The Science And Research On Mindfulness Meditation

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Earlier in our course I mentioned research on the brain changes and the physiological changes that occur when you learn how to do mindfulness meditation. So I thought I would go into those in some more depth to give you an idea of the research. So there are really research results in several different categories that we're going to talk about. So here are the high level categories, then we'll go into details. So first of all, there are changes in the brain that have to do with what's called the gray matter are the density or amount of parts of the brain and what We're going to see is that as people practice mindfulness meditation, they get an increase in the gray matter in some parts of the brain and decreases in others. So we'll talk about that.

We're going to talk about changes in the fight and flight response that happened in the body. And we're going to talk about changes in inter, in connectivity of different parts of the brain, which is the white matter area. And then we'll also talk about some, the research that shows that mindfulness meditation can switch particular DNA genes on and off. So all interesting changes in science that have been studied recently about mindfulness meditation. Now you should know that most of these effects have to do with when someone has been meditating for eight weeks. There's these eight training programs.

And I went through an eight week training program. And actually, if you're interested in the eight week training program, you should contact me. And we can talk about that because I do run some eight week programs. And you might be interested in that. So the most of this research assumes that people have been doing meditation for eight weeks, two months as a training period. So let's talk about what the research shows.

So first, we're going to talk about that changes in the gray matter. So the brain is usually talked about in terms of gray matter and white matter. And the gray matter has to do with density or the amount of activity in that brain area. So in a program at Mass General Hospital, that was an eight week long program what they found was They tested people they did was called brain scans. MRI brain scans, two weeks before people went through an eight week program and then two weeks after they were done with eight week program, and then they had a control group of people who had not meditated at all. And so for the people who'd gone through the meditation program, they had an increase in the gray matter.

In certain parts of their brain, the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex, the left temporal parietal junction, and the cerebellum. The all those names you may not really care much about, but there was an increase in the, in the this part of the gray matter of these parts of the brain. And these are parts of the brain that are involved in a regulation of emotion or feelings of compassion, cord, physical coordination, learning and memory. And there was a decrease in the gray matter in in the amygdala and the amygdala is where anxiety and stress are processed. So what they concluded was that the changes in gray matter, the increase in the gray matter corresponded to emotional and behavioral improvements. And a decrease as well in caused a decrease in anxiety, a decreased risk risk of depression, relapse, decreased insomnia, their brains were actually different.

And this has been shown in several studies. This is just one particular study that was a Massachusetts General, but this has been replicated in other studies. Interestingly, these changes that I'm talking about that happen in the brain and the body appear to be permanent changes so that after the eight week program, even if they don't keep meditating every day, these changes hold which I find really fascinating. All right, let's look at some more research. So in another study of white matter, what was found was that remember gray matter in between More ability. white matter indicates more connectivity.

So people who'd gone through the training had greater connectivity from different parts of their brain than non made non meditators did. And so this translates, the researchers say, into better communication between different regions of the brain, better efficiency and switching attention from one sensation or thought to the next. And they were investigating this by measuring what's called alpha rhythm. So the electrical signals are brainwaves that transmit sensory and motor information. And they found that when meditators were asked to switch their focus of attention, they were able to do that easier than non meditators. So they also the researchers also thought that this improved connectivity may be responsible for reductions in pain and negative thoughts that we will report By the mindfulness meditators, and that they may be better at changing focus from negative sensations or thoughts to positive or neutral ones.

So that's another interesting brain research that's been found. Let's talk about the fight or flight syndrome idea. So your body has a reaction to when something stressful happens, it either gets ready to fight, or it gets ready to run away. This is called fight or flight and it involves the sympathetic and the parasympathetic as parts of the nervous system. So the changes that occurred with meditators after they'd gone through an eight week program were that the they were able to better regulate the fight or flight system. When you are in that fight or flight mode, you you Your heart rate goes up, your digestion stops, your immune system changes.

And it is this constant stress your mind and your body starts to react to everything as though it's life threatening, even though often it's not, you know, your coworker comes in and makes another snide sarcastic remark and you your body goes into fight or flight mode when you know your life is not in danger. And this is what happens to us, we start to get these stress responses. And people who meditate, the research shows they are less reactive, they go into that fight or flight less when it's not really a life threatening situation. And then the last part of the research has to do with DNA gene changes. This is some of the newest research I find really, really fascinating. So this is from the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body medicine again at Massachusetts.

General Hospital and found that when you dial back the stress response, genes are switched off that are associated with chronic inflammatory inflammatory responses. Now, a lot of what we know in medicine these days is that there are many chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease that have to do with inflammation. When inflammation rises, then the chance of getting all these chronic diseases increases. And what they found was with the meditators, they the genes were switching off that caused the inflammatory response. So I think that's really interesting research. So we have research that mindfulness meditation does great stuff.

After just two months of an eight week program, these permanent changes have occurred. All right, one more piece of homework for you, I want you to do a 45 minute meditation. Now this may sound like a really long one, you maybe haven't done one this long head. But you've come close you do the 30 minute one a couple of lessons ago, I you probably should do this without a recording because I don't have a 45 minute long recording that goes with the course. So just do it on your own. You might be surprised as there's a long time but it's not as tough as you may think.

So do the 45 minute mindfulness session on your own, and then come back and we will wrap up our course. We've come to the end of our course. I hope that you've enjoyed it. I hope you've been trying out the meditations and doing the homework. And that perhaps you've already seen some changes and how you react to life and how you react to stress based on the meditations you've done so far, I encourage you very much to continue to keep meditating. You have all the resources you need, you have the recordings, and you can do it on your own.

And I really recommend that you keep going with it, you'll find that you get better at it, and the advantages only increase. And if you are interested in doing the full eight week meditation program, send me an email, contact me and we'll see if we can get you into one of those. So I wish you all the best with your meditation practice. And thank you for learning mindfulness meditation with me in this course.

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