There's Science Behind Mindfulness

autopilot intention meditation mindfulness science Sep 29, 2021
Photo by Nuta Sorokina from Pexels

These catch-phrases are found everywhere these days. Intriguing buzz-words that have become a fad, a sign of the times. Chances are there have been moments when you have wondered and wished for a little space, a little piece of time away from the everyday pressures that cause you to stress, experience anxiety, and that sense of overwhelm.

There is actually some science behind mindfulness. Research shows that after practicing mindfulness, the grey matter in your brain's amygdala – a region known for its role in stress – can become smaller. The pre-frontal cortex is the area of your brain responsible for things like planning, problem-solving, and controlling your emotions.  Practicing regular mindfulness or meditation actually conditions your amygdala to become less reactive, less stressed.

In the 1970s, when transcendental meditation surged in popularity, Herbert Benson, a professor at Harvard Medical School explored what he called “The Relaxation Response”.   He identified it as the common, functional attribute of meditation and yoga, including deep religious prayer. Benson described this response as the opposite of the body’s adrenalin-charged “fight or flight” response.

There are 3 characteristics of Mindfulness:

  • Intention to cultivate Awareness (and return to it again and again)

  • Attention to what is occurring in the present moment (simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise)

  • Attitude that is non-judgmental, curious, and kind.

Being conscious and intensely aware of what is happening right in the moment can help us notice negative thought patterns.  When you pay attention to big emotions that are clouding our perspectives, mindfulness can peel away the layers of emotions hidden inside and tell us what we are supposed to do with them.  Mindfulness can lend a hand to understanding where we need to create calm and clarity and decide where we have definite patterns and cycles.

With some simple reflection, tools and strategies to guide you in the right direction, you may just uncover a newly found sense of fulfillment, relaxation and beauty.

Begin by taking a look at how intentional you are about living in the moment. Many of us humans live on autopilot, we are creatures of habit.  Driving home from work in a daze, making turns that are routine and stoplights that are habit, and inevitably you arrive at home without being conscious.  You are lost in thought, caught up in what has happened across our day or deeply wondering about something that is going on is customary and natural for us. Living on autopilot is very much like having automatic thoughts and regular repetition without having to think about it any longer. You’re physically present but emotionally your mind is completely disengaged.

There can be challenges when we are perpetually stuck, when we are walking through life merely doing what we need to do because of expectation, habits, or comparison.  When we are running on automatic pilot, we tend to be bogged down in the past or uncertain of the precarious future.  You just wish that you could figure it out. 

Are you feeling any of these emotions?

  • sense of numbness

  • worry

  • disconnection

  • anxiety

  • destructive

  • distracted


When we are zombies routinely marching on this road, we are so absorbed with the playback running through our minds that we forget to be conscious. We slip away from the present moment and then wonder where did the time go? How did I miss that? What’s next?

Daydreaming through the days, taking the same roads, the same path and we do what’s familiar, we are following our old patterns, our old habits, and our old routines. Thinking about the past and how it served us but when we want to begin to become intentional, we begin to wonder how these habits are going to serve us in the future. They may have been the best option in the past but continuing with the same route and patterns may continue to leave us feeling stuck or at times even going backward.

It’s time for you to take control of the wheel.  Turn off autopilot and take a deep investigation of where are you are stuck. Examine and inspect those big emotions. The feelings that have been numbed out and take a new journey where you notice what is benefitting you. Look at what is holding you back, what’s creating worry and anxiety and fear. It’s time to let those go. Move forward and take an inventory of what is bringing you joy, what makes you happy, what makes you feel loved. When we take control of our lives by pausing, reflecting, inspecting, and creating new pathways we can become more engaged in our lives and improve relationships with the important people around us. Letting go can feel challenging in the moment but soon it will benefit you by feeling more focused, attentive, aware, and engaged with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they arise instead of keeping them blocked out.

Simple Ways to Practice Mindfulness Today

  • Pay attention. Slow down! Notice your surroundings. Try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses — touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste and truly enjoy it.

  • Live in the moment. Find joy in simple pleasures.

  • Accept yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.

  • Focus on your breathing. When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.

  • Body scan meditation. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions, or thoughts associated with each part of your body.

  • Walking meditation. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations.

Resource: The Mayo Clinic

Take a moment and reflect, observe and acknowledge the path we’ve been taking we may be able to arise without judgment or criticism of ourselves.  Shutting off the autopilot will allow us to accept ourselves, others, and create a healthy new version of ourselves.


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