The Brain is Your Most Important Muscle
Exercising Your Brain is as Important as Exercising Your Muscles
Research shows that those who practice extensive meditation show improvements on cognitive function tests[i] and in mood.[ii] Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs first popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn help create a link between mindfulness and greater mental function. This approach has extensive scientific research to support the wellness claims, including the positive effects on mood[iii] and stress.[iv] Notwithstanding, the MBSR programs require a significant investment of time (8+ weeks) and money. As a result, most people do not have the time or resources to participate in these extensive meditation practices.
The Importance of Practice
This brain transformation occurs as a part of ongoing “mental practice” which exercises the brain in order to achieve greater mindfulness. In fact, according to Fadel Zeidan, PhD, a neurobiology expert at Wake Forest School of Medicine, “our lifestyle and behavior can significantly influence the way that our brain is shaped.”
Furthermore, people who meditate regularly are able to process higher levels of compassion and awareness compared to individuals that did not meditate, says Zeidan. In fact, research from Zeidan support this claim. For example, participants that practice a minimum of 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation activity for four days show greater improvements on mindfulness tests and cognitive tests.[v]
This research by Zeidan focuses on mindfulness meditation (MM), which is a mental practice to focus on the sensations of the breath/body while maintaining a relaxed state of mind. According to their study, MM was attained in the following series of steps:
First, subjects are to relax, with eyes closed, and simply focus on the flow of their breath occurring at tip of their nose. If a random thought appears, simply notice and acknowledge the thought and let ‘‘it” go, by bringing the attention back to the sensations of your breath.
Second, subjects will focus on their full breath. That is to say, to focus on the sensations of the breath from the nostrils to the abdomen and back.
Third, participants begin to notice and focus on any sensations that arise in their body, and to simply acknowledge these feelings and to return your attention back to their breath.
Last, the participants must self-assess the effectiveness of their meditation by answering the following question – “Did you feel that you were truly meditating?”
Rewiring Your Brain Through Mindfulness Practice
To sum up, the practice of mindfulness meditation works by rewiring your brain to think in a calm and clearer manner. These changes occur both consciously and more importantly in the subconscious mind. This is why it is difficult to recognize the effective changes after one session. Rather, it takes a commitment of multiple sessions over days, to weeks for the subconscious rewiring to take conscious shape. More important is that a commitment to mindfulness practice be realized. Specifically, feel free to visit a recent blog post on motivation lifehacks that can help build your commitment.
The Success Trinity is passionate about nurturing others to find personal success. Above all, the foundation of our philosophy is to attain greater mindfulness and compliment it through positive motivation techniques. Therefore, the start of a mindfulness practice is no different; one must be continually motivated to commit to a mindfulness practice. Moreover, that commitment must continue until the practice becomes automatic and the subconscious rewiring begins to take shape.
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Wishing you a peaceful day…
[i] Cahn, B. R., & Polich, J. (2006). Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 180–211. doi:10.1037/0033- 2909.132.2.180.
[ii] Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., et al (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570. doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3
[iii] Nyklícek, I., & Kuijpers, K. F. (2008). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention on psychological well-being and quality of life: Is increased mindfulness indeed the mechanism? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35(3), 331–340. doi:10.1007/s12160-008-9030-2.
[iv] Carlson, L. E., Speca, M., Faris, P., & Patel, K. D. (2007). One year pre-post intervention follow-up of psychological, immune, endocrine and blood pressure outcomes of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 21(8), 1038–1049. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2007.04.002
[v] Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.