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Friday, February 1, 2013

Your Brain@Work: Post #7--Mindfulness

Neuroscience of Mindfulness: We construct mental maps—networks—of the outside world. We all have specific maps to help us get better at what we do. One such network is the narrative or default network. That network focuses on yourself, especially when not much else is happening. We tend to think of ourselves a lot. This default network keeps a narrative going—past, present, future—similar to a running play in our minds, like a narrative circuit. The narrative becomes a filter through which incoming info gets interpreted.  Narrative thinking is useful for planning, goal-setting and strategic thinking. The other set of mental maps is called direct experience which brings in raw sensory data in real time. However, the default narrative and direct map systems are inversely correlated; so, when one is turned up, the other is turned down. Thus, when you’re overwrought worrying about the future, it’s good to focus on your breathing or go for a walk to disrupt rumination and worry. People good at mindfulness meditation get good at switching between narrative and direct experience—and doing so increases our ability to harness control over the PFC. Mindfulness isn’t difficult to engage; it’s just stopping to notice what’s going on in the physical world.

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