I’ve been saying this for years, not because I already knew the science of meditation, but because I knew the reality in my life of how my mind affects my body. It just made sense, y’know? It’s nice to have third party support!
Meditation is good for you. We don’t need to tell you that. The chorus of voices extolling the virtues of mindfulness is never-ending: It decreases stress. It helps you focus. It can even rewire your mental circuitry. But it’s not just your synapses that see the benefits: As it turns out, meditating can physically change your DNA.
In a recent study, the use of mindfulness meditation was shown to have an impact on certain types of DNA in breast cancer patients. Specifically, the length of telomeres—these are the tiny protective caps on the end of chromosomes—was physically altered as the result of this type of meditation.
The study, which was published in the Canadian journal Cancer, showed that the length of telomeres was preserved by meditation. Why does that matter? Shorter telomeres aren’t explicitly problematic, but they do tend to correlate with things like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. So, if we can manage to keep these microscopic structures from whittling down in size, our health is better off.
Explains Scientific American:
In Carlson’s study distressed breast cancer survivors were divided into three groups. The first group was randomly assigned to an 8-week cancer recovery program consisting of mindfulness meditation and yoga; the second to 12-weeks of group therapy in which they shared difficult emotions and fostered social support; and the third was a control group, receiving just a 6-hour stress management course. A total of 88 women completed the study and had their blood analyzed for telomere length before and after the interventions. Telomeres were maintained in both treatment groups but shortened in controls.
This isn’t the first time that Buddhist-style mindfulness meditation has been linked to the molecular goings-on of our biological makeup. A December 2013 study from the University of Wisconson-Madison demonstrated that the DNA of subjects who meditated “showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.”
The telomere length correlation goes back to 2008, when a study found that stress management, aerobic exercise, and a vegan diet had an impact on telomere length in prostate cancer patients.
Pretty nuts. So if the neurocircuitry-boosting, focus-enhancing wonders of meditation weren’t enough to sell you, perhaps the promise of physical health benefits will rope you onto the bandwagon. And just in time for the New Year’s resolution season, no less.
There are some great tips here that we can all benefit from during the holidays.
SALT LAKE CITY — Your normal life is already busy so it’s no wonder when you add in extra demands for the end-of-year holidays, stress levels skyrocket.
But why are we so stressed? During the holidays, 69 percent of Americans are stressed about lack of time and 69 percent are stressed about lack of money, according to the American Psychological Association. There’s a lot of added pressure for parents to make sure their children have “the best Christmas ever.”
Americans spend about 42 hours a year on holiday activities, including buying and wrapping presents, attending holiday parties and traveling to and from family gatherings. While it may be possible to opt out of some events, other celebrations may be non-negotiable.
When the stress gets to be too much, instead of turning to holiday treats, try these scientifically backed simple tricks to keep your sanity.
Meditation has deep roots in Southeast Asia and was made popular in the 1960s by The Beatles, according to project-meditate.org. Studies have shown that meditation can decrease cortisol, the stress hormone, by helping people to better cope when stressful situations occur.
There are many types of meditation, including self-guided and mantra meditation and yoga. If you need more instruction, you can also use an online-led meditation guide.
Double your pleasure and potentially triple your fun this holiday season. Add a pack or two next time you’re checking out at the grocery store. A 2008 study showed that people who chewed gum had lower cortisol levels and felt less anxiety than those who didn’t. As an added bonus, chewing gum can also make you more alert.
You might want to put the mistletoe up early this year. Kissing someone can increase oxytocin and decrease cortisol and spending quality time with a romantic partner has also been shown to reduce stress levels.
Article source: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=1010&sid=32434038
I don’t know about you but I’m often plagued by difficulty falling asleep, and staying asleep. It’s been especially problematic since owning my own business, and reaching middle age has certainly acerbated it further. I’ve been considering getting one of the several fitness bracelets which monitor sleep as well as food and fitness activities. This article was really helpful for me; hopefully, it will be for you, too.
