Mental Health

Research method integrates meditation, science: the meditation experience does not have to be subjective.

[Brown University] —

Mindfulness is always personal and often spiritual, but the meditation experience does not have to be subjective.

Advances in methodology are allowing researchers to integrate mindfulness experiences with brain imaging and neural signal data to form testable hypotheses about the science — and the reported mental health benefits — of the practice.

A team of Brown University researchers, led by junior Juan Santoyo, will present their research approach at 2:45 p.m on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the 12th Annual International Scientific Conference of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Their methodology employs a structured coding of the reports meditators provide about their mental experiences. That can be rigorously correlated with quantitative neurophysiological measurements.

“In the neuroscience of mindfulness and meditation, one of the problems that we’ve had is not understanding the practices from the inside out,” said co-presenter Catherine Kerr, assistant professor (research) of family medicine and director of translational neuroscience in Brown’s Contemplative Studies Initiative. “What we’ve really needed are better mechanisms for generating testable hypotheses – clinically relevant and experience-relevant hypotheses.”

Now researchers are gaining the tools to trace experiences described by meditators to specific activity in the brain.

“We’re going to [discuss] how this is applicable as a general tool for the development of targeted mental health treatments,” Santoyo said. “We can explore how certain experiences line up with certain patterns of brain activity. We know certain patterns of brain activity are associated with certain psychiatric disorders.”

Structuring the spiritual

At the conference, the team will frame these broad implications with what might seem like a small distinction: whether meditators focus on their sensations of breathing in their nose or in their belly. The two meditation techniques hail from different East Asian traditions. Carefully coded experience data gathered by Santoyo, Kerr, and Harold Roth, professor of religious studies at Brown, show that the two techniques produced significantly different mental states in student meditators.

“We found that when students focused on the breath in the belly their descriptions of experience focused on attention to specific somatic areas and body sensations,” the researchers wrote in their conference abstract. “When students described practice experiences related to a focus on the nose during meditation, they tended to describe a quality of mind, specifically how their attention ‘felt’ when they sensed it.”

The ability to distill a rigorous distinction between the experiences came not only from randomly assigning meditating students to two groups – one focused on the nose and one focused on the belly – but also by employing two independent coders to perform standardized analyses of the journal entries the students made immediately after meditating.

This kind of structured coding of self-reported personal experience is called “grounded theory methodology.” Santoyo’s application of it to meditation allows for the formation of hypotheses.

For example, Kerr said, “Based on the predominantly somatic descriptions of mindfulness experience offered by the belly-focused group, we would expect there to be more ongoing, resting-state functional connectivity in this group across different parts of a large brain region called the insula that encodes visceral, somatic sensations and also provides a readout of the emotional aspects of so-called ‘gut feelings’.”

Unifying experience and the brain

The next step is to correlate the coded experiences data with data from the brain itself. A team of researchers led by Kathleen Garrison at Yale University, including Santoyo and Kerr, did just that in a paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in August 2013. The team worked with deeply experienced meditators to correlate the mental states they described during mindfulness with simultaneous activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). They measured that with real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging.

They found that when meditators of several different traditions reported feelings of “effortless doing” and “undistracted awareness” during their meditation, their PCC showed little activity, but when they reported that they felt distracted and had to work at mindfulness, their PCC was significantly more active. Given the chance to observe real-time feedback on their PCC activity, some meditators were even able to control the levels of activity there.

“You can observe both of these phenomena together and discover how they are co-determining one another,” Santoyo said. “Within 10 one-minute sessions they were able to develop certain strategies to evoke a certain experience and use it to drive the signal.”

Toward therapies

A theme of the conference, and a key motivator in Santoyo and Kerr’s research, is connecting such research to tangible medical benefits. Meditators have long espoused such benefits, but support from neuroscience and psychiatry has been considerably more recent.

In a February 2013 paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Kerr and colleagues proposed that much like the meditators could control activity in the PCC, mindfulness practitioners may gain enhanced control over sensory cortical alpha rhythms. Those brain waves help regulate how the brain processes and filters sensations, including pain, and memories such as depressive cognitions.

