You’re probably familiar with mindfulness – the practice of focusing all your attention on the present moment – which has long been associated with relaxation and stress relief. By simplifying what you ask your mind to focus on, and concentrating solely on your own breathing, body, and thoughts as they enter and leave your mind, you can reduce levels of cortisol in your blood and the corresponding feelings of stress.
When you practise mindfulness, your brain goes into a gamma-wave state of relaxed alertness. The regular practice of yoga or meditation three times a week results in lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with other women of the same age. Regular mindfulness practised over eight weeks will lead to increased gyrification – the formation of more folds – in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with higher executive functions. These extra folds will help the brain enhance its performance when carrying out these functions, which will have an impact on your ability to think flexibly and make good decisions.