I want to bring back a short clip from episode 8 Dr. Nima Rahmany: The art of powerful alignment to play for you and read through some of the scientific research findings to help make a case on how mindfulness practice can help with PTSD or just stress in general.
In patients with PTSD, the researchers led by Dr. Yvette Sheline and her team from the University of Pennsylvania found that more severe anxiety symptoms meant increased connections activities in the amygdala and the area that associated with fear and negative emotions. (article here)
"PTSD patients exhibit hyperactivity in the amygdala in response to stimuli that are somehow connected to their traumatic experiences. They exhibit anxiety, panic, and extreme stress when they are shown photographs or presented with narratives of trauma victims whose experiences match theirs; or made to listen to sounds or words related to their traumatic encounters."
"Before the mindfulness training, when the veterans were resting quietly, their brains had extra activity in regions involved in responding to threats or outside problems or the amygdala. This is a sign of that endless loop of hypervigilance often seen in PTSD.
But after learning mindfulness, they developed stronger connections between two other brain networks: the one involved in our inner, sometimes meandering, thoughts, and the one involved in shifting and directing attention.
A the end of the mindfulness course showed increased connections to areas of the brain known as the executive network. This area gets involved in what scientists call volitional attentional shifting -- purposefully moving your attention to think about or act upon something." Or in a lay person’s term, your ability to be aware of your thoughts and senses. (article here)
The ultimate wisdom here is that the Brain is a plastic organ. You are able to rewire it. (Go listen to episode 5 with Dr. Loretta Breuning) Studies have shown that the practice of mindfulness and meditation actually lowers the activities of the amygdala and increases the activity in the frontal cortex.
Using war veterans with PTSD might be an extreme example but PTSD is a spectrum. Like Dr. Nima said we all suffer from PTS on a regular basis, getting cut off in traffic, getting rejections from your peers, etc. What that means is, when the events happen and we judge it as undesirable. Your amygdala will be activated and your frontal cortex will be less activated.
If the mindfulness practice can shift and re-wire the brain in the opposite direction for war veterans. It can do the same for you too.
It could be a seated meditation or just a simple deep breaths exercise where you take 10-20 deep breaths before bed or upon waking.