meditation techniques

Mind Over Matter Stressed out? Think it out

Maggie Flynn, CTW Features

Mind over matter is a difficult state to achieve, but according to a new study, meditation might provide some help in getting there.

Research from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation may help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, pain and depression.

This six-month study, led by Johns Hopkins assistant professor Dr. Madhav Goyal, found that those suffering symptoms of anxiety and depression saw “a small but consistent benefit” after an eight-week week training program in mindfulness meditation.

The research found that this type of meditation, which focuses precise attention to the present moment, had a tangible effect on symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially those associated with a clinical medical condition.

Dr. Goyal explained that while the study focused on the effect of meditation, it also examined the effectiveness of the meditation on symptoms of anxiety and depression. “We compared it to what other studies have found in similar populations using antidepressants, and the effect is about the same,” he says.

The beneficial results of meditation were consistent even when the study allowed for the placebo effect, wherein patients feel better because they perceive they are getting help. However more studies will be needed to determine just how powerful the effects of meditation are for those suffering from anxiety and depression.

Goyal says that one of the benefits of using meditation for medical therapy is that there are no side effects. For people who are already on a medical regimen, this opens up the possibility of treatment – as long as they have the time to learn and the willingness to practice.

Dr. Goyal stressed the importance of having a good instructor who can teach the appropriate techniques, and cautioned that while “historically in the eastern traditions from which these programs have evolved, meditation was not seen as a therapy for health problems – it was a means to gain an insight into one’s life.”

But patients from the study’s 47 clinical trials showed consistent improvement over the course of six months. From those results, meditation presents an intriguing option for those dealing with anxiety symptoms. And it’s open to almost everyone.

“I think future studies are needed to determine which patients would respond and which might not,” Dr. Goyal says. “But for the time being, I think anyone who is interested can try it out.”

© CTW Features

Maggie Flynn

Robert Piper: America’s New Workout for the Brain

Half of America exercises at least three or more times a week. I’m not sure why at least half of Americans don’t do meditation, considering the benefits. America is one of the most resilient countries in the world; the DNA of this country is made up of people that took risks and came from all over the world. I think Americans need to adopt a practice that’s been shown to increase resilience and compassion.

Why is everyone in America not using a tool that may make you more compassionate, resilient, kind, and happy?

One thing I noticed enormously from the time I started meditation is that the practice has made me a happier and more compassionate person. I’m not perfect, and I’m sure there are people out there who think I’m not compassionate at all, and they are entitled to their opinion. But the reality is it’s something I consciously work on because of meditation.

I grew up in a culture where most of my guy friends are alpha males who love sports, and work in corporate America. They like to joke around and greet each other with a series of insults. Anyone who observes this would think that it is a comedy show. Now this is not good or bad, this is just a part of the subculture. If you ever go into a locker room of football players in the NFL, you might see a similar subculture.

If you would have heard the jokes that were made about me doing meditation, then you would understand where I’m coming from. Outside of the mindfulness and yoga communities in America, meditation is still not mainstream.

I admire Dr. Richard Davidson for his pioneering research in the area of meditation. I think programs like the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison are causing a ripple effect on bringing meditation to the masses. Or the work that Congressman Tim Ryan is doing with promoting the positive effects of meditation.

I think the millions of Americans who exercise should be meditating before and after they jump on the treadmill. Why is this not possible? They adopted an iPod into their workout. They should be meditating before work, and they should be doing some meditation during their lunch break to stay focused.

Ten years from now, this practice is going to be seen as just like doing a push-up.

Here are four ways to make the practice a part of your life:

1. At Work

Come up with various ways to incorporate meditation into your work schedule, whether it’s before, during, or after work. Try to bring your attention to your breathing whenever you feel stressed out, this can be done at any time throughout the day. Another option would be do it at your lunch break.

2. Before You Exercise

I find meditation to be immensely beneficial to be used before exercising. If you’re a runner, try to do at least 10 to 15 minutes of meditation right before you run. Then you can make your run a moving meditation.

3. Right When You Wake Up

If you do meditation right when you wake up in the morning, it will impact every area of your life. Try to do a few minutes of meditation every morning before you start your day.

4. Schedule a Five-Day Challenge

Make a commitment today that you are going to do meditation every day for the next five days straight. Meditation is like anything else — once you get over the initial difficulties, like trying to focus your mind, it becomes easy.

For more by Robert Piper, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

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via Robert Piper: America’s New Workout for the Brain.

 

Mindfulness Meditation: Dr. Joe Parisi’s Introductory Exercise For Stress Relief (VIDEO)

In the video below, Dr. Joe Parisi leads a six-minute mindfulness meditation that will help you de-stress and unwind. In the meditation you will be prompted to use your breath to become more present. Follow along, then let us know in the comments how you feel once you’ve finished this soothing exercise.

