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How mindfulness reverses the effects of trauma

Updated: Jul 29, 2019


So, my question was, “Why, when I was committed to a practice of extended concentration and sustained focus on the breath, did it somehow enable the capacity within me to allow the tiniest flutter of inner balance to creep into my consciousness before my being caught up in an impulsive tirade resulting in my making a fool of myself and regretting it?” Well... MRI scans of participants involved in mindfulness studies have revealed mindfulness practice builds gray matter (Congleton, 2015) and engages the cortex, while it shrinks the amygdale which is associated most closely with emotional reactivity and fear. This means the standard ‘fight or flight’ response to stress becomes overtaken by our more conscious and thoughtful area of the brain – the cortex (Ireland, 2014). Perhaps the most significant finding about mindfulness is that it shifts dominance from right to left-brain functioning (Siegel, 2010). This happens when previously unused pathways in the brain laying dormant are ‘ignited’, beginning a process of linking areas of the brain which had remained unintegrated (Graham, 2008). Since the hippocampus can produce new neurons all throughout life (Siegel, 2015) mindfulness can reshape the brain to support new linkages and integration with different areas (de Llosa, 2011). As the brain becomes more supported through integrated neural pathways, formed networks and greater structures the better it functions (Graham, 2008). All this change means the newer and more evolved cortex – the thinking, reasoning, rational part of the brain – and the regions responsible for learning and memory processes influence the brain’s the ability to regulate emotions, to take on others’ perspectives, to more accurately determine beliefs, experiences and ideas about the self (Davis, 2012; Congleton, 2015). The mind becomes quieter as the high levels of stress hormones in the brain diminish, clearing the pathway for clearer functioning. That pretty much answers my question.

Next post: Home, home on the mental health range

References:

Congleton, C. (2015). Mindfulness can literally change your brain. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/01/mindfulness-can-literally-change-your-brain

Davis, S. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx

de Llosa, P. (2011). The Neurobiology of “we”. Retrieved from http://www.drdansiegel.com/uploads/The%20Neurobiology%20of%20We%20-%20Patty%20de%20Llosa.pdf

Graham, L. (2008). The neuroscience of attachment. Retrieved from http://lindagraham-mft.net/resources/published-articles/the-neuroscience-of-attachment/

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/

Siegel, D. (2015). Brain insights and well-being. Retrieved from http://drdansiegel.com/blog/2015/01/22/brain-insights-and-well-being-3/

Siegel, D. (2010). The science of mindfulness. Retrieved from http://www.mindful.org/the-science-of-mindfulness/

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