Ancient practice. Modern application.
The surge of interest in mind-body disciplines and their outcomes points to the effectiveness and timelessness of these ancient tools. They’ve proven so useful that across America—within the US Military, Fortune 500s, hospitals, correctional facilities, sports teams, and schools—mind-body techniques are being employed to improve everything from combat trauma, employee performance, patient recovery, compassion fatigue, athletic performance, and learning environments for schoolchildren.
Now, researchers from Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins, among others, are using neuroimaging technologies to learn just how this mental education and training supports the brain and body. The takeaway? Train your brain.
The proven benefits.
Brain scans of seasoned meditators are proving that we can overcome even the most stubborn mental impediments to gain mastery over our lives. Turns out, we have a lot of control over how we think, feel, perceive and interact with our world. Wellbeing is not determined by genes, nor is it a fixed result of our environment, past experiences or prior patterns of thought. We can change.
Through deliberate development of virtue, concentration and wisdom, we can activate, strengthen and grow neural pathways and brain regions that lead to a happier, more peaceful mind, while simultaneously weakening those pathways and regions that don’t. But the benefits don’t end with our brain; they extend to our heart and out into the world.
Attention, self-reflection and -awareness, reducing discursive thinking and rumination on past and future.
Emotion-regulation, decreasing stress and negative thought patterns that self-perpetuate pain.
Concentration, memory and executive function, helping one lead a full, present and purposeful life.
Empathy centers, lessening ego-centered thoughts and developing compassion in their place.
How they work:
Psychoeducation educates and empowers survivors about the causes and symptoms of trauma, minimizing any concerns or shame and helping them to identify and deal directly with the source of their suffering.
Moderated peer support groups offer participants a safe space to explore and share the pain they have endured and/or caused. By building sympathetic communities for survivors, we help lessen frequent feelings of loneliness, isolation and degradation that only prolong suffering.
Expressive therapies, such as art, drama, music, movement, and play, allow for fun and safe self-exploration and -expression by bridging the conscious and unconscious to bring about new insights and healing.
Mind-body therapies, like mindfulness and mindful movement, lend to greater self-awareness, help identify and root out negative mental states, and offer a free, practical means to regulate the nervous system.
Ecotherapy can greatly improve physical and mental health. By spending time in and connecting to the natural world, beneficiaries report less stress, greater happiness and increased sense of connectedness.
Acts of kindness promote lasting joy and connection in times of personal suffering. Helping others takes the focus off of one’s self by considering the needs of another. The perspective gained through giving lessens clinging while promoting compassion.