The Benefits of Mindfulness: The Neuroscience
All MWFO trainings are designed to achieve results in 3 key areas indicated by the latest research:
- Improved focus, self-awareness and attention control
- Greater stress-resiliency and ability to regulate difficult emotions
- Enhanced empathy and compassion
“Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated effects of mindfulness on wellbeing, as well as effects of mindfulness on brain function and brain structure. The neuroscience community accepts these facts. There is no debate surrounding the potential for mindfulness to deliver positive benefits for individuals and organisations.” – Dr. Bechara Saab
Dr. Bechara Saab PhD Neuroscientist
“How do we know whether or not practicing mindfulness has any effect? What is the most compelling neuroscience? These are important questions to discuss because it is still not widely appreciated in the general public that multiple scientific studies have demonstrated effects of mindfulness on wellbeing, as well as effects of mindfulness on brain function and brain structure. However, the neuroscience community accepts these facts. There is no debate surrounding the potential for mindfulness to deliver positive benefits for individuals and organisations.
Multiple meta-analyses identify positive effects of classical mindfulness training courses, and my own published research has even shown benefits to stress resilience and attentional control from mindfulness training with an app. Moreover, fMRI experiments show changes to brain areas important for focus, introspection, compassion, empathy and emotional regulation.
For example, a fairly simplistic, but still accurate way to summarise brain changes related to mindfulness based stress resilience, is the heightened ability for our prefrontal cortex to regulate subcortical regions. The prefrontal cortex is where we maintain our “executive control” and “working memory”. Think “top of mind”. Our ability to regulate our emotions is intimately linked to our ability to recruit our prefrontal cortex for the regulation of the subcortical nuclei that produce our deepest emotional responses. Mindfulness training, particularly the four stage repetition of 1) focusing, 2) losing focus, 3) noticing we have lost focus and 4) accepting this loss of focus before returning our attention to the meditation, gives our brains an opportunity to practice, over and over, the precise prefrontal cortical regulation of subcortical regions that is necessary to avoid a negative emotional spiral or brain freeze in the face of intense stress.
While surely a simplistic and incomplete explanation, the process just described does illustrate a major method for building resilience at the level of our neural circuits – all as a result of mindfulness training.
Of course mindfulness training is in fact much more than establishing stress resilience. The abundance of research on stress resilience is probably more incidental than anything else. The fact is that mindfulness mostly became scientifically accepted in the context of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work developing Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Had Jon decided to instead develop, let’s say, something like MBEF (“mindfulness based empathy facilitation”), then the majority of today’s research, including fMRI studies, might instead demonstrate how mindfulness training leads to elevated brain activity in regions critical for empathic processing. Similarly, had MBEF been Jon’s initial focus, then the majority of the associated psychological research might instead focus on the effects of mindfulness of human relationships.”
Dr. Bechara Saab. Phd. Neuroscientist Mobio Interactive, CEO & Chief Scientist, facilitator, mentor and consultant for Mindfulness Works For Organisations
Further Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness can also help with interpersonal communication, focus and concentration and also the following.
- Better mental health of staff
- Better work-life balance
- Healthier cultures in organisations
- Higher degrees of creativity and innovation
- Stronger levels of personal responsibility and leadership
- Less stress and worry