Santoyo, whose family emigrated from Colombia when he was a child, became inspired to investigate the potential of mindfulness to aid mental health beginning in high school. Growing up in Cambridge and Somerville, Mass., he observed the psychiatric difficulties of the area’s homeless population. He also encountered them while working in food service at Cambridge hospital.

“In low-income communities you always see a lot of untreated mental health disorders,” said Santoyo, who meditates regularly and helps to lead a mindfulness group at Brown. He is pursuing a degree in neuroscience and contemplative science. “The perspective of contemplative theory is that we learn about the mind by observing experience, not just to tickle our fancy but to learn how to heal the mind.”

It’s a long path, perhaps, but Santoyo and his collaborators are walking it with progress.

Researchers integrate meditation and science to develop targeted mental health treatments

Mindfulness is always personal and often spiritual, but the meditation experience does not have to be subjective.

Advances in methodology are allowing researchers to integrate mindfulness experiences with brain imaging and neural signal data to form testable hypotheses about the science – and the reported mental health benefits – of the practice.

A team of Brown University researchers, led by junior Juan Santoyo, will present their research approach at 2:45 p.m on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the 12th Annual International Scientific Conference of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Their methodology employs a structured coding of the reports meditators provide about their mental experiences. That can be rigorously correlated with quantitative neurophysiological measurements.

“In the neuroscience of mindfulness and meditation, one of the problems that we’ve had is not understanding the practices from the inside out,” said co-presenter Catherine Kerr, assistant professor (research) of family medicine and director of translational neuroscience in Brown’s Contemplative Studies Initiative. “What we’ve really needed are better mechanisms for generating testable hypotheses – clinically relevant and experience-relevant hypotheses.”

Now researchers are gaining the tools to trace experiences described by meditators to specific activity in the brain.

“We’re going to [discuss] how this is applicable as a general tool for the development of targeted mental health treatments,” Santoyo said. “We can explore how certain experiences line up with certain patterns of brain activity. We know certain patterns of brain activity are associated with certain psychiatric disorders.”

Structuring the spiritual

At the conference, the team will frame these broad implications with what might seem like a small distinction: whether meditators focus on their sensations of breathing in their nose or in their belly. The two meditation techniques hail from different East Asian traditions. Carefully coded experience data gathered by Santoyo, Kerr, and Harold Roth, professor of religious studies at Brown, show that the two techniques produced significantly different mental states in student meditators.

“We found that when students focused on the breath in the belly their descriptions of experience focused on attention to specific somatic areas and body sensations,” the researchers wrote in their conference abstract. “When students described practice experiences related to a focus on the nose during meditation, they tended to describe a quality of mind, specifically how their attention ‘felt’ when they sensed it.”

The ability to distill a rigorous distinction between the experiences came not only from randomly assigning meditating students to two groups – one focused on the nose and one focused on the belly – but also by employing two independent coders to perform standardized analyses of the journal entries the students made immediately after meditating.

This kind of structured coding of self-reported personal experience is called “grounded theory methodology.” Santoyo’s application of it to meditation allows for the formation of hypotheses.

For example, Kerr said, “Based on the predominantly somatic descriptions of mindfulness experience offered by the belly-focused group, we would expect there to be more ongoing, resting-state functional connectivity in this group across different parts of a large brain region called the insula that encodes visceral, somatic sensations and also provides a readout of the emotional aspects of so-called ‘gut feelings’.”

Unifying experience and the brain

The next step is to correlate the coded experiences data with data from the brain itself. A team of researchers led by Kathleen Garrison at Yale University, including Santoyo and Kerr, did just that in a paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in August 2013. The team worked with deeply experienced meditators to correlate the mental states they described during mindfulness with simultaneous activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). They measured that with real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Kripalu : Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain

By Angela Wilson, MA, RYT

One of the most well-known and utilized tools in meditation and yoga is the practice of self-observation without judgment, or mindfulness. Swami Kripalu called self-observation without judgment “the highest form of spiritual practice.” Likewise, if you go to any yoga or meditation class you’re likely to hear words like mindfulness and nonjudgmental awareness repeated throughout the class. But what do these terms really mean?

