted by psychiatrists showed that regular mindfulness meditation could lead to increases in gray matter concentration in certain parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory, emotional regulation, sense of self, empathy, and perspective taking.
Studies have also shown that mindfulness meditation can reduce activity in the amygdala—the part of the brain involved with fear response—thereby decreasing anxiety levels. Finally, research suggests that mindfulness meditation may also help improve executive functioning skills such as decision-making by activating areas of the prefrontal cortex related to working memory capacity.
A common misconception of meditation is that it takes an excruciatingly long time to reap the benefits, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many studies, including those linked on this blog, were conducted over a span of only 8 weeks. Is a few minutes of your time each day, for two months, worth having a calmer and more productive brain? We think so.
Begin by finding a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed for at least 10 minutes.Set a timer for 10 minutes on your phone. Sit comfortably with your back straight and close your eyes if it helps you focus better. Some folks use a sleeping mask or ear plugs to reduce outside stimulation, while others prefer to lie down instead of sitting up straight. There is no wrong way to do this— so go with what makes you most comfortable.
Once you are situated, begin by paying attention to your breath. Notice how your breath feels as it enters and leaves your body. Pay close attention to how your inhales and exhales feel different each time. As thoughts float into your mind (and they will, this is normal), simply watch them come and go like strangers walking on the sidewalk. Then, gently, redirect your attention back to the rise and fall of your chest with every breath.
This is mindfulness meditation.
After 10 minutes or so, slowly open your eyes and take stock of how you feel both mentally and physically. You may find that the first few times were difficult, or it might have been easy for you to gently fall into a meditative state. For those who would like guided meditations rather than sitting in silence, we recommend Insight Timer. Insight Timer has thousands of free, guided meditations that can help you get started. The app also offers many audio meditations that are simply sounds, like the jungle, birds chirping, or rain. You can filter what kind of meditation you’d prefer, how long you would like to meditate, and if you want to meditate on a specific topic.
Again, there is no wrong way. Start how you like and in the way that is most comfortable for you.
Meditation is a powerful way to manage stress, anxiety, and to calm the nervous system. We share this information with our clients and the world so that IV Revival can support others in their journey to living a full and healthy life.
If life seems extra stressful for you, we recommend adopting mindfulness meditation as a tool for support. We also suggest adding IV therapy to your toolbag as well. In addition to a calm brain, you can can relax the muscles and the nervous system with our Revive IV therapy treatment.
This specific concoction works wonders for improved energy, a better mood, deeper sleep, and increased brain function. Revive also reduces anxiety and depression while detoxifying the body. If you have any questions about how IV therapy can support your journey to a more stress-free life, we invite you to call us to talk. Our team of nurses have decades of experience in the field of health and wellness and would be happy to chat.