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There is a study that caught my attention recently – Brain waves and meditation. If you have read our articles on Makoto Shichida, you will recall that he talks about being able to enhance our abilities using alpha brain waves. In fact, some of right brain practices advocated by Shichida are very much like meditation. So when I read that MBSR meditation has been linked with the ability to fine tune our control over our alpha brain waves, I was intrigued.
What is MBSR?
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” – Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn
MBSR is the abbreviation of mindfulness based stress reduction. It was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and is based from meditative spiritual practices from Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism and Taoism, that have been practiced for thousands. The program itself, however, is not connected to any religious purpose. Similar to what we sometimes do at the end of a yoga session, MBSR requires its trainees to ‘focus a “spotlight of attention” on different parts of their body’. The intention is for them to eventually develop the same awareness with their mental states.
When we focus our minds on the present moment, we are aware of our thoughts, feelings and actions, without attaching judgment to them. It can help us to embrace reality and the present moment, instead of jumping to the past or to the future. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation, and it is associated with many benefits.Brown University
What are the benefits of practicing MBSR?
- Improves mental health – decreases stress and anxiety; increases overall emotional well-being
- Increases regional brain gray matter density – improves concentration and attention
The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
How meditation affects alpha brain waves
According to research from Brown University, those who trained with MBSR demonstrated faster and greater alpha wave changes.
And according to Science Daily:
“nondirective meditation (MBSR and ACEM) yields more marked changes in electrical brain wave activity associated with wakeful, relaxed attention than just resting without any specific mental technique.”
The results from the study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine stated:
Significantly increased theta power was found for the meditation condition when averaged across all brain regions. On closer examination, it was found that theta was significantly greater in the frontal and temporal–central regions as compared to the posterior region. There was also a significant increase in alpha power in the meditation condition compared to the rest condition, when averaged across all brain regions, and it was found that alpha was significantly greater in the posterior region as compared to the frontal region.
How do you practice MBSR?
- Practicing yoga, tai chi, meditation
- Free Guided Meditations
- A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook
- MBSR Online Course
- Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness with Children