Among the reasons people would give for trying meditation, not being emotionally reactive is something that tops the list. These days, “being mindful” is tantamount to being less or non-reactive, and this connection has backing from scholars and the scientific community. Neuroscience has been at the forefront to support the subject emotional changes that people experience while highlighting what transpires in the brain when stressors take the best of an individual. According to a scientific study by the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, people who do not naturally possess mindfulness can attain a fraction of it, and minimize their emotional reactivity using meditation, even one that takes a short time. The study indicates that there is something beneficial about meditation which helps in building mindfulness. Forcing oneself to be mindful does not necessarily work.
Mindfulness meditation, according to the existing clinical and research contexts, is described as the regulation or the non-judgmental attention to the present experiences. Investigations about the connection between mindfulness meditation and improvements in emotional control have been undertaken using various avenues such as physiology, self-report, and neuroimaging techniques. Mindfulness-based emotional reactivity could incorporate a mix of explicit and implicit processes. The results of most studies highlight a reduction in adverse emotions and an increase in positive emotions.
Meditation and Negative Emotions
Two kinds of meditations are effective when it comes to reducing negative emotions. Transcending minimizes the mind’s activity, resulting in deep rest and getting rid of the stresses which hide people’s pure consciousness. Non-duality, on the other hand, eliminates false identification with the body and mind which causes suffering and confusion. This kind of mindfulness meditation directly reveals the true nature of a person, even before stressors can be eliminated.
Infographic source: healthcentral.com
Increase the density of grey matter
Not so long ago, most people believed that the brain is a static organ. Fast forward to some decade later and the opposite of this perception has been affirmed. According to Richie Davidson, a world-renowned neuroscientist at the Center for Healthy Minds (along with his colleagues), concluded that the brain can be trained to change, and new ways for thinking change the brain for the better.
This above conclusion by Davidson and his colleagues is consistent with a study conducted by a Harvard Medical School. The study examined the brains of seventeen participants prior to and after an eight-week mindfulness meditation program and established that the one could grow their brain in specific areas using mindfulness meditation. The analyses by Havard Medical School indicated an increase in gray matter concentration in the left hippocampus. The hippocampus is a section of the limbic system which governs memory and learning, and this part is significantly susceptible to stress and other disorders relating to stress such as PTSD or depression. Apart from that, the study confirmed an increased gray matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex and the prefrontal cortex. The former section is linked to functions like the self-regulatory processes which include the ability for one to allow for more cognitive flexibility and examine attention conflicts. On the other hand, the prefrontal cortex, carries out executive functions such as problem-solving, planning, and emotion regulation.
The Floating Brain
The immune system is most amazing and crucial aspect when it comes to body-mind connection. For many years, the immune cells’ ability to attack organisms causing diseases was considered to be purely physical, although this mechanism was not entirely understood. Later in the eighties, the immune systems came to be known as the “floating brain” due to its high intelligence and the ability of the immune cells to take part in chemical messaging between the brain and the body. This implies that your sensations, expectations, moods, and thoughts are transmitted to the immune cells. When a person meditates, these messages are altered in significant ways.
A recent groundbreaking review of twenty randomized control trials examined the relationship between the immune system and mindfulness meditation. In this review, it was established that mindfulness meditation eliminated the markers of inflammation, with high levels of the markers indicating reduced immune functioning. Apart from that, mindfulness meditation increased CD-4 cells which send signals to other cells to destroy infections. Lastly, this technique increased telomerase activity, helping to promote chromosome stability and hinder their deterioration. The deterioration of telomerase results in premature aging and cancer.
Although the above results need replication using rigorous methodologies, they are promising, potentially paving the way for the utilization of this technique for boosting immunity and enhancing defense against diseases and infections.