Mindfulness meditation can tame our emotional brain, says research

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mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is a form of nonjudgmental attention focusing on the present. It is known as a distinct method to improve our health and wellbeing.

Now researchers from Michigan State University find that practicing mindfulness meditation can reduce negative emotional responses and change brain activity. The finding is published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Researchers asked 68 participants to either practice a mindfulness meditation or stay in mindfulness and recorded their brain responses using EEG technique.

The mindfulness meditation was practiced sitting with eyes closed, cross-legged on a cushion, or on a chair, with the back straight. Attention was put on the movement of the abdomen when breathing in and out.

Staying in mindfulness, on the other hand, required participants to attend to an object mindfully.

The result showed that the two different practices evoked different brain responses. Mindfulness meditation changed brain responses related to emotional processing.

A closer check showed that mindfulness meditation reduced the brain responses related to negative emotional stimuli.

Mindfulness state, on the contrary, failed to change the brain responses.

Based on the results, researchers suggest that a brief mindfulness meditation, but not deliberate engagement in state mindfulness, can decrease emotional reactivity to negative stimuli.

In other words, meditation can help tame our emotions even if we are not mindful people. But for people who are not naturally mindful and have never meditated, forcing themselves to be mindful ‘in the moment’ seems not to work.

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Citation: Lin Y, et al. (2016). Deconstructing the Emotion Regulatory Properties of Mindfulness: An Electrophysiological Investigation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, published online. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00451.
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