Mindfulness is described by Jan Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of Mindfulness for Beginners, as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally.”
Past research has shown this distinctive practice of meditation is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and depression, as well as improved immune functioning and reduction of blood pressure. More recent research is now providing information on how the practice of mindfulness produces these physical and mental health benefits.
For example, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that mindfulness regulates biological stress by stimulating activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is the area responsible for deliberate thought and planning. Their study was recently published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
Mindfulness also works for stressed children as well as adults. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of medicine found that a stress reduction program based on mindfulness techniques was a powerful way to reduce stress and trauma among underprivileged public school students. Children in the stress reduction program, when compared to a control group, were less depressed, less worry and anxiety, more positive moods and better coping skills.
Meditation not only helps children and adults feel better. It also helps keeps the human brain younger. According to research from the University of California, Los Angeles, brains of long-term meditators were found to age at a much slower rate than the brains of non-meditators. Using brain scans, the researchers discovered less age-related shrinkage of brain gray matter, which is responsible for the acquiring and storage of knowledge and memory.
Think about it. This is really good news for those who meditate on a regular basis. Mindfulness may be an effective method to ward off the normal cognitive decline that goes along with an aging brain and as a preventive strategy against such neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s.