The evidence is in—mindfulness is linked to changes both in the brain and the body’s production of hormones and other chemicals that impact our physical health. Scientists postulate that the development of mindfulness leads to non-judgmental and non-reactive acceptance of experience, which is associated with positive psychological and physical outcomes.  

How does mindfulness change the brain?

There is now a significant body of research documenting changes in the brain associated with the practice of mindfulness.

Image of MRI scan of brain with area affected my meditation highlighted in yellow.

A 2014 review of brain imaging studies found eight brain regions consistently altered in meditators, including areas important for:

  • Self-awareness of thoughts and emotions (frontopolar cortex/BA 10)
  • Body awareness (sensory cortices and insula)
  • Memory (hippocampus)
  • Self and emotion regulation (anterior and mid cingulate; orbitofrontal cortex)
  • Communication between parts of the brain (superior longitudinal fasciculus; corpus callosum).

Imaging studies consistent with other research

The brain imaging studies are consistent with research that tracks the participants’ perceptions of how they have changed, as well as research that looks at their behaviors or physiological measures, such as brain wave activity or stress hormones.