Meditation soothes anxiety which isn’t really news. What is news is scientists have finally identified the brain functions involved in this soothing.

The study revealed that meditation-, or mindfulness-, related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain involved with executive-level function.

“Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings,” said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and lead author of the study. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.”

During meditation, there was more activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls worrying. In addition, when activity increased in the anterior cingulate cortex–the area that governs thinking and emotion–anxiety decreased.

Editor’s note: To learn how to become more mindful, read “The Mindful Massage Therapist,” by David M. Lobenstine, L.M.T., in the September 2013 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.