The Neuroscience of Mindfulness

If you check out last week’s blog of 3/28/16, you will note I wrote about the fascinating topic of Neuroplasticity. I shared information from one of the leaders in the field, Mark Waldman. Neuroplasticity has to do with brain entrainment and how one can affect huge changes in behavior and the way one deals with internal and external triggers, by understanding how the brain works and using specific, scientifically validated techniques that will enrich your life. Not only will the techniques make you more focused and intuitive, but they will begin to eradicate self-sabotaging behaviors you are unaware of. These behaviors have been programmed since childhood and are subconscious.

I offered one of the techniques last week and would like to continue on the subject. Again, these are suggestions from Mr. Waldman and you can check online for his credentials, books and the courses he offers. He has developed 30 or 40 strategies for brain entrainment also referred to as neuro-plasticity. Many of the techniques are mindfulness based stress reduction techniques. Over 400 studies have been done showing that practicing these techniques for a few months to a year can change your brain – obviously for the better. He claims that 25% of your brain can be altered within this short period of time.

Every time you come up with a new thought, a worry or a doubt, stress chemicals are released. If you continue to hold the thought, even if it’s imaginary, it still damages your brain because the brain cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy. It deals with your thoughts as if they were sensations coming in from the outside. We can train ourselves to ignore negative thoughts by interrupting them and transforming them. Our choice is either to focus on the worrisome idea or shift it and train ourselves to be deliberately optimistic. Remember, as Mr. Waldman suggests and I stated last week, the secret is, you can’t focus on a positive and negative thought at the same time. It’s one or the other. This is where the previous technique of taking a word that has a deep value to you like love, health, compassion and repeating it over and over while you do something pleasurable is of great value. It could be as simple as taking a calming walk or playing with your pet. This technique alone will turn on 1200 stress reducing genes!

Consciousness is created by anything that causes us interest, curiosity, or pleasure. As an example, here’s a technique suggested:

Think of your favorite comfort food and the brain begins to send messages to your body to move to the refrigerator for that food. If that particular food is not available to you at the time, or is causing weight gain, you can use your imagination to think of the food as you breathe deeply. As you think of the food, keep on picturing more and more of it until you reach a saturation point. Imagine eating a gallon or two of ice-cream as you keep upping the amount. Do you think you’d still want this food? Probably not. You’ve tricked the brain and have probably quelled your desire for that particular food.

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