NEUROSCIENCE OF MINDFULNESS – The amazing changes in your brain through meditation.


There are 80 to 100 billion neurons in a human
brain, and every single one of them can form thousands of connections with other neurons,
leading to a complex network of hundreds of trillions of synapses that enable brain cells
to communicate with each other. Psychologist Rick Hanson, describes it as
“Like a computer network built from five hundred trillion transistors, each representing
a “bit” of information depending on whether it is “on” or “off”.”
Yet, despite the best efforts and findings of modern neuroscience, the true functioning
of our mind remains one of the greatest and most fascinating mysteries. We know a lot
about how our brain helps us stay alive, communicate, and perceive the world around us. But this
knowledge, however brilliant, continues to change at an extraordinary pace and represents
only a tip of a gigantic iceberg whose full beauty is hiding well from our sight.
Is it then preposterous to consider that something as trivial as focusing our mind and breathing
steadily for a short time every day could have a profound effect on our well-being?
Is it in our power at all to make changes to our own brain? The script for this video was written by Kristyna
Zapletal, writer & coach for leaders and entrepreneurs. You can find more about her and her inspiring
articles in the description below. Neuroscientists have been studying the effects
of mindfulness techniques on our brains, with some pretty compelling results. The introduction
of Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) into clinical practice in the 1980s has resulted
in substantial scientific advancement. Since then, researchers have been able to measure
the activity and changes in the individual parts of the brain in humans.
Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, uses the MRI technology to look at
very fine, detailed brain structures and see what is happening to the brain while a person
is performing a certain task, including yoga and meditation.
According to her own words, Lazar herself used to be sceptical about the lofty claims
her yoga teacher had made about the emotional benefits of meditations she should have expected
to experience. When after attending several classes, she indeed felt calmer, happier,
and more compassionate, she decided to re-focus her research on the changes in the brain’s
physical structure as a result of meditation practice.
CAN MEDITATION GENUINELY CHANGE BRAIN STRUCTURE? In her first study, Lazar looked at individuals
with extensive meditation experience, which involved focused attention on internal experiences(no
mantras or chanting). The data proved, among others, that meditation may slow down or prevent
age-related thinning of the frontal cortex that otherwise contributes to the formation
of memories. The common knowledge says that when people get older, they tend to forget
stuff. Interestingly, Lazar and her team found out that 40–50-year-old meditators had the
same amount of gray matter in their cortex as the 20–30-year-old ones. For her second study, she engaged people who
had never meditated before and put them through a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training
program, where they took a weekly class and were told to perform mindfulness exercises,
including body scan, mindful yoga, and sitting meditation, every day for 30 to 40 minutes.
Lazar wanted to test the participants for positive effects of mindfulness meditation
on their psychological well-being and alleviating symptoms of various disorders such as anxiety,
depression, eating disorder, insomnia, or chronic pain.
After eight weeks, she found out that the brain volume increased in four regions, from
which the most relevant were: HIPPOCAMPUS: a seahorse-shaped structure responsible
for learning, storage of memories, spatial orientation, and regulation of emotions.
TEMPOROPARIETAL JUNCTION: the area where temporal and parietal lobes meet and which is responsible
for empathy and compassion. On the other hand, the one area whose brain
volume decreased was the AMYGDALA: an almond-shaped structure responsible for triggering the fight-or-flight
response as a reaction to a threat, whether real or only perceived. Here, the decrease in gray matter correlated
with changes in the levels of stress. The smaller their amygdala became, the less stressed
people felt, even though their external environment remained the same. It proved that the change
in amygdala reflected the change in the people’s reactions to their environment, not in the
environment itself. WHAT IS THE MAIN DRIVER OF CHANGE IN OUR BRAIN?
Our brain develops and adapts throughout our whole lives. This phenomenon, called neuroplasticity,
means that gray matter can thicken or shrink, connections between neurons can be improved,
new ones can be created, and old ones degraded or even terminated.
For a long time it was believed that once your “child brain” was fully developed,
the only thing you could anticipate for the future was a gradual decline. Now we know
that our everyday behaviors literally change our brains. And it seems that the same mechanisms
which allow our brains to learn new languages or sports can help us learn how to be happy.
Neuroscientist Lara Boyd from the University of British Columbia points out that the human
