Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Since the days when I became interested in psychology, healing and spiritual practices – all of which support a mindful way of developing consciousness – a lot of books I’d read explained the benefits of mindful practices but nothing I’d read ever explained why it worked. I should clarify that for the most part I was satisfied with the whys being explained in the philosophical, psychological, metaphysical or spiritual sense but until recently I’d never thought to seek answers to the question ‘What’s the physiological explanation as to why meditation and mindfulness work?’ In fact, until technology met with scientists who wanted to know and explore the nature of physical changes which mindfulness creates the question remained unasked. Now science is actually able to observe not only how brain development is impeded as a result of abuse or trauma but also how the affected brain can be fortified within those who are involved in an ongoing practice of focused concentration and meditation. Participants in studies have had brain scans which show actual differences within the brain before they had been introduced to mindfulness and after these same participants practiced mindfulness for a period of eight weeks (Baime, 2011; Ireland, 2014).
What scientists found was that mindfulness had a very positive effect particularly on three areas of the brain linked with our emotional centre (Baime, 2011; Ireland, 2014). These three areas are the:
cortex: regulates thinking and reason (Graham, 2008) and is the part of our brain most recent to evolve – our ‘organ’ of consciousness and what makes us homo sapiens (McGill, n.d.)
hippocampus: integrates perceptions and emotions into memory, especially long-term memory (Siegel, 2015; Graham, 2008)
amygdale (there are two): respond to perceptions of fear and activate the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism (Graham, 2008) so whatever event stimulates the amygdale will surely cause a knee-jerk reaction
Since the brain is highly complex and its complexities are way beyond my scope of knowledge, for the sake of understanding and simplification I’ll concentrate on these three areas as applied to trauma and human development.
Next post: Trauma and the brain
Baime, M. (2011). This is your brain on mindfulness. Retrieved from www.amishi.com/lab/wp-content/uploads/SUN_July11_Baime.pdf
Ireland, T. (2014). What does mindfulness meditation do to your brain. Retrieved from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-does-mindfulness-meditation-do-to-your-brain/
Graham, L. (2008). The neuroscience of attachment. Retrieved from http://lindagraham-mft.net/resources/published-articles/the-neuroscience-of-attachment/
McGill University. (n.d.) The evolutionary layers of the human brain. Retrieved from http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/a/a_05/a_05_cr/a_05_cr_her/a_05_cr_her.html
Siegel, D. (2015). Brain insights and well-being. Retrieved from http://drdansiegel.com/blog/2015/01/22/brain-insights-and-well-being-3/
#science #mindfulness #trauma #technology #healing #psychological #metaphysical #spiritual #focusedconcentration #philosophical #spiritualpractice #integration #psychology #emotions #hippocampus #humandevelopment #fightorflight #amygdale #cortex #homosapien