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Think


  • Main Ideas

    Learning Objective

    Understand how mindfulness can influence our physiological state overall health.


    Behavioral Objective

    Apply mindfulness techniques to monitor and guide your thoughts towards more beneficial outcomes,


    Key Thought

    Our mind is a powerful tool that can shape our physiological health through the regular practice of mindfulness, altering not just our mental state but influencing our biological processes.

  • Main Ideas

    Learning Objective

    Understand how mindfulness can influence our physiological state overall health.


    Behavioral Objective

    Apply mindfulness techniques to monitor and guide your thoughts towards more beneficial outcomes,


    Key Thought

    Our mind is a powerful tool that can shape our physiological health through the regular practice of mindfulness, altering not just our mental state but influencing our biological processes.

Introduction

How do we utilize our thinking brain to foster happiness, hope, and positive expectancy? The mind is a fascinating intersection of the brain and the body, forming what is known as the neuroendocrine immune system. It's challenging to consider the brain in isolation from the body's overall physiology, as both are intimately linked in ways that transcend simple biological processes.

Understanding the Thinking Brain

There is a common saying inspired by Earl Nightingale, "We become what we think about most of the time," which reflects the powerful influence of thought on our lives. While this might feel abstract, it gains concrete meaning when we understand thoughts as drivers of physiological changes within us-linking directly to mindfulness and our overall state of health or disease.

The Concept of Mindfulness

Mindfulness, as I understand it, is about using the mind as a tool, similar to how we use our hands. This means actively managing our brain's activity-our thoughts-which can be random or guided, shaping our emotional and physiological responses. Mindfulness involves monitoring these thoughts, recognizing their impacts, and using this awareness to steer our physiological states away from distress towards equilibrium.

This concept allows us to differentiate between beneficial and non-beneficial thoughts, embracing the former while letting the latter fade. It's an exercise in mental sorting, where we capture helpful energies and release those that are harmful. The science supports this, indicating that mindfulness can enhance brain-derived neurotrophic factor, influence gene expression beneficially, and even contribute to managing conditions like glaucoma.

Physiological Effects of Mindfulness

Mindfulness also plays a critical role in aging and disease management. It can create a more beneficial environment for stress hormones, which positively affects DNA methylation and telomere length-factors directly linked to cellular aging. Furthermore, mindfulness has been shown to improve both psychological and biological responses in conditions such as breast cancer, demonstrating its profound impact on our health.

There is also an interesting discussion within medical models about the dualism of mind and body, which often separates physiological and psychiatric conditions. Mindfulness challenges this division by showing that what we often consider 'psychiatric' can have tangible physiological counterparts.

Integrating Thought with Physiology

Our thoughts are not just ephemeral; they have the power to change our brain's physical structure through what is known as neuroplasticity. Regular mental exercises, like focused thinking, can enhance the brain areas responsible for these thoughts, demonstrating the tangible benefits of mental activity on brain health.

The DSM-5's new category of somatic symptom disorder encapsulates this by considering symptoms without a direct stressor as part of a broader neurobiological context. This classification helps bridge the gap between mental and physical health, emphasizing how our neuroendocrine and immune systems are involved in the ongoing management of our physiological state.

Guiding Thoughts for Better Health

By understanding and directing our thought processes, we can significantly influence our physical well-being. The activity of thinking can itself be likened to physical exercise for the brain, which not only conditions the mind but also manifests in improved physical health and reduced symptoms of various ailments.

Ultimately, embracing the full potential of our minds through guided thoughts and mindfulness can lead to a healthier, more balanced existence, challenging traditional notions of what it means to be healthy.

Course Outline



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