There are a lot of fascinating articles out there that delve into the subject of meditation benefits. But for those who are more visual learners, a recent documentary that sheds light on how mindfulness changes the brain might be worth sitting down and watching.
The documentary film, "Free The Mind," was created by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Richard Davidson who teaches classes on psychology and psychiatry. It focuses on Davidson's experience and research on meditative techniques, illuminating how deep breathing practices can have a physical effect on changing the brain.
PTSD and ADHD
In the study, Davidson, who is founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, applied these mindfulness techniques on two different groups: veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and children dealing with extreme attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
About 5.2 million soldiers returning home from war are plagued by PTSD. The film follows Steve, an American solider who just came back from Afghanistan, where he worked as an interrogator. Now back home, he suffers from sleepless nights and is haunted by a darkened conscience due to the things he saw and did during the war. The PTSD has left him grappling with being not only a reliable adult but also a good father to his 2-year-old twins.
But brain scientist Davidson poses the question, can veterans ease their pain through meditation and yoga, find happiness and return to a life more like the ones they had before the war?
"One of the things we do know, is that traditional treatments are only effective in, at best, half the population, and so, half the population is really not helped," Davidson said. "And so, we need to look for other methods."
Rewiring the Brain
Davidson built off his research of studying Buddhist monks for years, when he found it was possible to rewire one's brain through meditation. Some of the effects include being more compassionate, happy and altruistic.
Through the film, we experience what meditation does to these veterans and children, and the power it holds as an alternate method of medicine to become less stressed and more happy.
The researcher points out that there's a region of the brain called the insula that's used as the interacting link between the mind and body. This area becomes dramatically more activated during compassion meditation and can enable people who practice this type of mindfulness regularly to deepen their grasp of empathy with others.
Remarkably, master of meditation Ilchi Lee used to struggle with attention deficit problems when he was a kid. He turned to meditation and deep breathing exercises to work his way over the hurdles, and sure enough, Lee was able to overcome ADHD. Meditation allowed him to take a deeper look at himself and find his own self-worth, so he could turn over a new leaf in his life.
A similar transformation can be seen in "Free The Mind." The film even appeared at the Milwaukee Film Festival last year.