Exercising the Brain
The default mode network in your brain is important to understand when you are self-reflecting and is also the part of the brain active during passive activities. The potential challenge faced when the default mode network is active is that the mind might wander to spaces, or memories that are unproductive. This network is where you can become engulfed by old stories or old experiences and begin ruminating over the past. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and lead you to spiral into a space of stress, anxiety or depression.
The default mode network is also active when you are resting and can contribute to overall happiness. When this network is active you are not necessarily focused on one thing or thinking about anything in particular. The default mode network can also be active when you spend time remembering, retrieving, or reminiscing. In addition, the default mode network gives you the ability to comprehend story narratives.
While this part of the brain is essential to the human experience, it is important to exercise the brain in order to prevent the emotional overwhelm this network might cause.
The Benefits of Meditation
Mindful meditation reduces activity in the default mode network helping to refocus the mind, and prevent the mind from wandering into stressful territory. Mindful meditation negates the effects of stress, fear, and anxiety and also helps with subjective perception and feelings. In addition to the aforementioned, meditation can help improve your ability to concentrate, again decreasing activity in the default mode network.
Perhaps you have heard of Tonglen, or loving-kindness meditation? Loving-kindness meditation focuses on compassion, both connecting to, and developing it. When practicing Tonglen meditation activity in the default mode network is decreased. Tonglen meditation results in decreased negative emotions; a different way of relating to Self; and increased self-esteem and self-confidence. This has the potential to increase happiness.
Meditation can serve as a tool to train the brain to respond to a wandering mind with increased awareness.