Spend a little time perusing the wares of the App Store or Google Play and you’re sure to find your eyes drawn to the myriad wonders of the health and lifestyle sections, where all manner of miraculous personal transformations and rejuvenations are promised by some very sophisticated-looking ‘brain science’ apps. One recurring focus in this category, among others, is apps dedicated to solving sleeping difficulties and insomnia.
And we ought to know. After all, we recently brought you a roundup of some of the more popular snooze-assisting apps available (see TechLife magazine February issue, page 34), which utilize a number of methods to help people get to sleep: sound effects apps that play soothing audio or ‘binaural’ beats to help induce sleep; meditative music apps; Yoga trainers; sleep, activity and dream trackers; power-nap helpers and so on.
But while these kinds of programs are certainly fun to play with, and definitely worth a shot if you’re having difficulty dropping off, it’s also important to understand that sleep is an incredibly complex part of our lives — a major chunk of our existence, in reality — and there’s no ‘silver bullet’ app for controlling, triggering, regulating or manipulating it.
That’s the message from Dr Dev Banerjee, medical director and sleep expert with the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.
“Regarding sleep apps, like the beats apps,” Dr Banerjee says, “They are a way of distracting the racing mind. A common cause of difficulty in initiating sleep is due to inability to relax and switch off. [Binaural beats apps] are not hypnotic as such, like sleeping medications, and therefore cannot in my opinion technically alone induce sleep. But in some patients they may be a useful aid to focus away from a busy day and switch off by listening to monotonous sounds. They are akin to relaxation tapes, that is, part of psychological self-hypnosis therapy.”
Meanwhile, sleep-tracker apps — which monitor your sleeping patterns and purport to provide an assessment of the quality of sleep you get each night — can be useful as a guide, but Dr Banerjee cautions not to expect too much from the level of analysis provided.
“The smartphone senses movements by means of accelerometer techniques, ie. any movements will register as a ‘blip’ on the data collection. The overall overnight data will therefore show a bar chart type of picture, where bars on the summary chart indicate movement.
“They are useful as an indirect measure of sleep, on the assumption that sleep equates to low activity/movement, and awake is equivalent to movement artefact on the data page. They will give an indirect measure of time in bed spent asleep, ie. sleep efficiency. They will not indicate whether the sleep is deep sleep, light sleep or dream sleep. Only electrical leads attached to the scalp measuring electrical activity of the brain [Electroencephalography, or ‘EEG’] — can determine this.”
In light of the above, the more ambitious claims made by some ‘lucid dream’ apps (like Adam Siton’s DreamZ, for example), which promise to help you control and enhance your dreams, should be taken with a grain of salt.
“Dreams occur in a sleep phase called ‘rapid eye movement’ sleep. The times and lengths of REM sleep are determined biologically by the cycling of different sleep phases. In other words, when we go to sleep, we go into non-REM sleep, and when the brain cycles into REM sleep, will do so when the brain is ready. There is no evidence that apps can regulate dream sleep, particularly frequency or length or content whilst one is asleep. The mechanism of this app is unclear.
“When we go into sleep, there is a tendency for imagery formation, but this is not related to dream sleep of REM sleep. The images are very uni-dimensional, abstract and short-lived, and may not be like REM sleep, which is purposeful and story-like in many cases. It may be that the individual listens to the audio, and this is at the same time as falling asleep, which may alter their experience of the imagery formation, as the individual is half-asleep and half-awake, and therefore will have some conscious awareness before heading into deeper non-REM sleep. However, there is no evidence that this app in my opinion increases content or quality of sleep, once asleep.”
At the end of the day, sleep apps won’t hurt you, Dr Banerjee says, but they should be viewed more as relaxation aids rather than fail-proof cure-alls for any serious sleeping issues you may suffer.
“It is important that apps do not claim to provide outcomes that are not clinically and scientifically proven. There is a market as a relaxation tool, as music or monotonous sounds. There is a big market of self-hypnosis tapes, for example. To prove apps are a cure for insomnia needs to be tried and tested in clinical trials. For many such gadgets, there is a strong placebo effect as well. At the end of the day, it’s a bit of fun, and for many who suffer from sleep issues, there’s no harm in trying if they are prepared to make a loss if the app does not work. If individuals are struggling with their sleep, the best advice is to seek assistance from a sleep clinic.”