brain changes in three ways to support learning of new things:
1. CHEMICAL — Transfer of chemical signals between neurons, which is linked to short-term
learning improvements (e.g. of a memory or a motor skill).
2. STRUCTURAL — Changes in connections between neurons, which are linked to long-term learning
improvements. These mean that the brain regions that are
important for specific behaviors may change their structure or enlarge. These changes
need more time to take place, which underlines the importance of a dedicated practice.
And number 3. FUNCTIONAL — Increased excitability of a brain region in relation to a certain
behavior. In essence, the more you use a particular
brain region, the easier it is to trigger its use again.
IS HAPPINESS A GIFT OR A DEVELOPED SKILL? If we embrace the idea that our well-being
is a skill that can be cultivated, then it’s obvious that meditation is simply a form of
exercise tailored for our brain. While there is not enough scientific data available to
measure the benefits of a 5-minute versus a 30-minute mindfulness session, the way in
which our brain changes over time suggests that we can actively foster lasting results
with regular practice. Scientists from the Center for Healthy Minds
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison define well-being from the viewpoint of these 4 areas:
SUSTAINED POSITIVE EMOTION In a study that examined response to positive
images, individuals with higher activity in those brain regions linked to positive emotions
reported a higher level of psychological well-being. RECOVERY FROM NEGATIVE EMOTION
There is evidence that mindfulness training leads to greater resilience to painful stimuli.
In this study, experienced meditators reported the same pain intensity as individuals with
little mindfulness experience, but less unpleasantness. PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND GENEROSITY
Behavior that increases social bonds and improves the quality of social relationships increases
well-being. Research then suggests that compassion can be cultivated with mental training.
MINDFULNESS AND MIND-WANDERING Mindfulness, defined as paying attention to
the present moment without judgment, makes people happier. A study where a smartphone
app was used to monitor people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions showed that their minds
were wandering approximately half of the time, and while doing so they reported significantly
more unhappiness. We tend to blame our brain a great deal — for
inability to remember, for making us feel bad, for being slow… — as if it was a
capricious ruler whom the rest of our body needs to follow no matter what. We refuse
to assume responsibility for our brain’s health and our mind’s happiness. If we did,
we could experience this phenomenal organ becoming our loyal friend rather than an eternal
enemy. We understand that to be able to run a 10k
race or to do 50 pushups, we should exercise regularly. Yet we get put off when our brain
doesn’t yield results instantly. Like: “Hey, I’ve meditated for 20 min and I still feel
awful. What a new-age hype!” The human brain is extremely plastic and establishes
new neural connections daily. These intricate networks, however, need to be reinforced and
consolidated through our behavior, just like a path through a forest needs to be walked,
otherwise it will be grown over and eventually disappear.
Meditation can relax you and regulate your emotions in the short term, but it can also
change your brain permanently if you approach it as a form of mental exercise.
Any type of learning is a highly individual process, with the common denominator being
plain hard work. And science shows that if we invest our effort into reprogramming our
brains, it can truly guide us towards a better life.
Do you meditate? If so how does it make you feel? And if not would you consider it after
watching this? Comment and lets have a discussion below.
Thanks again to Kristyna Zapletal for the script for this video. You can find more about
her and her inspiring articles in the description below.

16 thoughts on “NEUROSCIENCE OF MINDFULNESS – The amazing changes in your brain through meditation.

  1. Thank you, Chris, for bringing my words to life! It has been an inspiring collaboration and I hope we will do more of these:) If you enjoyed the video, make sure to check my book http://www.amzn.com/B07CNG6B2W or read my other articles here https://mindfulentrepreneurship.com/.

  2. 8:50. No, In much the same way as I wouldn't consider getting a cast for my arm if it's not injured in any way that a cast would help.
    Misrepresenting "can" help as "will" help. doesn't give me any conference in your analysis.

  3. I've been considering meditation for quite a while now, but always procrastinated on it. After watching this, I think today it's a good time to start! Cheers and thanks again for all your wonderful videos! 💕✨

  4. some of us are depressed & lonely due to being far too physically unattractive to be able to experience intimate relationships so are destined to be single, alone & unwanted despite whatever else we may have going for us. there is only so much failure & rejection that one can take before they come to understand that we are simply not good enough due to factors entirely beyond our control.

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