This is Your Brain, This is Your Brain on Mindfulness
I remember growing up with a commercial of Bon Jovi’s voice, a frying pan, and an egg.
He was warning about the dangers of drugs, and showed a strong visual of an egg being fried in a pan.
If this visual depicts your mind on drugs, what would the visual depict if you were to meditate or practice yoga?
In recent years there have been an exploding number of articles and scientific research on the benefits of mindfulness.
Let’s start with something as simple asking - what is mindfulness? How is it “scientifically” defined?
Meditation is training in cognitive control, simply put, it is training for the mind, so that your thoughts are directed to where you want them to go.
Most of us find comfort in routine. Our brains enjoy patterns, as matter of fact, the brain recognizes patterns.
Try this simple activity:
Think about some of your favorite things: your new favorite song, your morning routine, your bedtime routine. Can you hear the tune in your head? Or recite the words when you think of the song? What about what you do in the morning or at night? Can you name what you do almost right away?
Sure, there are other reasons for why you are able to remember certain things and not others, it isn’t just your brain - it is also your genetic makeup, what you find interesting and exciting as a unique person, and many other things. However, regardless of personal tastes, our brains recognizes patterns and makes connections to those patterns.
If we put these two things together - meditation becomes a cognitive control that our brain responds to patterns and attaches onto it, then it begins to brings into light a bit more the importance of paying attention to what it is that we think.
When you have a thought, an electrical signal passes back and forth between the various neurons responsible for that thought. The human body is always trying to become more efficient. So every time two cells communicate, the brain builds a connection that makes it easier for them to do so in the future.
Your brain has the ability to recognize patterns, send an electrical signal and then on top of it strengthen this signal. Your thoughts are like roadways being created, or a path in the woods that the more walked, the more worn it becomes.
Now, back to the original question at hand, if your brain looks like scrambled eggs essentially from toxins being put into your body, what does it look like if you meditate and focus on watching your thoughts, and shifting your focus to positive intentions and most importantly making time for cognitive control?
Each time you have a thought - positive or negative - your brain is creating a pathway. The coolest part is, you get to choose. You create the thought! You really do choose the path! You can decide to create the path on your mind that is positive with each thought that you have.
Still need more proof? Don’t worry I have more :)
Research shows that those that (switch to who) practice mindfulness on a regular basis have the ability to calm their receptors of threat more quickly than those that (change to who) don’t practice meditation.
Those that (who) practice meditation on a regular basis have a (delete a) greater resiliency. It doesn’t mean that they don’t get triggered or feel threatened (actually reading this made me feel better, because Boston traffic definitely increases my not so chill receptors!), but what it does mean is that they are able to recover faster.
Scientists recently have also conducted experiments on multi-tasking. While multi-tasking is not encouraged, and some would argue not really a real thing, we as humans try to do more than one thing at a time - almost all the time (this is NOT a plug for being an advocate for texting while driving in that horrific Boston traffic!).
Research compared those that (who) multi-tasked and practiced mindfulness to those that multi-tasked and did not practice mindfulness. The results showed that when being pulled away from a task and then coming back to it - those that practiced mindfulness were much better able to focus their attention faster than those that did not practice mindfulness.
The research goes on and on, there is no shortage and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down! There is research comparing students that (who) were taught cognitive control / mindfulness versus those that were not. Results showed that children that practiced mindfulness were able to pay better attention.
If you want or need to change, try to change your thoughts and the pattern (change to patterns) of behavior that is associated with the area you which to change. Start off small, commit to 2 minutes a day, maybe when you first wake-up or just before (going to) bed.
Begin to recognize the times of day where your mind is active, and when it slows down a little more and the patterns and waves of thought aren’t so heavy.
If you still aren’t convinced think about it this way - if you have a physical fitness regime(n) for your physical body, why wouldn’t you have one for your mind?
If you are interested in learning more about meditation, check out these local resources below!