Home Services Mindfulness Training Interest in Mindfulness

Interest in Mindfulness

Studies show that regular practice of “mindfulness” exercises literally rewires the brain for more flexibility and sensitivity.  Early studies found that, when regularly practiced, mindfulness exercises increased connections between and within specific brain areas; more recent brain scans have shown that these brain areas actually grow in response to daily mindfulness exercises.  Most of the studies have compared the brains of daily mindfulness practitioners to matched non-practitioner controls. However, several recent studies using randomized controlled clinical trials have found that even short-term periods of regular mindfulness practice cause predictable changes in the brain. In 19 separate studies, meditators have been found to have increased volume, density, and/or gyrification in socially relevant areas of the brain when compared with non-meditating controls.  Mental-training-induced changes in the brain are so predictable that neuroscientists can readily recognize whether a person has undergone mental training or not just by looking at his or her brain. In one study, researchers blindly scanned the brains of subjects and found that they could distinguish the brains of those who had undergone mental training from those who had not with 94.9 % accuracy.

Mindfulness exercises involve the persistent focusing of attention in specific ways, similar to many meditation methods.  In fact, the words “mindfulness” and “meditation” are often used interchangeably.  By either name, interest in mindfulness training is rapidly increasing.  If you type “mindfulness meditation” into any search engine, you’ll find articles from Time Magazine, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Forbes Magazine, and other major news outlets describing the wide-ranging, empirically-documented benefits of mindfulness training.  Relationship benefits are among the most frequently-cited, but mindfulness exercises have also been found to reduce stress, decrease rates of illness, boost immune system functioning, reduce chronic pain, increase positive emotions, decrease negative rumination, decrease boredom, increase enjoyment of routine experiences, reduce anxiety and depression, improve memory, concentration and attention control, and improve mood regulation and empathy.

American businesses, schools, legislators and professional athletes are paying attention.  In March of 2013, the Huffington Post estimated that one quarter of all U.S. companies offer some form of mindfulness training to their employees.  Companies such as Target, Apple, Nike, Google and General Mills have found that offering mindfulness classes improves productivity and reduces illness.  Over the past two decades, the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers have used mindfulness as part of a training process that resulted in 11 NBA titles.  The Seattle Seahawks are currently making the headlines using the same mindfulness methods.  The U.S. Department of Defense has recognized the value of mindfulness training for military personnel, initiating mindfulness programs for the Army and Marines.  U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan has written a book about how the benefits of mindfulness apply to the current challenges that affect each of us in our own lives and in our communities.  Many school systems are incorporating mindfulness training into their curriculums.  Perhaps most important for people visiting this website, mindfulness training has been used effectively to help couples improve their relationships.