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Mindfulness can understandably sound abstract. We are used to looking for physical examples of healing and medicine-- ones that we can observe, read an ingredient list of, and hold in our hands. But there is plenty of established science behind meditation and the mindfulness it brings. Adopting the practice into your wellness routine could bring observable change and even increase your immunity to illnesses of the mind.
Between 2013-2015, there were an incredible 216 randomized clinical trials (the gold standard for clinical study) involving mindfulness.
One such study shows startling results. Benjamin Shapero, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Depression Clinical and Research Program worked with Gaëlle Desbordes, an instructor in radiology at HMS and a neuroscientist at MGH’s Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging to produce the trial.
A Harvard Gazette report from 2018 summarizes the study: “The research used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which not only takes pictures of the brain but also records brain activity occurring during the scan. In 2012, she demonstrated that changes in brain activity in subjects who have learned to meditate hold steady even when they’re not meditating. Desbordes took before-and-after scans of subjects who learned to meditate over the course of two months. She scanned them not while they were meditating, but while they were performing everyday tasks”
And the result?The FMRI showed activation in the amygdala when participants were watching
images with emotional content before learning meditation. After eight weeks of training in mindful attention meditation, the amygdala was noticeably less activated. The prevention of unnecessary negative thoughts seemed to be effective. Less amygdala activation means less stress and less distraction. Even more importantly, it can mean the reduction of symptoms of depression and anxiety. By being more mindful through meditation, we are made aware of the reactions that cause undesirable feelings. This awareness helps us mitigate these feelings, and it is remarkable that established scientific studies have backed this claim up.