USE YOUR MIND, TO CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, TO CHANGE YOUR MIND
Academic papers and studies have repeatedly shown that neuroplasticity is a functional attribute of the brain, providing the opportunity for change and growth.
Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
BK Hölzel, J Carmody, M Vangel, C Congleton – Psychiatry Research: , 2011 – Elsevier
This study shows that by simply practising mindfulness meditation, you change your ‘Gray’ matter in your brain, and this ‘Gray’ matter is associated with learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective-taking. This research work has become possible since the early 2000s using fMRI scanners and electroencephalography, EEG readings of the brain.
Mindfulness meditation can help both the mental
and physical states of the body and mind to return
to a place of balance and harmony, allowing an
increase in the sense of wellbeing and diminishing
of many symptoms.
• Chronic pain
• Low back pain
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Cardiovascular disease
• HIV/ Aids
Dr Linda Carlson from the Department of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary. August 2012: Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Physical Conditions: A Narrative Review Evaluating Levels of Evidence.
Carlson assessed 211 Mindfulness based Interventions ( MBIs), papers, studies and trials relating to and for people coping with a wide array of physical diseases and conditions. Producing a comprehensive study of methods, outcomes and comments.
Being mindful simply means having good control over your attention: you can place your attentionwherever you want, and it stays there; when you want to shift it to something else, you can. Consequently, developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful
way to reshape your brain and, thus, your mind. (Hanson and Mendius 2009)
Your Brain is designed for storing, retrieving and rearranging information: It has the ability to action commands from the conscious thought and the sub-conscious regulatory
mechanisms within itself, maintaining and optimizing health and well being.
Your brain contains 1.1 trillion cells, including 100 billion neurons. On average,
each neuron receives about 500 connections, called synapses, from other neurons.
A typical neuron fires 5-50 times a second. In the time it takes you to read the points. Literally, quadrillions of signals will travel inside your head.
The brain weighs 2% of the body weight, but it uses 25% oxygen and glucose.
Conscious mental events are based on temporary coalitions of synapses that form and disperse—usually within seconds—like eddies in a stream.
(Rabinivich, Huerta, and Laurent 2008).
Your brain interacts with other systems in your body, which interact with the world—which is shaped by the mind. The mind is made by your brain, body, the natural world, and human culture and by itself! (Thomposon and Varela 2001)
Your brain regulates itself— and the other bodily systems—through a combination of excitatory and inhibitory activity: green lights and red lights. It learns through forming new circuits and strengthening or weakening existing ones. (Hanson and Mendius 2009)
The Triune Brain.
A simple way of looking at the brain was proposed by Paul Maclean in 1990.
Viewing the brain in this straightforward way you can understand how
the different parts of your brain interact and connect.
Reptilian: This is the oldest part of the brain. It is responsible for muscle movement, balance, and our basic autonomic functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. It includes the brain stem and the cerebellum, which tend to dominate in reptiles. In terms of behaviour, this part of the brain is aggressive, territorial, compulsive and doesn’t learn from mistakes.
Limbic: This is the primary seat of emotions, attention, and emotionally charged memories, and it tends to be predominant in mammals. Instinct such as feeding, fighting, fleeing and sexual behaviour are rooted here. As well as your instinctual, social and emotional needs to feel connected, calm and cared for. The limbic system includes:
• The Hypothalamus which controls oxytocin and adrenalin production.
• The Hippocampus compares external images to stored memories.
• The Amygdala controls the messaging of the memories throughout the body.
Frontal neo cortex: It is responsible for what you think and your higher cognitive functions such as abstract thought, reasoning language, enhanced learning, memory, introspection and insight. Learns and passes the learning into the long term memory of the Limbic and Reptilian brains.
The three brains work together to create
your personality, your health and your happiness.
The Brain has the ability of Neurogenesis to change itself, create new neurons and new neural pathways throughout your life. This is called Neural plasticity. The ability of the Brain to have neural plasticity is the key to mindfulness, as this is your ability to change the way you are!
The Limbic and the Reptilian brain are the masters of multi-tasking, looking after all the body’s functions in one instant. They communicate in feelings and sensations. Not words or ideas.
The Frontal neocortex, however, can only do ….ONE THING AT A TIME and communicates through thoughts and words. The frontal neocortex…your conscious thinking centre, works at half the unconscious speed (the limbic and the reptilian). Resulting in that you feel and react quicker than you can think….
This is extremely important to the functioning of mindfulness, for if you can only ever concentrate your mind on one thing at a time, then by default, when you are meditating, you cannot be thinking of other things. With practice, you learn to concentrate your conscious attention and to have the ability to control where your mind’s attention is focused.
Thoughts do not exist
Thoughts have no independent existence other than when you think of them! If you do not think about something, then it has no existence or relevance to you at that moment in time. Thoughts remain latent memories in the subconscious until called upon.
Thoughts and thoughts with the conscious neocortex often generate emotions and emotional feelings, bringing up memories and past experiences—their associated response from the limbic and reptilian long-term memory.