You may have heard of the prefrontal lobes before, but do you know what this part of the brain provides? In his book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Dan Siegel outlines the nine functions of the prefrontal lobes. As described, these functions are:
And thanks to FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imagining), we now know that the prefrontal lobe area of the brain is strengthened through mindfulness meditation.
But what does this mean and how does it work? Let’s take a look again at the functions at these lobes and at how mindfulness impacts them:
1. Bodily regulation
If your stress response is over-active because of past trauma, mindfulness can help to regulate and soothe your nervous system.
2. Attuned communication
Do you find yourself over-reacting in certain conversations? Mindfulness can help you respond as opposed to react, and help you to better understand your conversation partner’s point of view. This leads to improved communication between you and your partner, children, boss, or anyone else you communicate with.
3. Emotional balance
Having more control of your emotions on a daily basis leads to less stress and improved health both mentally and physically. With regular mindfulness practice, you will experience fewer peaks and valleys in your emotions.
4. Fear modulation
If you’re late for work, late on a deadline, or need to engage in a difficult conversation, your body’s stress response will kick in. To counter this, your mindfulness meditation practice will help you get back to base-line faster, and allow you to go about your day without the uncomfortable side symptoms of fear.
5. Response flexibility
John Gottman, the marriage guru who claims to be able to predict within 98% accuracy whether a couple will stay together or not says, “there is only one social skill, and that is self-regulation.” Mindfulness allows you to choose your response to a situation as opposed to having the response choose you.
One of the most powerful effects of mindfulness meditation is the “aha” moment. Through mindfulness practice, the rational mind softens; and, contrary to what we might believe will occur, answers and insights often rise in place of our yearning to ‘figure things out’.
Feeling resentful or otherwise judgmental of a person or situation? Empathy and compassion are healthier emotions that better nourish you, the person or situation in question, and the world. Mindfulness trains up your empathy and compassion muscles.
8. Moral Awareness
More often than not, the solutions I come up with during my mindfulness practice benefit me and others involved. Neuroscientists have proven that mindfulness increases our ability to feel compassion. Perhaps this is moral awareness in action.
That gut feeling that we often ignore comes out loud and clear during meditation, often cutting away the stories we tell ourselves. This helps us to make better decisions with ease, ones that are aligned with the voice that whispers within.
So, as we practice mindfulness meditation, we attune the skills of our miraculous prefrontal lobes. Moment by moment, we enhance the skills and virtues that lead to heightened happiness, wholeness, and overall wellbeing.