Saturday, December 17, 2011

Meditation and neuroplasticity

Someone wrote in Zen Buddhism group in Facebook:
"One thing that's been very useful for me is to start working my neuroplasticity toward the most natural state the brain can be in by spending more time being fully present. This is sort of a master key for overcoming ALL psychiatric issues."
 I googled about neuroplasticity, and learnt that it is about the brain's ability to form new neural connections, which can be beneficial if stimulated correctly, according to the following website.
"The brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment."
http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40362
I think, like what the person shared, practising mindfulness and being in the present moment can help our brain to overcome any distressing symptom. Studies have shown this to be evident: http://chipur.com/2011/04/12/the-hope-of-neuroplasticity/

"Well, the discovery story goes like this. Dr. Schwartz revisited an interest in the Buddhist concept of mindfulness; a clear-minded, in-the-present-moment, self-observational technique that emphasizes viewing oneself without criticism or judgment.
Schwartz discovered that when OCD patients practiced mindfulness meditation (as a CBT technique), upon experiencing distressing symptoms, a significant number of them reported measurable improvement and relief.
Schwartz wanted to understand why. So he and his team examined PET scans administered before and after a course of CBT. Guess what? They found activity in one of the brain’s OCD-significant areas, the orbitofrontal cortex, decreased significantly. Furthermore, the observed decrease was about the same as what would be noted after antidepressant therapy."
 http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2010/03/neuroplasticity-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/


I also learnt that besides zen buddhism, yoga also recognises the benefits of practising mindfulness or sustained meditation in helping the brain's ability to change to combat stress.
http://www.yogastudies.org/2011/11/sustained-meditation-leads-to-neuroplasticity-or-the-brains-ability-to-change/

Being human, I tend to forget about practising mindfulness or living in the present moment, since living in the modern society requires us to multi-task in life, so I think having reminders, such as reading about meditation and inspirational quotes about our oneness with God/the universe, is useful for me to remember to take a deep breath, smile inwardly and be fully present once again.

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