There is growing research evidence, which clearly identifies the benefits of practising mindfulness in a wide range of people – both children and adults.
Mindfulness has shown to help with anxiety, depression and pain and to be as effective in reducing recurrence of depression as anti-depressants.
MRI scans show that after an eight-week mindfulness course there are changes in the brain, which alter the way we deal with stressful situations; the amygdala shrinks and the pre-frontal cortex becomes more developed.
The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for our primal response to danger and stress. When under threat or stressful situations it releases hormones and the fight or flight response kicks in. This is the part of the brain which responds when we are in traffic jams or similar types of stressful situations. We can not fight or run away and so primal responses are not helpful or being put to good use. If you tend to respond to stressful situations by flaring up and getting into arguments then this is your primal response and is probably one you regret later.
The pre-frontal cortex, on the other hand, is the part of the brain which enables us to make more thoughtful responses such as analytical processing and more complex thinking, decision making, social decisions, and experiencing emotions. We use this part of the brain when we are working things out.
Through mindfulness practice our primal responses to stress seem to be superseded by the more thoughtful responses, so we have more control over the way we react in certain situations. Mindfulness ultimately gives us the ability to transform our behavioural patterns.
There are many other benefits too to be gained from meditating and living a more mindful life.