Mindfulness Meditation Literally Changes Brain Structure

by Vins

The ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation has made its way across the globe and to the attention of the west. Mindfulness practices are becoming quite popular, with some good science behind the hype. According to a 2011 Harvard study, the regular practice of nonjudgmental, present-moment awareness in an eight week training period dramatically increased the brain’s gray matter as it also improved one’s ability to cope with stress. Mindfulness practice has gotten attention in businesses like Google, and other mentally-driven businesses in Silicon Valley.

The study reports that eight different regions of the brain showed significant amounts of gray matter growth, including the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus. These regions were mentioned because of their correlation with skills that could profit professionals in the working environment. The anterior cingulate cortex is correlated with focusing attention and supporting optimal decision-making. The increase of gray matter in the hippocampus is beneficial in combating stress related symptoms like depression and anxiety. In addition, neuroscientists found that mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, and pain tolerance.

Essentially, mindfulness is a “way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.” Many businesses can prosper in worker satisfaction the way big companies like Google do, by incorporating mindfulness training programs at the worksite. Individuals can usually find mindfulness trainings in your community.

Source: Christina Congleton, Britta K. Holzel and Sara W. Lazar, “Mindfulness Can Literally Change your Brain,” Harvard Business Review, January 8, 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/01/mindfulness-can-literally-change-your-brain

Student Researcher: Amber Loredo (San Francisco Sate University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco Sate University)