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How Mindfulness Meditation Works

Mindfulness helps individuals release negative emotions and thoughts, while encouraging more positive feelings such as compassion and forgiveness. But how does this type of meditation actually work?

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have devised a new model that sheds new light on the science behind mindfulness.

Instead of describing mindfulness as a single dimension of cognition, the researchers show that mindfulness involves a large framework of complex mechanisms in the brain that lead a person down the path of developing self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART).

According to the researchers, in order to achieve self awareness during meditation, one must do the following:  reduce biases and negative thoughts, regulate one’s behavior, and increase positive, pro-social relationships with oneself and others.

The study emphasizes six active neuropsychological processes in the brain during mindfulness and which support S-ART. These include 1) intention and motivation, 2) attention regulation, 3) emotion regulation, 4) extinction and reconsolidation, 5) pro-social behavior, and 6) non-attachment and de-centering.

Therefore, a person must begin with an intention to attain mindfulness, and then follow it with an awareness of his or her bad habits. Once this is done, practitioners can begin training themselves to become less emotionally reactive and to recover more quickly from negative emotions.

“Through continued practice, the person can develop a psychological distance from any negative thoughts and can inhibit natural impulses that constantly fuel bad habits,” said David Vago, Ph.D., BWH Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, and lead study author.

Vago adds that continued practice can also increase empathy and remove our attachments to things we like and aversions to things we don’t like.

“The result of practice is a new You with a new multidimensional skill set for reducing biases in one’s internal and external experience and sustaining a healthy mind,” said Vago.

The research is published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Source:  Brigham and Women’s Hospital


How Mindfulness Meditation Works

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). How Mindfulness Meditation Works. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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