Mindfulness has become a buzzword — but most people really have no idea what it is all about.
The simplest definition of mindfulness is to live in the present moment, without the past or future intruding. Sounds great, but how do you go about accomplishing this?
Enter mindfulness meditation, a centuries-old gentle practice that trains you to notice your thoughts during meditation, make no judgments about them, and to return to your breath. When meditation is practiced most days for 20 minutes it can be life-changing, as you begin to see your behavioral patterns shift and learn to live more fully in the present.
At Pathway to Mindfulness, a member of The Life Solution Center of Darien, we teach our clients how to build a sustainable meditation practice in eight weekly sessions, 50 minutes each. We start gradually, either at five or 10 minutes of meditation, depending on whether the client has meditated before.
We teach unguided meditation — no apps or CDs — the type of meditation that research has shown is the fastest way to build your brain and take control of your life.
Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist, author, and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Contemplative Wisdom and Neuroscience. Citing intervention studies that specifically looked at what happens to the brain when people deliberately practice mindfulness, Hanson says that those who meditate 20 minutes most days tend to have different brains in some important and interesting ways.
Here’s what research has proven:
- Meditators build new cortical tissue in the outer shell of the brain. Increasing cortical thickness by even a fraction of a millimeter builds synapses, little connections between neurons.
• A thicker cortex behind meditators’ foreheads means they are better able to regulate attention, emotions, rational thought and actions, in addition to putting things into perspective.
• A thicker cortex in the insula helps meditators tune in to themselves and also into the emotions of others.
• A thicker cortex in the hippocampus strengthens the memory, and as you age, it slows down memory loss and Alzheimer’s, if caught early.
• Meditation helps shrink the amygdala, and that calms down the alarm bell in the brain.
• All these changes make meditators more resilient.
- A greater activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which puts the brakes on negative emotions. The result: more positive emotions and a better mood.
- Those who meditate have a stronger immune system.
- As people continue to meditate, they preserve the length of telomeres — strips of atoms at the end of chromosomes — that protect against various age-related diseases.
Those who adopt a sustained meditation practice of 20 minutes most days achieve:
- Better relationships;
- Greater resilience;
- Greater happiness;
- More capacity to weather life’s ups and downs;
- More insight into themselves;
- More insight into others;
- Less depression;
- Less anxiety;
- Quicker recovery from various illnesses and surgeries;
- Faster healing of wounds;
- Less inflammation in the body;
- And less stress. (75% of people are stressed; 75% of our preventable illnesses are caused by stress.)
Pathway to Mindfulness is a member of The Life Solution Center of Darien, a collaborative community of professionals providing education, prevention and multi-disciplinary answers to life’s problems. For more information on LSCD visit the LifeSolutionCenter.net or call 203-628-4492. For more information on Pathway to Mindfulness, visit www.PathwayToMindfulness.com or call 203-612-7160. We work with clients throughout Fairfield, New Haven and Westchester counties, and over Skype.