Article source: http://www.techlife.net/2014/04/science-of-sleep.html
Our military and paramilitary troops often struggle with contradictory stresses – that of boredom punctuated with potential conflict or crisis. Doing things no-one else is willing to do, for a sometimes ungrateful public. It’s great to see more groups turning to meditation and mindfulness training.
This report is part of a four-day series on mindfulness and policing. Members of the Hillsboro Police Department and others spoke to The Oregonian about their experiences with the training, how they applied mindfulness on the job, what it could mean for law enforcement and why it matters.
Rohn Richards is a SWAT guy.
The Hillsboro sergeant’s job requires extreme concentration. He must be able to watch, and wait, for hours at a time, ready to act the moment a suspect emerges.
Focus is crucial; the mind can’t wander too far. It’s also one of the hardest parts of the job.
So when the Hillsboro Police Department started offering mindfulness training last spring, he was a bit skeptical. He understood the premise — the practice of being present in the moment to build resiliency — but it involved meditation. He thought it was fluff, yoga. Stuff he didn’t need.
Yet he kept an open mind. He knew the U.S. military used mindfulness training, and figured there must be something to it if the Marines are doing it.
Richards went into the training hoping to develop stronger focus. He also wanted more clarity, both on- and off-duty.
“Not that everything was just in disarray,” he said. “But things get so busy.”
Work life, home life.
Police work can make it hard to relax, he said. The stress can make it tough to wind down, to go to bed and go to sleep.
“It’s easier,” he said, “to grab a drink, watch TV and fall asleep in the chair.”
Richards, a former dairy farmer, has been an officer for 14 years. The mindfulness course was unlike any training he’s ever had. For weeks, he didn’t get it. He was beginning to think it was a waste of time.
“I am being forced to sit still,” he recalled thinking. “I’m being forced to try and not think about things,” which only had the opposite effect.
While sitting on the yoga mat, Richards would mentally flip through his to-do list: the calls that needed to be made, the reports that needed to be done. He thought about this, he thought about that.
Then it began to click. He started paying more attention. When his mind started wandering, he’d notice and stop it.
He focused his attention on his body, exploring how he felt. “And it’s weird,” he said. “It’s different. It’s uncomfortable.”
The class seemed to help alleviate stress. It helped him prioritize; it gave him more clarity.
Police work, he said, has a tendency to cloud your head. “I guess we see quite a bit in this job,” he said.
“Everybody we meet is having their absolute worst moment or worst day, worst time of their life,” he said.
“That stress absorbs into us. It has to.”
Police see pain. They inflict it. Both can weigh heavily.
“Arresting people isn’t the most pleasant thing to do,” he said. “I don’t want to ruin anybody’s life, but we still have a job to do.”
The mindfulness training, Richards said, has helped him let go. It has helped him unwind a little.
Though he has not done the meditation since the course ended, he uses other skills he learned every day. He finds he’s less distracted at home and at work.
“More, I know I’ve said this a bunch, but more in the moment,” he described.
He learned how to grab thoughts that float into his mind, place them aside and stay present. The practice has made him more organized and calm.
He tries to focus on one call at a time, one activity at a time. He can put his phone down, and check emails after the weekend.
He learned how to take a cleansing breath. To breathe in and out, stress leaving with the exhale.
— Rebecca Woolington
I have great respect for those who serve our country, whether it be overseas or at home, in the armed forces or local first responders. I’ve seen first hand the stress they endure, and the unhealthy ways they can sometimes try to cope. With their increasing use of meditation, I’m encouraged – and encouraging.
The cops gathered in the dim, cozy studio. Dressed in gym clothes, they stretched out on dark green yoga mats.
Lie on your back, the instructor said. Get comfy.
Focus on your left little toe, he softly intoned. What’s there? How does it feel? He moved on, toe by toe, left foot, then right. How does it feel? Dry? Sore?
