Historically speaking, we are wired to see the negative events more than the positive events. The brain is wired to store bad things as a protection. However, these primitive ways that allowed us to survive are no longer needed.
Mindfulness helps with present moment awareness and reduces a clinging to the past by activating our:
- Awareness of thoughts
- Ability to notice our thoughts
- Thinking about thinking
- Awareness of our feelings
- Awareness of our pain
- Ability to notice our suffering
Stress is not always a bad thing.
However, chronic stress can lead to negative psychological and physiological effects. Science has shown significant difference between the non-stressed brain and the stressed brain:
- Short term stress enhances cognitive function
- Chronic stress is damaging to the body, including the brain in many ways
- Excessive cortisol production from chronic stress leads to brain cells reduced ability to take up glucose which is the fuel they need and this caused the brain cells to shrink
- Cells of the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is very important for memory) are particularly vulnerable to chronic stress
- Chronic stress leads to physical changes in the arrangements of the neurons in the brain
- Prolonged Stress leads to fatigue, irritability, reduced concentration, anxiety, low mood, and depression, which results in a reduction in executive functions of working memory and decision making, as well as impeding learning
How does this research relate to teens?
MBSR-T brings benefits to the brain in many ways that affect teen problems.
Research shows mindfulness practice can change one’s pre-frontal cortex. This change:
- Could allow you to hold a thought in your mind long enough to process it
- Could change teens decision-making abilities
- Could help regulate one’s response to emotions
In addition to increasing one’s decision-making ability and ability to be aware of thoughts and emotions, brain imaging studies show increased activity in the left prefrontal lobes of experienced meditators. This area is linked to positive emotions, self-control and temperament. In addition to anxiety reduction, meditators also showed significant improvement in immune functioning.
Why does it work? It’s brain science!
Stress blocks the hippocampus (explicit memory center); mindfulness does the opposite. Mindfulness promotes integration of the brain stem, limbic system, and prefrontal cortex by creating new neural pathways.
The integration of the brain through mindfulness causes a sense of well-being.