Mindfulness Meditation: Dr. Joe Parisi’s Introductory Exercise For Stress Relief (VIDEO).

Simple meditation techniques provide powerful benefits – Life and Arts – The Buffalo News

Centuries-old practice finds new popularity as a refuge from the stress of the everyday

BY: |

Peek into a room of meditating people, and you will be struck by their stillness. They sit, eyelids lowered, with their backs straight and hands at rest, breathing slowly and evenly.

Inside their brains, they are still and quiet, too, concentrating on their breaths, a phrase or an image.

Oddly, this quiet activity, done consistently, has a powerful positive effect on people, physically, mentally and emotionally. In addition to relieving anxiety and stress, meditation has been found to reduce pain, lower heart rates, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack.

As the pace of life quickens, more people are seeking relief in the centuries-old practice of meditation. Once an esoteric, religion-based practice, secular meditation is offered in many settings. It is often included in corporate wellness programs, and is being explored by the U.S. Marine Corps as a way to keep Marines healthy and improve their resiliency.

Plenty of people in this area are catching on to the benefits of meditation. Meditator Marguerite Battaglia says that Western New York boasts “a remarkable number” of meditation groups. (See sidebar.)

The benefits, which have been documented in scientific studies, are linked to physical changes in the brain, says Stephan Bodian, a psychotherapist and author of “Meditation for Dummies” (Wiley, $24.99). “From the research on meditation that I cite in the book, the indication is that meditation actually changes the brain, literally growing and shrinking gray matter,” says Bodian in a phone conversation from his Tucson home. “Meditation enhances parts of the brain that are related to concentration, memory and positive feelings of well-being, and tends to de-emphasize and shrink the parts of the brain related to fear, anxiety and negative emotions.”

The impact is gradual, Bodian says, but begins soon after people start to meditate regularly. “People who meditate may not even notice the changes at first,” he says. “But the people around them notice it. They say, ‘You are not as reactive as you used to be, you are so much mellower!’”

The physical improvements appear to be caused by a decrease in stress and anxiety, which have been proven to have damaging effects on the body.

Without meditation, “Your thinking mind goes running wild,” says Battaglia, of Buffalo, who has meditated for eight years with the Peaceful Heart Mindfulness Community, among other groups. “They call it a monkey mind; you are thinking too much and making up stories that include worries about the future or regrets about the past.”

Marine Corps officials are testing an eight-week course in “Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training,” which may help Marines regain their equilibrium after stressful events. The program was developed by former U.S. Army Capt. Elizabeth Stanley, a professor at Georgetown University, who found that meditation and yoga relieved her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What is meditation?

It looks so simple, and yet the practice of meditation is complex enough to keep people mentally occupied for years, even decades. Bodian has meditated since the mid-1970s; Dennis Hohman of Orchard Park, who belongs to the Awakening Community, a group of mostly experienced meditators, has meditated for some 30 years.

Anyone can meditate, nearly anywhere. Many experts suggest that beginners start by just sitting comfortably, closing their eyes and concentrating on their breathing.

“It sounds so simple, but it is so hard,” says Battaglia. “Set a timer for five minutes, and count one on your in breath and two on your out breath, until you get to 10, and then go back to one again, and I almost guarantee that by the time you get to six, you will forget that you’re on six, and you’ll have to go back, or you’re on 11 or 12 and you’ll have to go back to 10.”

Beginners are astonished to find how difficult it is to calm their minds and focus on their breath for just 10 breaths at a time.

As people concentrate on their breaths, they become present in their bodies, clearing their minds of fear, regret and anxiety.

With clarity comes the ability to shed burdens. “If you meditate, it becomes clear what you need and don’t need in your life,” says Battaglia. “You’ll realize you don’t need certain kinds of people, certain kinds of things. Through meditation you become less attached to things, and attachment and desire are what get us all tangled up.”

Hohman says those who meditate regularly “won’t notice the effects on a daily basis, but it’s a cumulative effect. Things that used to upset you or rattle you – social situations, employers, difficulties in life – don’t seem to throw you the way they once did, and you can handle the daily vicissitudes of relationships with aplomb, much more calmly and better relaxed.”

Hohman says he can look back and see how he has changed. “There’s been an enormous reduction of generalized fear and anxiety in my life,” he says.

Setting the mind on idle

In his foreword to Bodian’s book, Dr. Dean Ornish writes that while “learning to meditate was one of the smartest decisions I ever made,” he is aware of the objections people who don’t meditate have about the practice. People who don’t meditate fear that it might be boring, esoteric or difficult, while Ornish counters that meditation is interesting, familiar, natural and powerful.