The instructor continued slowly, asking participants to focus their minds, and energy, on each body part. If you catch yourself wandering, he said, just acknowledge it.
Then bring yourself back to the present.
The class inside the small yoga studio that January day was the first for nearly 20 members of the Hillsboro Police Department. They were exploring the practice of mindfulness, learning how to develop inner strength, using meditation to become better cops.
Since last spring, the agency has offered what is believed to be the nation’s first on-the-job mindfulness training program specifically tailored to law enforcement and based on a widely recognized curriculum. Though the practice represents a radical shift, its creators say, mindfulness has the potential to transform law enforcement culture and reinvent community policing.
For Hillsboro police, the hope was that the training could also heal a department that has had its share of internal strife.
The idea behind the program is simple: If cops were more mindful, then they would be more resilient, less stressed and better at their jobs.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment — not dwelling in the past, not thinking about the future. It is the non-judgmental exploration of feelings, surroundings and experiences as they happen to heighten clarity and insight, and avoid reacting out of emotion. Studies have linked it to many health benefits, including reduced pain, better concentration and more self-awareness.
The Hillsboro program aims to build resiliency in a profession that can knock many down.
“Being a cop kills you,” said Hillsboro Police Lt. Richard Goerling, who helped develop the training program.
According to a five-year study, the daily stress of police work places officers at greater risk than the general population of developing a range of physical and mental health ailments. The University at Buffalo researcher – a former cop – who authored the 2012 report tied law enforcement stress with higher levels of sleeplessness, suicide and cancer.
Many groups have turned to mindfulness training and meditation. U.S. Marines are using them. So are the Seattle Seahawks. Google and inner-city schools in the San Francisco Bay Area are on board. So is U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who wrote the book, “A Mindful Nation.”
Mindfulness in the military made the practice more appealing and credible to cops, Hillsboro officers say. Research on pre-deployment Marines who’d undergone mindfulness training showed increased “mind fitness,” resiliency and ability to retain information, according to a 2009 article published in Joint Force Quarterly and other news reports. The military research program has received a four-year $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, according to The New York Times.
Still, in a paramilitary profession where toughness is glorified, the idea is a hard sell for some. Acceptance requires redefining the meaning of toughness.
Goerling knows that.
The program represents a dramatic evolution in policing, but he believes mindful cops make better listeners and smarter decisions. They are more productive, less judgmental. They show greater empathy and, Goerling contends, will have better interactions with the public.
“When we’re talking about a community that wants to be treated fairly and unbiasedly, mindfulness is the path to get there,” Goerling said. “It’s a bold statement. But there’s no other path.”
People constantly relive the day before. Or plan for the day ahead. Living in the past or future means missing the present.
Mindfulness is paying attention purposely, said Paul Galvin, assistant director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness.
Rooted in ancient principles often tied to Buddhist practice, mindfulness withholds judgment. It evokes compassion, acceptance and curiosity. It experiences sights, smells and sounds as they happen.
Being mindful helps people pause before reacting, Galvin said. To respond based on intellect, not emotion.
Goerling wants to see those skills in officers. Research, he said, has shown mindfulness helps with emotion regulation, another crucial component for cops. Self-awareness, he said, is important.
“We’re human, so to be able to recognize when we’re angry, even on the job and in uniform, is the first step in mitigating that,” he said. “The awareness of your emotions causes you to pause and make better decisions, which is pretty critical when you think about the kind of work we do.”
Hillsboro’s nine-week Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training program was created by Goerling; Brant Rogers, the owner of Yoga Hillsboro; and Michael Christopher, a psychology professor at Pacific University. They’re also tracking its results.
In the past year, they’ve held the training three times, costing the department about $18,000. About a third of the agency’s officers have participated. A number of civilian members have, too.
The program is based on the widely recognized Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, curriculum created in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Rogers, who leads the Hillsboro course, is a certified MBSR instructor.
Cops in the Hillsboro program were asked a multitude of questions on how they felt before, during and after the course. Christopher, the Pacific professor, then analyzed their answers.
