Mindfulness meditation allows you to experience awareness of yourself, your body, your feelings, your breathing and others, in order to live the present moment. More precisely, this consists of intentionally paying attention to internal (sensations, emotions, thoughts) or external experiences of the present moment, without making a value judgment. Numerous studies have shown that people who experience it on a daily basis know better how to manage their attention, and see their stress decrease and their productivity increase. A new study published by researchers at Yale University says even a brief introduction to mindfulness has benefits.
Their study published in the journal Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience describes the benefits of mindfulnessin pain reduction, and asserts that the benefits of this practice extend to both physical and emotional pain. Moreover, even a cursory 20-minute introduction proved to be very useful for the participants, who were all new to this field. They agreed to undergo brain imaging examinations in two specific contexts: to assess the response to physical pain induced by the application of heat to the forearm and to assess their response when they had to watch for several seconds of negative images.
Visible changes in the brain
In these two settings, researchers found significant differences in brain signaling pathways when participants were asked to practicing mindfulness compared to when they were asked to react as they normally would. Indeed, participants reported less pain and negative emotions when using mindfulness, while their brains also showed a significant reduction in brain activity associated with pain and negative emotions. “It’s as if the brain is reacting to a hot temperature, not a very high heat,” explains Prof. Hedy Kober, who conducted the study.
The researchers also found that these neurological changes did not occur in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that regulates conscious and rational decision-making. Which suggests, according to them, that the deployment of certain mindfulness techniques can alter the brain on a subconscious level, without any deliberate effort. Although limited by the number of participants, the results therefore show that the benefits of mindfulness can be relatively rapid. More research is needed on the subject, but this hypothesis could help doctors treat the physical pain conditions or chronic mental illness.
This study is in addition to the many studies highlighting the benefits of mindfulness meditationagainst anxiety, depression and insomnia. However, it is by allowing a reduction in stress, anxiety, negative emotions and sleep problems which tend to be accentuated with age that meditation could even reduce the harmful effects of these factors and have a positive effect on cerebral aging, as explained in a study by Inserm published in 2017. This showed that meditation experts (between 15,000 to 30,000 hours of meditation to their credit) showed significant differences in certain regions of the brain.