How Not to Be a Slave to Your Brain: Mindfulness for Mental Health

It's possible to develop the areas of your brain that control feelings such as kindness, as well as the regulation of difficult emotions. In this way, you can train your brain to be a tougher guard against negativity.

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to present Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.


What does mindfulness have to do with neuroplasticity? Well, as Ruby Wax would tell you, neuroplasticity posits that you are the architect of your own brain. That means mindfulness is sort of like brick and mortar; it's the raw materials out of which you shape your consciousness and life experience. According to Dr. Mark Epstein, this week's Big Thinker on Mental Health, it's possible to develop the areas of the brain that control feelings such as kindness or altruism as well as the regulation of difficult emotions. That's where mindfulness comes in:

Epstein describes mindfulness as a way to temper our reactions to the many pleasant and unpleasant stigma of the external world. Just like lifting weights strengthens your biceps, mindful meditation bulks up your brain, in particular the parts dedicated to dealing with negative emotions. When you meditate, it's like taking a vitamin C for your mental health.

So how do you not be a slave to your brain? In short, you acknowledge that the brain is plastic (figuratively, not literally — unless you're a Barbie doll) and can be altered. Mindfulness works well in the treatment of myriad mental disorders, as well as a simple inoculation against the everyday strife endured by the brain. You have the power to build a better brain; all it takes is peace and dedication.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
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  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
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  • This is no less true in the workplace than it is in our personal lives.

Has a black hole made of sound confirmed Hawking radiation?

One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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  • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
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