Cops in the class showed significant improvements in perceived stress and police stress. They also showed significant improvement in mindfulness, resiliency, mental health functioning and levels of anger, among other areas.
This week, the three are presenting their findings and leading a law enforcement workshop at an international conference on mindfulness through the University of Massachusetts.
For decades, law enforcement focused primarily on the physical strength of its officers. Fitness and wellness translated to push-ups or sit-ups. Largely untouched, Goerling said, were ways officers could strengthen their minds, manage their stress and improve their health — holistically.
Cops have repeated exposure to trauma. They respond to drug overdoses, domestic violence, child abuse, car crashes, shootings, suicides.
“I guess we see quite a bit in this job,” said Hillsboro Sgt. Rohn Richards, who took the mindfulness training last year and found it helpful.
“Everybody we meet is having their absolute worst moment or worst day, worst time of their life,” said Richards, who’s also a member of Washington County’s SWAT. “That stress absorbs into us. It has to.”
Shift work causes stress. Internal politics do, too.
Hillsboro police decided to move ahead with mindfulness training last spring. Goerling, an academic who wears a uniform, badge and gun to work, drove the effort.
Some Hillsboro officers were among the dozens who responded to the call. Some were friends with the now-former cop.
The agency needed to heal, and the timing was right to introduce mindfulness. The interim chief gave Goerling the green light.
Goerling, a self-described “misfit” in law enforcement, wanted the opportunity to change the culture. He’s seen how stress has affected his co-workers and is well aware of some of the not-so-positive perceptions of police across the country.
Cops interact all day with people as part of their job. The tone of those interactions, in large part, Goerling said, is a reflection of the officer’s mental health. Angry cops are unlikely to have good interactions.
If cops are not fully present, they don’t fully listen. They are out of touch with what is going on with other people, beyond physical cues.
Mindfulness, of course, will not eliminate officer stress. Nor will it change law enforcement overnight.
“It’s not pixie dust,” Goerling said. “You can’t just spread it around and make everything better.”
Cops will still respond to trauma. See dead bodies. See the same child being abused. Watch the same drug addict relapse. It’s the job.
But mindfulness, Goerling said, could bring some positive psychology to the profession. Discussions about officer mental health, he said, should not be based solely on trauma or fit-for-duty tests. Promoting resiliency and growth, including post-traumatic, should be a big part of the conversation.
Traditionally, much psychological support has come after large-scale traumatic incidents, Goerling said. While necessary, that approach ignores the idea that standard radio calls and exposure to negativity, day-in and day-out, wear on officers.
“We’re all human beings, and you absorb what you’re around,” said Hillsboro Sgt. Deborah Case, who took the department’s training last year. “When you experience the worst in people and when you see the worst … and the most sad things, then it’s going to take some kind of a toll on you.”
Case, a crisis negotiator and member of her department’s peer support team, said for years law enforcement has simply told officers that finding balance will fight stress and keep them healthy. The common words of wisdom, she said, are: Stay physically fit. Don’t drink too much. Get plenty of sleep.
But those tactics are not enough. Something to train the brain, like mindfulness, she said, has been missing.
The program is not a fit for all cops. It’s a bit far out for some, Goerling said. They think it’s a “little hippie voodoo.”
Hillsboro Officer Stephen Slade, who took the training last year, has heard it.
“You get the ‘te-hes’ and ‘ha-has’ from your peers,” Slade said. “Like, what are you doing? Big tough SWAT guy going into a room that’s relaxation and yoga mats.”
But Slade found it useful.
From what Goerling’s heard, some officers say the training changed their lives. Others aren’t sure. Some say it didn’t help.
Goerling’s not worried. Their research, he said, shows that it’s beneficial.
The class is hard. And it’s even harder to present it to police.
Their culture is performance-driven. Cops are hard on themselves, hard on others. Still, the officers at the yoga studio in Hillsboro that January day wanted a taste of meditation.
The cops closed their eyes at the start of the class. They sat on the green yoga mats and stiff blankets.
As the class went on, everyone dropped down onto the mats, flat on their backs, and side by side. Rogers, the instructor, asked cops to direct their attention to their little toe on the left foot.