But how is doing nothing and thinking of nothing not boring?

“When you are sitting there, you are so busy – you can’t believe how busy you are,” says Battaglia.

People are used to being stimulated and preoccupied; the purpose of meditation is to hit the “pause” button, Bodian says: “Minds tend to find that boring initially … but after a while you start experiencing the pleasures of meditation, the pleasures of the moment for what it is right now.”

The challenge of meditation – of keeping your mind clear of intrusive thoughts – “becomes interesting,” Bodian says. “How attentive can I be? How present can I be? … You are learning a new skill, and that’s always interesting. Then eventually you start enjoying it.”

Power of the group

Western New York has quite a few meditation groups, which Hohman has seen burgeon from just one or two groups when he started meditating in the 1980s.

“What seemed to be a real catalyst was the visit of the Dalai Lama to the University at Buffalo in 2006,” Hohman says. “A number of people in meditation groups got together and worked with UB as part of community outreach. We found all kinds of people who had been in small groups or just meditating by themselves, and after that it just seemed as though the groups all grew in size.”

While many meditation groups are rooted in a spiritual tradition or even held in a place of worship, most commonly Buddhist, Bodian writes that every major faith has a tradition of meditation, including Christian prayer and Jewish contemplation.

“What meditation is about simply is being present in the moment,” Bodian says. “It cuts across all religious or spiritual traditions. Suppose you want to be more like Christ, which is one of the goals of the Christian tradition. Being present in the moment can make you more compassionate to the people around you so you can be more responsive and give more.”

Nondenominational meditation is offered in many different venues. “Nowadays it’s very common to be able to learn meditation through mindfulness groups, or in community education classes at colleges,” says Bodian. Some day spas and yoga studios, where a few minutes of mindfulness practice are often offered at the end of each yoga class, also offer meditation opportunities. “There are now corporations that include meditation in their corporate wellness programs,” says Bodian.

The key to reaping the benefits of meditation is not to do it perfectly but to do it often, says Bodian. “If you wanted to run a marathon, and you ran a mile and then didn’t run for three or four days, and then ran a mile again, you’d never get anywhere,” he says. “You run gradually and frequently and work your way up, just like meditation. If you do this on a regular basis, you are gradually able to remain aware for longer and longer periods of time. Practice is the key, like any skill.”

Simple meditation techniques provide powerful benefits – Life & Arts – The Buffalo News.

Breathing exercises to combat anxiety | Mail Online

By Dr Jonty Heaversedge

More than 870,000 Britons suffer from anxiety, a condition that triggers unnecessary feelings of uneasiness and worry.

Increasingly, mindfulness – a psychological therapy with roots in Buddhist meditation – is being used by the NHS to help alleviate the symptoms.

Here, in the final extract from his book The Mindful Manifesto, DR JONTY HEAVERSEDGE explains how it can help.

Increasingly, mindfulness – a psychological therapy with roots in Buddhist meditation – is being used by the NHS to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety

Increasingly, mindfulness – a psychological therapy with roots in Buddhist meditation – is being used by the NHS to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety

Before directing your mind towards the anxiety you are experiencing, focus on your breathing – the sensation of air slowly flowing into your nostrils, streaming down the back of your throat and into your lungs. Feel the beating of your heart and imagine how it pumps oxygenated blood around your body. Continue until you’re ready to meditate.

Now, shift your attention to your anxious thoughts. What thoughts are present in your mind right now? Are there many moving quickly or does each one remain for a while? Consider the thoughts objectively rather than reacting to them emotionally.

There’s a myth that when you meditate, you should have a blank mind. But thoughts are not the enemy and trying to stop them will only lead to more struggle. Treat the thoughts during meditation like having a radio on in the background – you can hear it, but your main focus is elsewhere. In mindfulness, you’re paying attention to the fact that you have a thought but you are not buying into what it is saying. Try not to judge the thought as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Cultivate an attitude of equanimity to whatever goes through your mind. Watch your thoughts with curiosity and kindness and they will become easier to bear.

Whenever you notice your mind is wandering, acknowledge that it has meandered and gently bring your attention back to observing your thoughts.

Continue working with your worries in this way for the period of time you have chosen. Working mindfully can be challenging, so it’s good to practise for short periods at first.

You may feel dizzy when you start but that’s because you’ve suddenly stopped spinning around in circles. In the stillness of meditation, it can also seem as if you have more thoughts than usual but this is not so: it is just that you are becoming more aware of them. The more you practise, the more your mind can deal with worries in a less panicked way.

The Mindful Manifesto, by Dr Jonty Heaversedge and Ed Halliwell, Hay House, £10.99

via Breathing exercises to combat anxiety | Mail Online.