I went to a terrific lecture on Mindfulness Meditation, a powerful tool for changing thoughts and feelings, de-stressing, and becoming emotionally and physically healthy. For those of you who want a research-driven, evidence-based approach to stress reduction, reducing disregulated eating, and achieving greater happiness, this is it.

Mindfulness meditation is no “woo-woo” method of improving your life. It has a proven track record which you can check out at Massachusetts General Hospital: Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure. Quoting from a handout on the subject, mindfulness is the “dispassionate observation of and discerning the difference between sense faculty activity and thinking-fabrication.” It is a type of meta-cognition (rising above thoughts) by not getting involved in them. In this approach you know you have thoughts and recognize them as simply that. Just as, while waiting for a train, you don’t hop on every one that stops at the station, you don’t engage with every thought that arises. Some you choose (yes, choose) to let go by.

Mindfulness teaches that you are not your thoughts or your feelings, but that these are “fabrications” which are experienced as reality, interpretations of data received from our senses which “ultimately lack any inherent or true reality.” Mindfulness tells us that thoughts are our perceptions based on a whole host of factors, including our experience, but that they are not truth, just one take out of an infinite number of possibilities. Remember, we interpret reality in ways that have helped us stay emotionally safe in the past, but those interpretations need to be constantly updated.

By separating yourself from thoughts—noting but not engaging with them—you can see that they form a narrative that you live by. “Mindfulness frees us from the tyranny that we must believe every thought we think and everything that we feel…it is the discovery that joy and contentment can be found by letting things pass through us, and in learning how to surf our thoughts and emotions without unconscious reaction.” (MGH citation)

According to studies, aside from helping regulate eating, mindfulness meditation can help lower blood pressure and reduce other stress responses in the body. During this powerful practice, brain scans show more activity in your frontal cortex which is the seat of reason and happiness, so when you employ mindfulness, you move away from impulsive choices, make better decisions, and move toward improving your life. For more on mindfulness and eating, visit Center for Mindful Eating.