5 Mental Health Benefits of Mindfulness for Body & Brain

Mindfulness is one of the key pathways to mental health. (Image via Freepik/ Kgpargeter)
Mindfulness is one of the key pathways to mental health. (Image via Freepik/Kgpargeter)

For thousands of years, people have practiced mindfulness for spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.

So, from a scientific perspective, how does mindfulness affect the body? Does it really do anything? It all starts in the brain. During mindfulness, brain scans see increased activity in regions directly correlated with decreased anxiety and depression, along with increased pain tolerance.

The default mode Nnetwork, in particular, is activated when one’s mind is at rest and not focusing on the outside world. That has been found to improve memory, self awareness, and goal setting.

Want to be more caring for your friends and family? When scientists compared the brains of Buddhist monks to new meditators, they found that the region of the brain associated with empathy as much more pronounced.


Mental Health Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for mental health. Here are five ways in which it impacts the body and brain:

1) Makes Physical Changes

It's time to work on your mental health. (Image via Freepik/Storyset)
It's time to work on your mental health. (Image via Freepik/Storyset)

Mindfulness changes brain waves, and these frequencies can be measured. Meditators have higher levels of Alpha waves, which have been shown to reduce feelings of negative mood, tension, sadness and anger. If that isn't enough, it also physically changes brain shape and size.

Studies have found that after eight weeks of a meditation programme, gray matter is more dense in areas associated with learning, memory processing, and emotion regulation. The amygdala, which deals with stress, blood pressure, and fear, has decreased gray matter.

2) Controls Internal Processes

Mindfulness helps you at deeper levels. (Image via Freepik/Pch.Vector)
Mindfulness helps you at deeper levels. (Image via Freepik/Pch.Vector)

Meditation can not only help decrease blood pressure but can also increase the variability of heart rate. While that may sound harmful, mindfulness plays a critical role in transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body.

In a study, meditators and non-mediators were given the flu virus. Meditators were found to be able to produce a greater number of antibodies and had increased immune function.

If we go a little deeper, we can even see changes on a cellular level. The chromosomes have protective protein complexes called telomeres, which help reduce damage to DNA and lower cell death.

A shortened telomere length has been linked with several diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Amazingly, when cancer survivors complete a meditation programme, their bodies showed significant increase in telomere length.

3) Improves Working Memory

Mindfulness can help with day-to-day tasks, so it can help with improving concentration and working memory.

Working memory is when you hold pieces of information in your head at any time, like when doing mental math. Evidence shows that mindfulness can boost that and your ability to work things out quickly.

In a study, participants either received four weeks of mindfulness training or took a creative writing course. Memory tests suggested that those who were trained in mindfulness practices showed the greatest reduction in memory interference, which resulted in improvement in their short-term memory.

4) Enhances Thought Processes

Mindfulness can also help in thought processes; so, for example, if you are worried about something, and you think about it over and over again, you might find yourself feeling a bit low. That's known as rumination. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce rumination.

Evidence suggests that it may also contribute to your ability to have flexible and clear thinking, in addition to assisting with focus and memory.

It makes sense that practicing mindfulness can alter the way you think. After all, the goal of the practice is to become more conscious of your thoughts without being judgemental.

5) Facilitation of Recovery

You can enhance the healing process. (Image via Freepik/Freepik)
You can enhance the healing process. (Image via Freepik/Freepik)

You can use mindfulness to not just cope with a persistent or potentially fatal illness or life-threatening situation but also to help you move beyond it.

A study of Chinese breast cancer survivors found that mindfulness can improve post-traumatic growth and reduce stress and anxiety. Women who engaged in mindfulness are more likely to experience greater self-kindness, lessened rumination, and reduced stress, according to another study of young breast cancer survivors.


Meditation is not a substitute for medical advice or a healthy lifestyle. However, much like hitting the gym can help you grow your muscles and improve overall health, it seems meditation may be a way of ’working out’ the brain with extra health benefits. As the brain controls the entire body and being, why not relax and say ‘Om’ every once in a while.

Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.

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Edited by Bhargav