Mindful science: TPN vs. DMN
“Look past your thoughts, so you may drink the pure nectar of This Moment.”
Modern technology allows scientists to map the brain in an effort to help us understand how and why we think and act the way we do. Within the past twenty years neurologists have identified a Task Positive Network (TPN: active and aware) and a Default Mode Network (DMN: restful and unaware) that our brain switches between based on our attention or lack thereof. When we are actively engaged in our environment the TPN area of our brain lights up. When we are thinking, daydreaming, worrying or not engaged in the present moment our DMN is activated.
Research tells us we spend about half of our day in the DMN, mindlessly completing our routines and tasks in this autopilot mode that does not require much of our attention, if any. Since we don't have much control over our mind while switched to our DMN, we allow for negative thinking to seep in that can cause anxiety from unchecked worry about past or future events. A weak connection between the TPN and DMN has been linked to mental health disorders like depression, Alzheimer's and autism. Our DMN is also where we plan and allow our mind to figure out complex solutions with less distractions, so it does have it's benefits.
Photo by Kristen Sturdivant on Unsplash
Practicing more mindfulness and awareness throughout the day has shown to maintain a healthy connection between the TPN and DMN. Working in tandem, they help us to maintain a safe altitude with minimal turbulence, even while our DMN has us in autopilot. So apparently, being more present while our TPN is engaged will benefit us whenever our DMN attempts to take over. I was fascinated to learn about this connection. Although I have noticed how when I am more engaged in my interactions with others or simple tasks in general, any negative thinking that does not serve me dissolves more quickly. I don't get tangled up in the anxiety webs I used to spin in my mind whenever my DMN is activated.
Sometimes it feels weird for me to think of mindfulness and self-awareness as having any scientific or measurable value. However, research keeps showing us the benefits of mindfulness and meditation to help us with our mental health, which we cannot see, but a brain scan can show us how it benefits us. Also, countless practitioners and participants have reported the benefits of being more present and tuning inward. Living in this age of information overload and constant stimuli begging for our attention, it can benefit us to tune out the noise so we can tune more into enjoying all of the best life has to offer. The mindfulness science proves it.