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Mindfulness In Dog Training Week 2

Welcome to Week 2


This week we are going to look at

  • The Benefits of Mindfulness
  • The Science of Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness Activity Overview

Mindfulness Benefits 

  • Improves mental wellbeing
  • Stops you getting caught up in your thoughts and helps you become more aware of how this impacts your behaviour
  • Enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better
  • Increase emotional intelligence
  • Increases emotional resilience
  • Improves communication skills
  • Increases our capability to retain and manipulate information
  • It teaches  awareness and acceptance
  • Retrains the Brain
  • Decrease cortisol the stress hormone and therefore reduces stress
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Improves medical conditions asthma, cardiovascular disease ,PMT and chronic pain
  • Improves psychological disorders anxiety, insomnia, phobias

The Science of Mindfulness Part One – The Brain 

Before we move onto the science, I have a little lesson on the brain and the nervous system and how it works in relevance to mindfulness approaches at its benefits

The Brain is made up of three main parts

ghfdhdrhare1The Cortex , The Limbic Brain and the Reptilian Brain

The Cortex is your rational brain

The Limbic Brain is your emotional brain

The Reptilian Brain is your instinctive brain






The Amygdala is part of the Limbic system and is involved in emotions

The Prefrontal Cortex is part of the cortex and is involved in planning and decision making

When a situation happens we normally react on our emotions so the amygdala takes over and causes a response or reaction. When we practice mindfulness we retrain the brain so the prefrontal takes over and we can think carefully about our response and be more rational instead of emotive


We are not our thoughts, you can choose your attitude to a situation and how we think and feel about experiences, especially when under stress

Two Halves

Westerners are mostly left brained which is the emotional half. Mediation shifts to the right brain, and there is increased alpha brain wave activity. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system instead of the adrenaline releasing sympathetic nervous system

Mindfulness can develop the tools from both sides and enable you to use both at will Instead of your mind controlling you

The Science of Mindfulness Part Two – The Nervous System 

Autonomic Nervous System has three parts

  • The sympathetic nervous system
  • The parasympathetic nervous system
  • The enteric nervous system

The important parts here are the

Parasympathetic which is the rest and digest state for non emergencies

Sympathetic which is the flight or fight for emergencies


The Science of Mindfulness Part Three – Neurons that fire together wire together


Consider your response to thoughts and the long term effect his has on your brain , stress and anxiety can change your neural networks and cause you brain to go into stress autopilot. You can train your mind away from this auto pilot behaviour.

We can also train dogs away from autopilot behaviour, be it emotion or instinctive such auto sits to movement and capturing and rewarding good choices.

If we can encourage our dogs with specific training exercises to be less emotive or reactive and use their thinking brain more, we can help rewire their brains too. We know dog’s brains also have neuroplasticity, as they recover from neurological problems and also this is the reason the original critical period of development was changed to a sensitive stage of development accepting changes can be made later

Emotional Hijacking example and how it works

Stimulus – You see a spider

Thoughts and Beliefs – Spiders are dangerous

Tagged Emotion – Fear

Response- Flight (scream and run) or fight (step on it/kill it fire)

The logical brain doesn’t have time to respond, we have been emotionally hijacked

Self awareness and giving ourselves time to think enables us to make more rational decisions

The Science of Mindfulness Part Four – What Happens When We Meditate 

We quieten the mind by focusing on something (usually breathing )

Activity increases in the attention focus part of the brain filtering out unimportant information and drawing attention to the now. Attention is right brained and meditation causes a shift from the left brained activity. You become less aware of sensory information and might have feel floaty a feeling hard to describe. It causes massive activation of the Parasympathetic nervous system

Regular Meditation

Increase grey matter in parts of the brain involved in learning and memory and regulation of emotions and perspective taking. It reduces cortical thinning, enhances compassion, improves attention, empathy and the power and reach of gamma waves, increasing neuron firing

We have different brain waves that function at different frequencies when in different states of mind. Gamma waves are a sign of high concentration and focus where large groups of cell firing simultaneously . The brain functioning at its highest performance


Gamma Waves

Gamma waves were recorded in Buddhist Monk Matthieu Ricard during mediation. His brain waves where 30 times stronger than students that had not previously meditated. This shown that the rewiring takes time and practice and will not change in short term meditation

Here is the link to this research and much more http://www.matthieuricard.org/en/articles/categories/articles-about-science

Watch the Video 




The Science of Mindfulness Part Five – Neuroplasticity and Retraining the Brain 

Practicing Mindfulness retrains the brain

There is evidence that the brain has what is called Neuroplasticity and we can change how our brain functions

Taxi Drivers of London have enlarged hippocampus the part of the brain that is involved in spacial memory, through practice of their daily job the brain has rewired and formed new neural connections


There is evidence that mindfulness is highly effective method to do this type of rewiring



Neuroplasticity is the brains way of reorganising itself by developing new neural connections and ‘the greatest insight for modern neuroscience in the last decade Profession Davidson (2011) The brain is a organ designed to change in response to experience and training

The types of changes that occur are :

1) Chemical Signals – Actions and Reactions – Concentration of them (these are short term changes)

2) Physical Structures – Motor Skills – (these are long term changes, takes time support)

3) Function – Activity in certain areas (neuron firing, think amygdala and cortex)

Together all three support learning

Behaviour and Practice level needs to be high (increase struggle during learning leads to greater structural change). So if you struggle with the mediation then great!!

Watch the Video 


The Science of Mindfulness Part Six – Mindfulness and Pain

Mindfulness is learning to accept some experiences are unpleasant without getting caught up in the emotion or trying to fight it. There is program called the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction which was researched and found that clients had clinical improvements in their ability to cope with pain along with significant improvement in mood and psychiatric symptoms

There is also evidence that mindfulness practice increase activity in the brain regions associated with decreased unpleasantness of pain and increased activity in the parts involved in decreased pain intensity

Watch the Video 


Mindfulness Activities That Can Help Retrain the Brain 


Here is a list of mindfulness activities that can help retrain the brain

  • Temporarily forget your to do list and be in the moment
  • Create quality based relationships (Listen, Appreciate, Support, Trust , Play)
  • Be Kind (Complete 5 acts of kindness each day)
  • Find Healthy Distractions (Nourishing activities) and understand the exhaustion funnel
  • Challenge negative thinking
  • Spend time outdoors
  • Know your strengths
  • Meditate
  • Learn to hold the feeling of loving kindness. Don’t condemn or judge others who upset us but also don’t accept intolerable behaviour but allow time to choose appropriate responses
  • Be Grateful
  • Understand the Exhaustion Funnel
  • Visualize your future

This Weeks Activities 

Here are two fun activities

How Mindful are you? The mindfulness scale

Is your mind connected to your body

Feel Free to share your scores on the Forum

This Week Continue with your formal and informal mindful activities

Next Week We are going to look at formal mindful activities you can do with your dog to help you understand then better on an emotional level


Jane Ardern BSc (Hons) Copyright 2016




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