Mindfulness Can Change Your Brain: improvements in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking
Most people come to learn mindfulness meditation with the hopes of improving their well-being and quality of life. However, one of the challenges of undertaking a commitment to mindfulness practice is that the changes you experience may be gradual and subtle. The benefits are not always obvious to the practitioner as they develop over time. Therefore, it can be helpful to receive reinforcement for your on-going practice.
Here’s some reinforcement for you. Encouraging results were released in a study published in the January 30th issue of Psychiatry Research: Imaging. In this study, MRI images were obtained from 16 participants before and after taking an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program and compared with a control group of 17 individuals who did not take the program. The MRI images from those who practiced mindfulness every day found increases in gray matter concentration in the left hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. Increases in other areas of the brain were also identified in the MBSR participants as compared to the control group. “The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”
Take these affirmative results to heart and have confidence that your mindfulness practice may improve your memory, emotional regulation, empathy and perspective in life. Let this be encouragement for you to continue to practice mindfulness, return to your practice if it has waned, or begin a practice if you have not tried it yet. And as more research is performed, I look forward to sharing more information on the positive effects of your mindfulness practice.