As Rogers directed them, toe by toe, left foot, right foot, some people fell asleep. Occasional snoring interrupted the silence that fell between his words.
After the exercise, they shared their feelings. Some were relaxed. Others not at all.
During the next seven weeks, they would continue. They would do sitting meditations. Mindful, gentle exercise. They would choose a mindful activity. Washing their hands. Brushing their teeth. Running. They would try to feel sensations as they were happening. They were learning, through simple tasks, the value of living in the moment.
Again and again, they would be asked to pay attention, to focus on the present.
If their minds wandered, they were told, just notice it. They were asked to not judge.
— Rebecca Woolington
I don’t know about you but I’m so relieved that spring has finally come to my neck of the woods. The short days and long nights, not to mention the cold and snow, have left me feeling stressed and depleted. So glad to be seeing so much more sunlight. But that brings with it the urging to go out and do…and do…and do… If you’re like me, as enjoyable as some of those things are, that pace is very stressful. I love all things medical and biological so knowing just what’s going on in my body helps me to be aware and keep things in perspective.
Today’s world is fast paced and full of stress, not exactly what our bodies were designed for. So if we are living in an environment that can lead to chronic stress and fatigue, how do we fight back? Since knowledge is power so one of the first things to do is better understand how your body reacts to stress.
Ask yourself, “Am I relaxed?” Ask this question during random times of the day. Think back to the last time you were cooking or washing dishes, were you relaxed or still brooding over the comment your boss made today? Did the kids send you over the edge this afternoon and are you still thinking about how angry you are as you prepare for bed?
These chronic levels of stress prevent the body from relaxing. The body is designed to function regularly in a state of relaxation, known as the parasympathetic nervous system. This “rest and digest” system is activated when we are in a state of calm, it always our body to heal and digest foods. Our bodies are designed to spend most of its time in this state. The sympathetic nervous system is “the other” system which is activated during times of stress. It reduces the energy spent on digesting food and increases the blood flow to the extremities in preparation for fight or fight. The cardiovascular system is engaged, increasing heart rate, and rate of breathing. The endocrine system is activated releasing adrenaline, noradrenaline, and gluocorticoids in to the body. These systems do not work together, they function in an either or capacity. That being said, if you are not relaxed your body is activating the stress response.
In the short run, activation of the sympathetic nervous system is not damaging to the health of the body. However, over a long period of time these elevated levels of stress can cause damage. Here is an abbreviated list of the health effects that can result from chronic stress: heart disease, kidney failure, fatigue, cell damage, increased lung infections, gastrointestinal problems, decreased immune system, insomnia, and enlarged adrenal glands. Additionally, being genetically predisposed to a disease can lead to increased chances of developing the disease because of a reduced immune system and slower cell regeneration.
With all of these health risks associated with elevated levels of stress, it has become a necessity for people today to make conscious efforts to reduce their stress levels. There are many avenues in which one can reduce stress, but a favorite of mine is meditation. Not only has the practice been around for hundreds of years, but it can be utilized anywhere anytime. You can take five minutes to meditate while sitting at your desk, waiting in the elevator, lunch breaks, or any other time you feel the need arise. Practicing the techniques used in meditation will allow a person to improve their abilities and eventually slip into a meditative state quickly thus effectively utilizing every minute.
With time, meditation can result in overall improvement of health, relaxation, improved sleep, and better gastrointestinal health. Learning to meditation is simple, and can be tailored to fit your needs and preferences. Through practice you will learn what aspects work best for you, and what elements you prefer to include in your regular routine.
Next week: Meditation Part II: Breathing
Do you have trouble wrapping your head around “mindfulness”? I’d heard it used many times and still I wondered- what does that really mean anyway? And how could it help me in real life? Hopefully you’ll find this Q & A helpful in answering those questions.
Q: I’ve heard a lot about “mindfulness meditation.” Does it really help relieve stress and anxiety?
A: Mindfulness meditation has become quite popular in recent years. The practice involves bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.
