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What is Mindfulness and Why is it Important?

Describing mindfulness conjures images that range from Zen meditation rooms to staring at constellations in the night sky. But, the usual modern workplace—filled with noisy cubicles—invokes the opposite image for most people. While mindfulness can be considered an alert but calm brain that can assess its surroundings and cope with challenges, there is tremendous evidence that the distracted brain is less able comparatively to multi-task successfully. Both mental and physical health depend upon a brain that is able to function well under the normal stressors of daily life.

The Relationship of Mindfulness to Meditation

The most well-recognized form of mindfulness practice is meditation. While a Zen meditation sitting is the most structured, other types—such as Vipassana, Transcendental Meditation (TM) or even focused attention meditation which is what we, at Muse, help to measure—do not require sitting in a specific position. Kundalini is a form that combines breathing routines with meditation, and Hatha yoga sessions often end with a brief period of meditation.  Meanwhile, technological / psychological methods to achieve mindfulness (e.g., Neurofeedback through Muse) bear similarities to meditation and offer similar health benefits, but are not linked to any spiritual origin.

Distracted Brains – The Consequences

No evidence for the negative impact of a lack of mindfulness is as clear as the data on accidents resulting from texting while driving. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 3,477 fatalities due to distracted driving in 2016 (1). Furthermore, between 2014-2016, analyses have shown a 14 percent increase in distracted driving accidents resulting in fatalities (2).

Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation

Technological advances have fostered a dependence on online gaming, social media interactions, and fast response to emails and texts that have created greater distraction in public and private environments. Throughout our society, adults are more likely to engage in multi-tasking and spend less time in practicing mindfulness—which requires a time period of quietude and disengagement from Smartphones, tablets, and the Internet.

Research on Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness

Faculty researchers performing medical studies have published findings of the effects of meditation since the 1970s. Numerous studies have compared brain wave function in research subjects who were meditating with a non-meditating control group, and found marked differences.

Neuron pathways
Mindfulness meditation aids in building of neural pathways in the brain.

Results of a 3-month study published in 2016 showed brain waves corresponding to an anxiety state were lessened in comparison to the control group, and revealed scientific evidence that meditation and mindfulness reduce anxiety (3). Findings of another study published in 2017 showed a reduction in PTSD symptoms following four months of TM practice (4). Yet another study in 2017 showed that improved blood pressure readings were observed in hypertensive patients who practiced meditation, and thereby demonstrating a physiological benefit of meditation (5).

Conclusions – The Mind-Body Connection

Depression and anxiety are prevalent, and decades of research have shown the mental health benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Since mental health has been linked to overall health status, practicing mindfulness can aid in maintaining immune function and physical health. Whether choosing to meditate or utilizing a different mindfulness path, taking time on a daily basis to focus on mindfulness is worth it.

What is Muse? 

Muse: the brain sensing headband when accompanied with an app available for both iOS and Android devices is a sensory device that is designed to help with meditation by providing real-time EEG based audio and visual feedback. Learn more at: http://www.choosemuse.com/

 References:

  1. U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distracted Driving. Webpage: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
  2. Korosec, Kirsen. (February 15, 2017). 2016 Was the Deadliest Year on American Roads in Nearly a Decade. Fortune Magazine Webpage: http://fortune.com/2017/02/15/traffic-deadliest-year/
  3. Tomljenovic H, et al. (2016). Changes in trait brainwave power and coherence, state and trait anxiety after three-month transcendental meditation (TM) practice. Psychiatr Danub 28(1): 63-72. Webpage: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26938824
  4. Nidich S. (2017). Transcendental Meditation and Reduced Trauma Symptoms in Female Inmates: A Randomized Controlled Study. The Permanente Journal 21: 16-008. Webpage: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363900/
  5. Park SH, and Han KS. (April 6, 2017). Blood Pressure Response to Meditation and Yoga: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Altern Complement Med [Epub Ahead of Print] Webpage: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28384004

 

 

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