MINDFULNESS & THE BRAIN
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.