Mindfulness meditation has been defined by Jon-Kabat Zinn as “the ability to pay total attention to the present moment with a nonjudgmental awareness of the inner and/or outer experiences.” Kripalu Yoga teacher Shobhan Richard Faulds describes self-observation without judgment as “restraining the mind’s tendency to grasp what is pleasant and push away what is painful — and produce a flowing state of choice-less awareness that enables you to remain intimate with what’s going on inside you.”

Mindfulness, something once practiced only in more closeted meditation circles, has recently become a greater mainstream interest. Perhaps for this reason, research on mindfulness meditation has increased considerably over the last decade. Even the National Institutes of Health has grown increasingly more interested in mindfulness meditation, funding a number of large studies which investigate the effects of mindfulness on emotional and physical health outcomes.

Mindfulness Improves Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health

While mindfulness is in many ways a simple practice, it benefits are numerous. Physically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol and blood pressure, and to improve the immune system. Cognitively, mindfulness has been shown to decrease rumination and boost attention. Emotionally, mindfulness reduces emotional reactivity and improves resilience. While many of these studies are preliminary, they nonetheless begin to paint a powerful picture of the overall health benefits of mindfulness.

However tenuous these preliminary studies are, they are augmented by current neuroscientific research that reveals how mindfulness meditation can significantly change the brain. And these changes are not just seen in cave-dwelling monks — they also occur in average hardworking, child-raising folks — like most of us.

The Brain on Mindfulness

Research shows that, even in a short time, mindfulness meditation can change the brain. What kinds of changes in the brain does mindfulness produce? Well, first, mindfulness fortifies our ability to manage difficult emotions. Second, it alters the way we experience our sense of self. It is arguably these changes that contribute to many of the benefits reported by current research. Let’s take a closer look at how this occurs.

Mindfulness training has a notable impact on the limbic system, or the emotional system of the brain. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain that determines how much stress we experience and that is central in modulating our fear responses. For example, people with very active amygdalae tend to experience more depression and anxiety.

Perhaps even more intriguing, however, is that mindfulness can actually change the size the amygdala. One study on overstressed businesspeople found that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation training, the size of the amygdala actually shrunk compared to those who were not practicing mindfulness. This reduction was correlated with less perceived stress. In those eight weeks, subjects were actually able to change their brain and, consequently, reduce their stress.

Findings also show that mindfulness practices help the person reduce emotional reactivity by increasing activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC, a brain region particular to homo sapiens, which is in charge of activities such as decision-making, planning, abstract thinking, and regulating emotions. People with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, have an overactive amygdala and an underactive PFC. The result is high emotional arousal, and a low ability to manage it.

Several studies have indicated that mindfulness meditation improves PFC functioning. Specifically, a study showed that mindfulness practice increased activity in the PFC such that attention span improved. Another study revealed that mindfulness increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex — a part of the brain that is closely connected to the PFC and is correlated with empathy and decision-making. As these regions show more activation, subjects tend to report greater emotional stability and less reactivity.

Neuroscientific research has also found that mindfulness meditation changes how we experience ourselves in the world. Generally, we spend a lot of our day in the personal narrative of our life. We obsess about the future, we dwell on that conversation we had with our spouse last week, or last year, and we remain entrenched in the storyline of our life. Researchers call this the “default network” and it’s dominated by cortical midline structures (CMS). While this “default network” has its benefit, when we spend too much time in self-referential thinking, especially if we are caught up in negative thinking, it can lead to poor emotional and behavioral outcomes, including depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness practice is about attending to the present moment. It teaches us to notice how the body feels, right now, paying attention to the breath and observing, without grasping onto our current state of mind. By definition, mindfulness moves us away from our personal narrative about how our life should be and into how life actually is, moment to moment.

It was no surprise to researchers that this practice would impact the brain. Through mindfulness practice, activity in the CMS, the part of the brain related to our personal narrative decreased, and activity in the insula, the part of the brain related to subjective awareness and body awareness, increased. Researchers postulate that this may contribute to some of the subjective benefits of mindfulness practice: When we move out of the story of our lives and into the actual lived experience of it, we feel better.

