According to the recent article, A Mindful Brain, by writer Laura Vismara, an extensive body of research, carried out over the course of the past twenty years and supported by the relatively recent introduction of refined brain scanning technologies, suggests that practicing mindfulness meditation or just having a more mindful approach toward life can produce discernible changes in your brain activity and structure.
Mindfulness can literally increase both density and activity in major areas of the brain, strongly associated with emotional regulation and high-level cognitive functions, such as awareness, abstract thinking, reasoning and decision-making.
Mindfulness wandered into my life several years ago during my own battle with anxiety. I was an insufferable empath. Everywhere I went, I felt I was taking on the emotions and the energy of others. It distorted my reality. It took away the pleasure I could have been experiencing in the moment. Sadly, I had been suffering for years until, one day, I just shouted “stop!” to my own thoughts.
For the first time, I recognized that I was feeling “disturbed” by some event, and it was creating a trail of negative thoughts. Most importantly, by just recognizing my feelings, I soon came to realize that I had some control. At last, there was something I could do anywhere, at any time, and if done consistently, I could change the way I experience difficult feelings. Mindfulness became my saving grace. I am different in the way I experience anxiety now. It is still a struggle at times, but mindfulness is there to guide me. Below is a strategy I still use today to acknowledge my feelings and allow myself to experience them non-judgmentally.
The R.A.I.N Strategy
R- Recognize what you are feeling. Take a moment to put a name to it. Sadness. Worry. Disappointment.
A- Accept that the feeling is happening. Acceptance does not mean we like what is happening. It does not mean fighting the feeling. We are meeting the feeling, non-judgmentally. It is here. Not accepting can create anger and disappointment. After all, we are not trying to create additional suffering. Just acknowledge it with a deep breath.
I- Investigate. How long have I been feeling this way? Where can I trace this back to? What happened here? Don’t judge yourself. Just state the facts.
N- Non-Identify. This is a feeling. It does not define me. It is inhabiting me and it will pass.