A recent study by researchers at the University of Sunshine Coast, Australia, has thrown more scientific weight behind the benefits of mindfulness. The report is latest in a series of many that suggest that mindfulness can alleviate stress, mitigate chronic pain, and enhance mood, thinking, and memory.
In the study, the researchers placed healthy adults aged 60 and above on mindfulness programs. They participants were placed into two groups – one for an eight-week program and the other for a six month program. The researchers found much better improvements to attention and focus as well as significant physiological brain changes in the latter group.
To capture the physiological brain differences in the groups, the researchers recorded the brain activities of the participants using an electroencephalography (EEG) while they were engaged in an attention-demanding task. These tasks involved identifying letter pairs displayed in varying sizes as quickly and accurately as possible.
The researchers were able to pick out two main brain processes optimized by mindfulness: those involved in processing sensory data and channeling attention onto something. They found that mindfulness increased the ability to focus as well as sensitivity, enabling participants to capture and interpret relevant sensory data faster and more accurately.
In other words, mindfulness helped the participants to avoid distractions and dedicate sufficient brain power to identifying and interpreting important information. As such, mindfulness training can enhance many aspects of consciousness and cognition with significant physiological improvements.
It was previously thought that these cognitive functions, which detect a person’s IQ, are fixed – locked permanently into the immutable structures of the brain. However, by introducing positive changes to the brain on a physiological level, mindfulness can be a no-brainer IQ hack.
People can improve their brain functions simply by stimulating them, cultivating mindfulness of thought, feelings, and sensations. The researchers suggests that even a simple mindfulness practice of observing your breathe can significantly enhance a person’s perception of the world.
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