For ages, mindfulness has been the cure for anger, anxiety, and other negative emotions for people around the world. The most notable benefits of having a more positive outlook that includes compassion, empathy, and forgiveness, are now being expanded on by researchers and have grown to include health benefits for a whole range of physical and mental issues. What we can now say with confidence is that more than good vibes there is hard science behind mindfulness.
This is a great time for those interested in mindfulness, just look at some of the recent headlines:
Mindful moments bring stress relief
Mindfulness Therapy Might Help Veterans With Combat-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Mindfulness in the workplace on the rise
Mindfulness at School Reduces Depression-Related Symptoms in Adolescents
Evidence Supports Health Benefits of 'Mindfulness-Based Practices'
Anyone who practices the techniques already knows the good it can bring into our lives, but what is changing is the scientific foundation is being laid with results validated in empirical studies.
Recently, the science behind mindfulness was been laid out in a new model by researchers at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital (BWH). They sought to create a description of the different cognitive dimensions involved, and found that there is a whole range of complex mechanisms involved in the state of being mindful.
What that means is mindfulness is not the goal, but instead an end result. A person needs to first find the intention and motivation for becoming mindful, and when this is sincere it is followed by a growing awareness of one’s bad habits. Once this is set in motion a person can begin regulating their behavior, and taming themselves, with the end result of becoming less emotionally reactive, and finding the ability to recover faster from negative emotions.
Through continued practice, the person can develop a psychological distance from any negative thoughts and can inhibit natural impulses that constantly fuel bad habits,
David Vago, PhD, BWH Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, and lead study author.
One of the findings of the study was that there are six active mechanisms in the brain during mindfulness practice:
- intention and motivation
- attention regulation
- emotion regulation
- extinction and reconsolidation
- pro-social behavior
- non-attachment and de-centering
And that it is these processes working in combination that form that state we call mindful.
The study authors also noted that this behavior reduces biases, our attachments to things we like, and aversions to things we don't like.
The result of practice is a new You with a new multidimensional skill set for reducing biases in one's internal and external experience and sustaining a healthy mind
Overall what we are seeing is that as awareness grows in the general public, serious attention is being focused on understanding not just what mindfulness is, but also how is can be fostered and developed in people both young and old.
Perhaps, in years to come, the studies we’ll be reading will instead be talking about the benefits being seen from the results of mindfulness programs having been introduced into the public health and education curricula. With each passing day it becomes harder to argue against the benefits of helping people find a better way of life by living more at peace in their own brains.
This new model of mindfulness was published in the October 25, 2012 issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and was presented to The Dalai Lama in a private meeting, entitled "Mind and Life XXIV: Latest Findings in Contemplative Neuroscience."