MIND­FUL­NESS & THE BRAIN

Health & Nutrition - - MIND & BODY -

It’s ap­par­ent that mind­ful­ness and at­ten­tion train­ing can al­ter per­cep­tions and men­tal state. But can it ac­tu­ally change the struc­ture of the brain or the way brain cells in­ter­act? Pre­lim­i­nary re­ports say that, yes, it can. Re­searchers found an in­crease of gray mat­ter (brain tis­sue) in the hip­pocam­pus. Re­searchers also found ex­panded gray mat­ter in other ar­eas, such as the brain­stem, where neu­ral net­works gov­ern the type of at­ten­tion given to en­vi­ron­men­tal de­mands, me­di­ate stress and mod­u­late the brain’s sero­tonin sys­tem, which im­pacts men­tal states such as anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. Other stud­ies found that mind­ful­ness train­ing en­hanced neu­ral net­works in­volved in pro­cess­ing audio and visual stim­uli. This makes sense be­cause part of be­ing mind­ful is fo­cus­ing on what your senses are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. Think of train­ing your mind as sim­i­lar to train­ing the mus­cles in your body. By en­gag­ing your mind reg­u­larly in a con­scious ef­fort to pay at­ten­tion, you’re mak­ing your brain big­ger, stronger and bet­ter suited to fac­ing a chal­lenge.

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