Mindfulness meditation is a simple form of meditation. This form of mindful meditation may also be referred to as “Insight Meditation” – to see things as they are.
During the meditation, you observe everything around you without judgment. You are exercising compassion, patience, and acceptance for all things.
While it has Buddhist roots, the practice evolved based on research regarding how the mind can influence the body. This meditation method does not have religious or philosophical attachments to it.
Anyone can do the practice. Mindfulness encourages the art of paying attention without engaging with or attaching meaning to anything that causes conflict or anxiety.
Why Practice Mindful Meditation
In various studies, participants who practiced mindfulness meditation for eight weeks to six months experienced reduced anxiety, depression, and physical pain symptoms.
A study conducted by Mass General Hospital and Owasso University found these effects presented even when the participants were not actively meditating. The study also found other long-term benefits of meditation practice:
- When you practice meditation, you train the brain to process emotion differently. Meditation gives stability to your emotional state and decreases depression and anxiety.
- Participants learned to process information without immediate reaction or by responding differently.
The study employed two forms of meditation: compassion meditation and mindfulness meditation. Compassion meditation focuses on teaching practitioners to observe experiences, themselves, and others through a lens of loving-kindness and compassion. Mindfulness meditation teaches practitioners to observe thoughts and experiences without attaching meaning, to observe what is.
Program administrators took brain scans while participants viewed positive, negative, and neutral images. The brain scan was repeated during and after their participation in the meditation program. The results indicate that people who participated in the study showed less activity in the emotion and memory center of the brain.
- The compassion meditation participants presented lowered activity in the brain’s center when shown positive and neutral images. The movement in the brain increased when participants looked at negative images which showed human suffering.
- The mindfulness meditation participants showed an overall decreased activity in the brain’s center to all images, positive, negative, and neutral.
The results from the two groups support the study’s hypothesis. Based on the mindfulness meditation results, meditation improves emotional stability and stress response.
Participants in the compassion meditation group had lower depression scores.
How Does It Work
Gaëlle Desbordes, Ph.D. is a research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the BU Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology. They shared the authorship of the study reports and explained the study results, “We think these two forms of meditation cultivate different aspects of mind. Since compassion meditation enhances your compassionate feelings, it follows that it does increase the amygdala response in the brain to watching people suffer. Increased amygdala activation correlated to lower depression levels in the compassion meditation group, which could mean that having more compassion towards others certainly benefits oneself. Overall, these results are consistent with the overarching hypothesis that meditation may result in enduring, beneficial changes in brain function. Especially in the area of emotional processing.”
How Long Do The Benefits Last
The follow-up observations from the Mass General Hospital and Owasso University study were conducted three weeks after its conclusion. This study shows meditators experience the benefits of emotional stability and decreased depression and anxiety when not meditating.
This study also indicates the benefits carry on after participation in a meditation program. Whether or not the benefits are sustainable for the people taking part in the program beyond this period requires further study. The effects of meditation on emotional stability without a program environment and the level of independent practice by participants necessary to experience the same benefits seem to be the next focus.
How This Benefits You
The fact that mindful meditation involves exercising compassion, patience, and acceptance for all things can serve us in various ways. Gaining emotional stability is a benefit, but it can further help us in many ways.
In mindful meditation and emotional stability, you can achieve a higher understanding and appreciation of self, making for a more positive attitude towards life. Several studies have shown positive thinking to be of benefit to our health.
Positive thinking has a broad reach in serving our physical and emotional health. Optimists have better immunity, less depression and anxiety, and better heart health.
Positive thinkers are also better able to deal with stress because they are more resilient and can face challenges and adversity with a positive outlook. Positive thinking makes them more resistant to and better able to avoid the harmful effects of stress hormones on the body.
Mindful meditation can help develop a solid positive attitude, which can significantly improve our health and wellness. At Functional Nutrition Resources in Tulsa, OK, we believe in a holistic approach to achieving total mind and body health.