Mindfulness: Can Practice Make a Healthy Heart?

A photo of a neon sign on a wall in the shape of a human head will the words, “chill” inside their head. Some plants and a window are beside the sign.

The possibilities for using mindfulness to make direct and impactful changes to not just our state of mind, but our actual physical brains (and hearts,) is something that is just starting to be broadly understood. While I'd love to improve my psyche, I'm also deeply interested in how I can make real changes to my physical health. 

In Turning Negative Thinkers Into Positive Ones, Jane E. Brody's latest piece for for the New York Times Well blog, she writes: 

...six weeks of training in a form of meditation focused on compassion and kindness resulted in an increase in positive emotions and social connectedness and improved function of one of the main nerves that helps to control heart rate.... (which) is associated with objective health benefits like better control of blood glucose, less inflammation and faster recovery from a heart attack.

She's discussing the work of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of  North Carolina whose work centers on using "small, positive moments" to promote more pleasant emotional states. 

While this work is interesting for the reasons mentioned in the Times article's title (rewiring the brain for positivity,) what struck me as particularly compelling is this:

Dr. Davidson’s team showed that as little as two weeks’ training in compassion and kindness meditation generated changes in brain circuitry linked to an increase in positive social behaviors like generosity.

Two weeks. To improved brain circuitry. 

Over and over again, scientific research is beginning to prove out the physical benefits of mindfulness. No longer the domain of the new age crowd, the study of the effects of mindfulness is becoming a full-on science. It might take some of the rarefied air out of the practice, but I for one welcome the studies – as well as the positive impact on my own heart and brain. 

Liza Kindred is Mindful Technology's founder. (Photo is of Chillhouse NYC via Forbes Magazine.)

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