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Mindfulness and How the Brain Works

16 Mar

Mindfulness and How the Brain Works

Posted By: 
Kaitlyn Guay

Want toned arms? You’ll probably do some push-ups. Want to run a marathon? You’ll train your body for it so you don’t end up melted like an egg on the sidewalk, needing to be scraped off and carted away by some kind soul with a stretcher.

When we want our body to do something, the concept of having to work for it is commonplace. So how come we don’t always practice shaping our mind the same way we’d shape our triceps?

Newer science called neuroplasticity tells us that our brain is constantly being reshaped throughout our lives, both by our experiences and our thoughts. Translation? What we water grows. If our thoughts constantly revolve around worry, anxiety, or irritability, that’s the part of our brain we strengthen. “The more we worry, the better we become at worrying.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly something I’d like to win a blue ribbon in.

So the solution is basically just positive thinking, right? Not exactly. @MindTheBump tells us that “Ninety percent of [our brain’s] activity occurs beneath conscious awareness. Which means that even though we assume that we have some control over how we think, feel, and behave, modern science suggests it’s not so simple.”

So what’s an award-winning champion worrier to do? In their video “Mindfulness and How the Brain Works, @MindtheBump tells us we differ from animals in that we have what scientist call the “new brain,” or the frontal lobe. It’s called the new brain, as it’s the last to develop in evolution. This is the part of the brain we use to manage emotions, empathy, insight, and act with flexibility and curiosity, even when stressed. Essentially, this is where the practice of mindfulness happens. The old brain (the part we share with animals) is the part that dominates when we feel stressed, worried, or overwhelmed. This is where the amygdala lies, a teeny tiny spot in our old brain that releases adrenaline and cortisol when we’re stressed. Now here’s the interesting part: our amygdala can grow or shrink significantly depending on if we practice mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is a technique that can help us to manage this process more effectively by building our skills of attention, concentration, and a capacity to direct awareness in a certain way.”

We have empirical evidence that students who practice mindfulness by meditating, practicing self-awareness, and doing daily breathing exercises excel both academically and socially. Online high school students have the unique ability to build mindfulness into their customized education by creating the schedule and mastery-based learning goals that work for them.

How would you like to train your brain today?