Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what is happening right now, by observing what’s going on inside (your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations) and outside (your interactions and surroundings) with an open mind and without judging.
Mindfulness helps us stay focused and present when we practice the two kinds of meditation offered in SB&T: Active Thinking, where we intentionally direct our thoughts and imagination to think positive thoughts and feel positive feelings (like kindness and compassion) – and – Resting the Mind, where we let it all go.
“Research has proven that mindfulness training integrates the brain and strengthens the important executive functions that support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success.”
-Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Clinical Professor, Mindsight and forthcoming Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.
Studies have demonstrated the many positive side effects of kindness and compassion:
THOUGHTS AND THE BRAIN
You can rewire your brain just by meditating because our brains change based on how they are used. Every time you have a thought, neurons connect like little impulses across the map of your brain. When these neurons connect, your brain grows thicker and stronger in certain places based on the thoughts you think. We can actually change the circuitry of the brain to help us be more peaceful and compassionate, simply by directing our thoughts and imaginations. Just like a bodybuilder lifting weights to build muscle, the more you think positive thoughts, the stronger the part of your brain that allows you to experience positive feelings will become!
Many of the body’s functions work automatically, like breathing, blood pressure and digestion. These functions are controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is divided into two branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) – the “fight or flight” response during stress, intense activity, and emergencies, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) – the “rest and digest”, or calming response.
When we practice mindfulness and meditation and focus on deep relaxed breaths, we can turn off the SNS and turn on our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), also known as “rest and digest”, which calms us down and helps us to relax. When the PNS is activated, your heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, breathing slows and deepens, pupils shrink, and muscles relax. This promotes good digestion, supports your immune system and just makes you feel good all over.