Benefits of Mindfulness

More evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness can be found in a report released in the Harvard Business Review.Over the years, there have been a number of extensive research studies where the practice has been thoroughly examined. One of the primary reasons for this close examination is that they have recognized that many people who have sought treatment for anxiety or depressive disorders do not always respond to the mainstream forms of interventions and treatments. Their goal was to examine mindfulness to determine if it was a possible alternative approach for those who were unable to respond to the predominant form of treatment.

The results of their studies have demonstrated a vast array of benefits both physically and mentally. On the physical side, many participants in the studies reported relief from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain. On the mental/emotional side, they reported relief in less anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The results showed that at the very least, mindfulness was on par with a number of other treatment methods. They tested their hypothesis that mindfulness could relieve these symptoms not just by the word of each of the participants but also by looking at the brain itself. Each participant was put into a scanner where researchers could actually observe the activity of the brain while they were asked to perform specific tasks. The purpose of the scans was to see if the thought processes inside the brain had changed after they had received mindfulness training.

While in the scanner, participants were asked to complete two different tasks, one that was designed to increase their awareness of their bodies by concentrating all of their attention on how their hearts beat, their breathing, etc. The other task required them to reflect on specific phrases that were similar to their own internal voice that only they could hear inside their heads. The phrases were the common negative phrases that most people say to themselves. “I am a loser,” and “I can’t go on” and “who do you think you are?”

After listening to these comments, the participants were asked to stop thinking about them but then to address the thoughts that were triggered in their own minds. The results of the study, concluded this year (2019), show that regular practice in mindfulness (over a period of eight weeks) showed that there were some differences in how the amygdala responded to certain stimuli. The amygdala, an area of the brain known to be important for emotions, had experienced some changes. According to Athinoula A. Martinos, the author of the report, it was the very first time they could scientifically prove that meditation like mindfulness could actually affect the emotional processing center in the brain even after being in a meditative state. Over the years, more studies have also been conducted supporting the same results.

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