The bottom line? Mindfulness is an opportunity for the brain to strengthen and enhance itself — it’s like taking the brain to the gym. From our experience of working with health-care professionals — some of the most highly stressed individuals in today’s workforce — you don’t need to spend hours on a meditation cushion to reap the benefits of these practices. Our participants experience results with just five minutes a day of seated breath-awareness meditation or 10 minutes of mindful chair yoga. Ultimately, the impact comes from consistency of practice. Just as you wouldn’t expect to see much benefit if you went to the gym only once a week, the same is true of mindfulness training. It needs to be cultivated each day.

While the cushion is helpful in mindfulness meditation, mindfulness can be practiced at any time and in any situation. In every moment, we can choose to bring our attention back to the present and to know that when we do, we are actively involved in shaping our brains to foster more peace and inner ease. From this view, a touch of mindfulness practice each day becomes a tremendous investment in our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Kripalu : Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain.

Why a Little Bit of Stress Is Good For You | Greatist

There are times when I think I’d be much happier if I could spend the rest of my life lounging on the sands of the Mediterranean, having someone fan me with palm fronds while feeding me superfood grapes. In other words, life would be better without any stress. Or would it?

According to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, a little stress may not be so bad for us after all. While chronic stress may be harmful, acute (short-term) stress may actually boost our cognitive function. The findings are supported by other research suggesting a little bit o’ stress may have beneficial effects for our brains and bodies. The key, of course, is knowing when we’re too harried for our own good.

What’s the Deal?

Before we get into the science, let’s be clear that most of the research in this area involves rats, not humans, so it’s not entirely clear that the findings apply to people. For a while now, researchers have suspected that the effect of stress on the (rat) brain is like an upside-down U: Up to a certain point, stress boosts cognitive function; after that, it starts to take a negative toll [1] [2].

In this latest study, researchers wanted to see if short-term stress really would turn regular old rats into geniuses. So they subjected rats to acute stress by confining them in their cages for a few hours. The stress caused the rats’ corticosterone (a stress hormone) levels to shoot up for a few hours, and also caused the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory function.

Two days after the stressful event, the researchers tested rats’ memories, and found nothing had changed. But two weeks later, the rats’ memories had significantly improved. Then the researchers got super-techy and figured out that the cells produced after the stressful event were the same cells involved in learning during the second round of memory tests. In other words, the acute stress had made the rats smarter. The scientists concluded that acute stress has a beneficial effect on cognitive function.

Is It Legit?

Possibly. Again, we’re talking about rats here. And while the researchers behind the latest study believe the findings apply to humans as well, there’s currently no way to monitor neural stem cells in the human brain, according to study co-author Daniela Kaufer.

There’s some evidence that acute stress is not only beneficial for rats’ brains, but also for their immune system. Stress hormones released in response to acute stress may warn the immune system about upcoming threats such as an infection [3]. On the other hand, studies of humans suggest that if the immune system is chronically exposed to stress hormones, we may become more susceptible to diseases [4].

Together these findings imply that acute stress ­— think a job interview or even a ride on a scary rollercoaster — might actually be necessary for our physical and mental health. It’s chronic stress — like being stuck in a bad job or relationship — that causes our health to decline, contributing to issues as serious as heart disease and obesity.

Still, it’s worth noting that some forms of acute stress may actually cause serious damage, as in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The UC Berkeley researchers say it’s still unclear why some types of acute stress have positive effects, and others can be so damaging. It might just be a question of individual experience, so it’s worth figuring out where our own optimal stress level lies.

Do you think a certain level of stress can be beneficial? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet the author directly at @ShanaDLebowitz.

via Why a Little Bit of Stress Is Good For You | Greatist.

 

Meditation Could Help Students Get Better Grades, Study Finds

Want to do well on that upcoming test? Consider a little meditation, a new study in the journal Mindfulness suggests.

Researchers from George Mason University and the University of Illinois conducted their study on college students in a psychology class. Some of the students were shown how to meditate before listening to a lecture, while others didn’t meditate before the lecture. Then, after the lecture, they all took a quiz — and those who meditated did better on the quiz than those who didn’t.

