Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) consists of multiple forms of mindfulness practice, including formal and informal meditation practice, as well as hatha yoga.
Although there is no explicit instruction in changing the nature of thinking, or emotional reactivity, MBSR has been shown to:
- diminish the habitual tendency to emotionally react to and
ruminate about transitory thoughts and physical sensations;
- reduce stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms;
- modify distorted patterns of self-view;
- amplify immune functioning;
- enhance behavioral self-regulation; and
- improve volitional orienting of attention.
Recent functional neuroimaging studies of MBSR have provided evidence of reduced narrative and conceptual and increased experiential and sensory self-focus at post-MBSR and decreased conceptual–linguistic self-referential processing from pre- to post-MBSR.
The formal practice consists of:
- breath-focused attention,
- body scan-based attention to the transient nature of sensory experience, (more…)
Researchers have recently found that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is very involved with weaving thought and feeling together. They’ve also shown that the conscious control of attention is centered in the ACC, which is measurably strengthened by activities that train attention such as meditation. In another example, studies have shown that tuning into the emotional states of others–a central component of empathy–depends on the activity of the insula. The insula also handles interoception, the sensing of the internal state of the body, so mental activities such as sensory awareness activate and eventually thicken the insula, and thereby increase empathy.
In effect, investigators have found that a method used for one purpose (meditation, or sensory awareness) can stimulate and strengthen brain regions that are also involved with another purpose (integrating thinking and feeling, or empathy).
—Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, and teacher with
a great interest in the intersection of psychology, neurology, and Buddhism.
He has written and taught extensively about the essential inner skills of personal well-being,psychological growth, and contemplative practice–as well as about relationships,family life, and raising children. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA,Rick did management consulting before earning his Ph.D.
See free, easy Meditation Instructions on this blog.
That meditators are better able to concentrate and have steadier, more positive emotions has long been known. Regulation of emotion and attention occurs principally in the hippocampus, thalamus, and other specific parts of the brain. New research at UCLA has revealed exceptional enlargement of these structures in the brains of meditators. This growth does not come at the expense of other mental abilities as, “There were no regions where controls had significantly larger volumes or more gray matter than meditators. … Research has confirmed the beneficial aspects of meditation. In addition to having better focus and control over their emotions, many people who meditate regularly have reduced levels of stress and bolstered immune systems.” (Science Daily)
by Herbert Benson, M.D.
with Miriam Z. Klipper
Reading and using The Relaxation Response may have saved my life in 1989. It may also have destroyed my life, for it turned out to be the first paving stone on a spiritual path which led away from much of what was accepted and familiar. I left behind the person I had known myself to be and became a person I could not have predicted. The path brought me to most of what I treasure today.
I was a thoroughly Western, rational, mechanist, Ayn Rand Objectivist, John-Wayne-style “I’ll do it myself” individualist whose life was thoroughly unsatisfying. Each day I came home from a thankless, stressful job to a cold and chaotic home. I would sit on the couch and feel as though worries and disappointments were (more…)