For years, psychologists have used something called exposure therapy to help people overcome their biggest fears. This type of therapy involves that particular thing you fear most while in a safe environment. But according to a brand new study, there is an alternative way to overcome fears that could very well be more effective than exposure therapy: mindfulness.
The new study followed 67 patients through a fear-conditioning task. In addition to undergoing the task, 42 of the participants were trained in yoga and meditation, while the other 25 were offered an exercise-based stress management program. The researchers found that the participants who learned mindfulness and meditation experienced physical changes in their brain, which they looked at using MRI brain scans. These changes were linked to being able to better recall safety memories and respond more adaptively to the thing they were afraid of, as compared to the exercise group.
What the researchers also found was that mindfulness helps us regulate our emotions and may even change the way our brain responds to the world around us. And the best thing about mindfulness as an alternative or additional form of therapy: you can do it anywhere.