Specifically, one of the experiments conducted in the study showed that meditation had such a strong impact on the quiz scores, it was even able to predict students’ passing or failing the quiz.Interestingly, researchers found that the meditation’s effect was even more pronounced in freshmen classes.”Personally, I have found meditation to be helpful for mental clarity, focus and self-discipline,” study researcher Jared Rambsurg, who is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, said in a statement. ”

I think that if mindfulness can improve mental clarity, focus and self-discipline, then it might be useful in a variety of settings and for a variety of goals.”This is certainly not the first time mindfulness has been shown in a study to help with academics. A study published last month in the journal Psychological Science showed that mindfulness helped students’ memory and reading comprehension before taking the verbal reasoning portion of the GRE.”

Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide reaching consequences,” the researchers of that study, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote.

via Meditation Could Help Students Get Better Grades, Study Finds.

 

Why Writers Should Practice Meditation – And How to Get Started

Meditation is usually associated with relaxation and stress release, but those outcomes are more accurately by-products of the practice.

The true purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind.

When that happens, all kinds of personal benefits ensue, including improved health and resiliancy, greater awareness, and the spiritual awakening that comes from tapping into one’s true nature.

A quiet mind allows you to move beyond thought to the place where we all create, which is the space between our thoughts, and that’s a good place to be if you are a writer.

Releasing Stress and Mental Blocks

The reason we experience stress, writer’s block, and other counter-productive behaviors and conditioned responses, is that we are stuck in our thoughts. The first challenge is recognizing this, and then ceasing to fight it, because any resistance only serves to immobilize you further.

The more you struggle with your thoughts the more you reinforce your physical condition. You are literally squeezing your thought patterns down to a few, thereby dramatically increasing their intensity. This leads to even greater levels of stress, including uncontrollable anger.

Find the Space between Thoughts

Discovering the space between thoughts is something that healthy individuals do on a regular basis. It can happen by taking a walk through nature, or when actively engaged with activities you enjoy, such as writing.

The process of writing is different for everyone. However, for most of us it brings our attention inward, where we reconnect with our true selves, thereby making new discoveries.

To find the space between thoughts you have to first give yourself permission to do so. You have to trust your capabilities for getting there, just as a meditator will trust that the mantra will effectively lead to states of greater awareness.

How to Meditate

Traditional meditation involves the repetition of a mantra – which is a sound. The word mantra roughly translates as “instrument of the mind,” and its use helps to create the desired quieting of the mind.

A breath awareness meditation is a simple and universal approach – one in which the breath serves as the mantra.

Steps for practicing a mindfulness meditation.

While it helps to have a quiet environment, you can meditate on an airplane just well as in the privacy of your home. If possible, it also helps to dim the lights.

Begin by sitting down. Get get comfortable and assume a good posture, either sitting down on the floor or a chair.

Close your eyes and allow your awareness to go to your breathing. Innocently observe your breath as you breathe in and out.

As you observe your breath you may notice it changes – in speed, rhythm, and depth. It may even stop for a moment. Whatever happens, just continue observing it without expectation.

From time to time your attention may drift to a thought in your mind, a sensation in your body, or a noise in the environment. Whenever you notice you are not observing your breath, simply bring your awareness back to your breathing.

Continue this practice for at least 5 minutes, and continue for as long as it is comfortable. Over time you will be able to sustain the practice for the optimum period of 30 minutes.

Keep your eyes closed when you decide to stop, and just remain silent for 30 seconds or so before getting up to allow your mind and body to stabilize.

Slowly open your eyes, bring the lights up, and return to your writing.

Writing is a Process

I recently finished writing my first book: Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. I can say with certainty that I experienced my share of writer’s block, frustration, and even outright anger because I was holding on too tight at times.

Also, having never written a complete book, I had some fears about its accomplishment. What I discovered was writing well is largely a process of remembering, and then extending those ideas further. That was possible by practicing ways to maintain a quiet mind.

Writing is a process, and once you find yours, everything becomes much easier. Then its just a matter of doing the work.

The same holds true for for just about any endeavor, including social marketing.

