“We can use our minds, to change our brains, to change our minds”
–Rick Hanson, PhD
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has become one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy and even for performance enhancement. Even NFL clubs are known to employ mindfulness coaches to help their athletes with performance. But what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is hard to define, it needs to be experienced. Like for anything, you set off on this journey, and the experiences become deeper and more natural. However, a mindful experience is said to be marked by:
How do we Benefit from Practicing Mindfulness?
Mindfulness practice has been shown to develop our brain in favourable ways.
Improved Attentional Regulation
- The experience of life is made up of what we pay attention to
- Perception is reality
- Perception provides opportunity
- …of thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations
- Increased positive moods
- Decreased reactivity & negative moods
- Self-awareness of one’s own values/tastes, decisions about future interests/activities and a “truer” sense of self
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize, creating new neural connections over the lifespan. With mindfulness:
But, how can this practice of paying attention, intentionally, in the present moment, with curiosity and non-judgement actually make a difference in our lives? There is a substantial body of neuroscientific of evidence to show that this practice – which looks like you’re simply doing nothing to an observer – is in fact a workout for your brain. That is, it empowers the structure and function of your brain.
Why do Most People Practice Mindfulness?
Most people practice mindfulness to relax and reduce stress. As such, most people practice it for general well-being and disease prevention. However, special populations often use it to improve performance, i.e., athletics, rehabilitation, etc.
What are the Medical Conditions that Mindfulness Helps?
Observation from research studies have shown benefit to relaxation practices in the following conditions:
- Blood Pressure
- Insomnia and improving sleep quality
- Stress management
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Improving lifestyle and well-being in Cancer
However, as mindfulness strengthens your nervous system, it’s benefits will be experienced more pervasively by many.