Why Mindfulness works (the effect on the brain)

Mindfulness promotes increased neurones (grey matter) in areas of the brain which in turn can produce life changing affects particularly with those suffering from stress, depression, anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorders, and other mental health issues . It is the routine of regular (daily) practice just like learning to play an instrument that will produce results. Eventually, we become more centred, considered and calmer individuals who are able to respond to stimuli in a more effective manner.
The following explains the specific way mindfulness can affect the brain and hence your wellbeing.

Prefrontal cortex;

The more you practice mindfulness, the more this area thickens with neurones. This is the area responsible for our higher level thinking such as decision making, impulse control attention, and empathy

Amygdala;

The amygdala shrinks with mindfulness practice. It reduces the neural connections between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex and thus reduces reactivity (panic, anger etc) because this area is the seat of our fearful and anxious emotions.

Insula;

This area when increased in size will improve your ability to observe yourself and calm your mind down, it also is responsible for social emotions such as empathy . Concentrating on a sound, smell, taste etc will stimulate this area and hence growth of neuones.

Hippocampus;

The area responsible for mental dexterity, learning and memory. Mindfulness increases this area’s grey matter and creates other structural changes. and is extraordinarily susceptible to stress and stress-related disorders like depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mindfulness strengthens the hippocampus.

Anterior Cingulate Cortex;

This area is so important for paying attention and self-regulation. The more you practice focusing and catching yourself when your concentration wanes, the more this area thickens. The development of this area could be really helpful for sufferers of Attention Deficit Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Temporal-Parietal function;

This part of the brain is responsible for connectivity to our body (sense of self) and it has also been proven to develop with mindfulness and is helpful for people with eating disorders, addictions and even Borderline personality disorders.

The Parasympathetic Nervous system;

Basically, the parasympathetic nervous system is our relaxed state and Sympathetic Nervous system is our more heightened state of being. Mindfulness is associated with increased parasympathetic activity which means lower heart rate, blood pressure and less muscle tension

About the Author

Nikki Catto
I have been a practicing therapist for twelve years specialising with women’s issues and young people. I believe everyone is unique and I tailor therapy to my clients individual needs using a range of techniques and skills.
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