In fact, the promise of Built-In Social is a reliable process that takes the stress and anxiety out of using social marketing well – including, and especially, writing valuable content that attracts business leads.

Are you and your business ready to write?

via Why Writers Should Practice Meditation – And How to Get Started | Business 2 Community.

 

Meditation technique enhances children’s mental health

Mindfulness, a form of meditation, has been shown to help with a wide range of mental health conditions and improve well-being in adults. However, few trials have evaluated its effectiveness in children.

Professor Willem Kuyken from the Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter is presenting new research findings from a feasibility trial which show how the mindfulness technique is also effective in improving well-being in young people. Speaking at the Mindfulness in Schools Project Annual Conference in London, Professor Kuyken will describe the results of the study which assessed how effective the intervention was at enhancing the mental health and well-being of young people aged 12-16 years.

Students from 12 secondary schools either participated in the mindfulness in schools program or took part in the usual school curriculum. Mindfulness has been described as the practice of becoming aware of what is happening in the present moment and of learning to relate more skilfully to thoughts, emotions, body sensations and impulses as they arise. The young people who participated in the mindfulness program reported fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress and greater well-being than those in the control group. The findings provide promising evidence of the effectiveness of the mindfulness in schools program.

Previous studies have shown that mindfulness can have a positive impact on physical health conditions, on social and emotional skills, and on learning and cognition. Changes in the brain are the basis for these positive effects. Neuroscience and brain imaging shows that mindfulness meditation alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of both thought and feeling.

Although there is more work to do to fully determine the effects of mindfulness in young people, these results suggest that students participating in the scheme are likely to benefit from improved emotional wellbeing and mental health. Such interventions can fit within the school curriculum, are inexpensive to introduce, can have rapid impact and above all are enjoyable for both pupils and staff.

The philosophy behind mindfulness is rooted in more than 2000 years of history. In the 1970s the disparate approaches were brought together and incorporated into a programme by Jon Kabat-Zinn called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Since then mindfulness-based programmes have helped thousands of people with chronic health problems and have been used to relieve distress and enhance well-being. Ongoing research in Exeter is examining mindfulness approaches for people with recurrent depression and vascular disorders.

via Meditation technique enhances children’s mental health.

 

Dr. Andrew Weil: Breathwalking: A Meditative Exercise

For many in the modern world, carving out time for both traditional seated meditation and exercise has become close to impossible. I’ve also known many people who are, by nature, movers. For them, sitting still to meditate — or do anything else for that matter — just isn’t going to happen, no matter how much they may yearn for the benefit of a meditator’s focused, peaceful mind.

For both types of people, walking meditation can be extraordinarily effective.

Meditating while walking has a long, noble history in ancient spiritual disciplines. One example is the Zen Buddhism practice of kinhin, which is often performed in groups, single file, to the sound of a clapper or bell. Other spiritual traditions have different forms of contemplative walking, but all share a similar purpose: to focus on synchronized breathing and stride in order to develop mindfulness of the present moment.

Even if you are an experienced seated meditator, you may find value in enlarging your repertoire with a walking practice. You may discover that uniting three rhythms — stepping, breathing and mental counting — is the most effective way to calm and redirect a chattering mind and pull your focus from obsessing on there and then to a new appreciation of here and now.

If you want to give breathwalking a try, here’s a method that my friend and colleague, Jim Nicolai, M.D., adapted from a Kundalini yoga technique explained in the book Breathwalk by Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D., and Gurchan Singh Khalsa:

Remember that breathwalking — as with any meditation technique — should not be pursued with a grim determination to “get it right.” The point is to cultivate openness, relaxation and awareness, which can include awareness of your undisciplined, wandering mind. Be patient and gentle with yourself as you persist in the practice, and you will soon enjoy the twin blessings of a more peaceful mind and a more fit physique. Happy breathwalking!

Orthaheel and Weil Integrative Footwear are calling for participants! On April 3, 2013, coinciding with National Walking Day, Weilbeing.com and Orthaheel will kick off the second annual Walkabout, a 28-Day Quest For Good Health. Beginners are encouraged to commit to walking just 30 minutes a day to attain physical and emotional health and well-being. The nationwide Walkabout campaign is open to the public — contributors will serve as champions of putting one foot in front of the other, and will invite a public spotlight on walking for physical and emotional health. Walkabout participants will receive daily healthy living tips and have the opportunity to engage in an online community of walkers encouraging all Americans to get out and walk. Andrew Weil, M.D., donates all of his after-tax profits from royalties from the sale of Dr. Weil Integrative Footwear directly to the Weil Foundation.

For more by Dr. Andrew Weil, click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

Video via Dr. Andrew Weil: Breathwalking: A Meditative Exercise.

 

UW study shows benefits of mindfulness meditation for inflammation

While interest in mindfulness meditation as a stress reliever has grown through the years, there’s been little evidence to support that it helps those suffering from chronic inflammation conditions in which psychological stress plays a major role.

Until now.

A new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists suggests mindfulness meditation techniques may help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, originally designed for patients with chronic pain, consists of continuously focusing attention on the breath, bodily sensations and mental content while seated, walking or practicing yoga.

The study by UW neuroscientists with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center was the first designed to control for other therapeutic mechanisms, such as supportive social interaction, expert instruction or learning new skills, according to a UW news release.

The mindfulness-based approach is not a magic bullet, said Melissa Rosenkranz, assistant scientist at the center and lead author of the paper, which was published recently in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

But the study does show that there are ways that mindfulness can be beneficial, and that some people may be more likely to benefit from this approach than other interventions, she said.

Significant portions of the population do not benefit from available pharmaceutical treatment options, for example. Some of these patients suffer from negative side effects of the drugs or simply do not respond to the standard of care for treatment of the disorder.

“The mindfulness-based approach to stress reduction may offer a lower-cost alternative or complement to standard treatment, and it can be practiced easily by patients in their own homes, whenever they need,” Rosenkranz said.

The study compared two methods of reducing stress: a mindfulness meditation-based approach and a program designed to enhance health in ways unrelated to mindfulness.

According to the news release:

The comparison group participated in the Health Enhancement Program, which consisted of nutritional education; physical activity, such as walking; balance, agility and core strengthening; and music therapy. The content of the program was meant to match aspects of the mindfulness instruction in some way. For example, physical exercise was meant to match walking meditation, without the mindfulness component. Both groups had the same amount of training, the same level of expertise in the instructors, and the same amount of home practice required of participants.

Using a tool called the Trier Social Stress Test to induce psychological stress and a capsaicin cream to produce inflammation on the skin, immune and endocrine measures were collected before and after training in the two methods. While both techniques were proven effective in reducing stress, the mindfulness-based stress reduction approach was more effective at reducing stress-induced inflammation.

The results show that behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity are beneficial to people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions. The study also suggests that mindfulness techniques may be more effective in relieving inflammatory symptoms than other activities that promote well-being.

via UW study shows benefits of mindfulness meditation for inflammation.

 

Clear minds, open hearts: Participants find mindfulness and understanding through meditation | INFORUM | Fargo, ND

FARGO – Meditation means different things to different people.

It helps Sarah Gebeke of Fargo relax and gain mental clarity.

James Walsh of Fargo uses it to help him communicate more effectively.

Meditation changes Minnesota State University Moorhead student Romit Devkota’s outlook on life.

And for certified meditation instructor Terry Lausch, meditation helped him overcome a heroin addiction.

“Meditation helps unlock your own relative truth,” said Lausch, who is the meditation coordinator for the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo, leads daylong meditation retreats, and teaches weekly meditation classes at Five Element Yoga in Fargo.

During the decade between his 20s and 30s, Lausch struggled heavily with his addiction, he said.

“Meditation didn’t resolve the fact that I had an addiction problem, but meditation took the scales from my eyes and brought me face to face with the reality of my life and gave me the courage to deal with the situation,” he said. “It opened my heart in the sense that I began to actually have my feet on the earth and I began to very openly communicate with people about what I was going through.”

Clear minds, open hearts: Participants find mindfulness and understanding through meditation | INFORUM | Fargo, ND.