Many people practice it hoping to stave off stress and stress-related health problems. As with other practices that are labeled “alternative and complementary medicine,” there is increasing research into the effects of mindfulness meditation.
As a Western scientist and physician, I believe treatments and practices need to be validated by the scientific method. At the same time, I think it is foolish for physicians to dismiss out of hand Eastern treatments and practices that people have found valuable for thousands of years.
Researchers recently reviewed 47 meditation trials that met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease anxiety, depression and pain.
Other research has found that mindfulness meditation may help treat heart disease and high blood pressure. It may alleviate chronic pain, sleep problems and gastrointestinal difficulties. And it may help prevent relapse in people who have had several episodes of depression.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing attention on what is happening in the present. And — importantly — accepting it without judgment. One of the goals of mindfulness is to enhance your appreciation of simple, everyday experiences.
By learning to focus on the here and now, you are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past.
Mindfulness is often learned through meditation. That is a method of regulating your attention by focusing on your breathing, a phrase or an image.
To get started with mindfulness meditation, sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor. Focus on an aspect of your breathing. For example, the sensation of your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
Once you’ve narrowed your concentration, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations and ideas. Embrace and consider each without judgment.
If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again. Most of my patients (and friends) who engage in mindfulness meditation try to meditate for 20 minutes each day.
You can also take a less formal approach to mindfulness. Choose any task or moment to stay in the present and truly participate in your life. Eating, walking, or playing with a child or grandchild, for example, are all good opportunities.
I’m not a practitioner of mindfulness meditation, so I can’t speak about its virtues from personal experience. However, I have been greatly impressed by the accounts of my patients and friends who practice it. Almost to a person, they believe that it has brought balance and peace into their lives.
So I’m considering it. I’d like to transition from a life constantly living simultaneously in many moments to a life of truly “living in the moment.”
• Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to AskDoctorK.com.
Article source: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140331/entlife/140339967/
Have you ever wondered what it would really be like if you meditated regularly?
I grew up during the 60’s when Transcendental Meditation was all the rage amongst celebrities and others who were looking for expand their minds, open their hearts and mellow out – with or without drugs. There was such an overlap of the two cultures that some believed they were the same and others of us were put off by some of its outspoken proponents and found it all too “out there” that we wouldn’t try TM. It’s great to see it really put to the test in today’s real world, day-to-day environment.
NEW YORK, Sept. 3, 2013 — /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Last year, Mehmet Oz, M.D., host of the Emmy Award-winning The Dr. Oz Show, decided to help his staff cope with on-the-job stress by offering them the chance to learn the Transcendental Meditation® technique. A year later, Dr. Oz and his team say the stress-management tool is delivering long-lasting benefits.
“The first thing I noticed was a change in the tone and the texture of the dialogue—away from dwelling on problems towards a much more thoughtful, insightful, clever way of solving problems,” says Dr. Oz, who is the vice chairman of the department of surgery at Columbia University, and the founder of the Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. “Instead of highlighting the issues that were separating us, my team was deriving bliss and joy from finding solutions.”
Numerous Studies on the TM Technique’s Benefits
Dr. Oz credits these improvements with the well-documented reduction of stress associated with TM® practice. Numerous studies have been conducted on the beneficial effects of the TM program in reducing stress and improving overall health at a wide range of universities and research institutions around the world, including Harvard, Yale, and UCLA Medical School.
“Speaking as a scientist,” says Dr. Oz, “the amazing thing about Transcendental Meditation is the very well established research showing that the technique impacts things that we didn’t think were changeable. You can actually reduce your blood pressure significantly with just using Transcendental Meditation. You can also reduce cholesterol, atherosclerosis, obesity, risk of stroke—even reduce death rates due to cardiovascular disease.”
American Heart Association Says TM Lowers Blood Pressure
A recent report by the American Heart Association (AHA) stated that the Transcendental Meditation technique is the only meditation practice with sufficient research to suggest that it can lower blood pressure. Moreover, the National Institutes of Health has granted over $25 million over the two decades to study the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on the prevention and treatment of heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
For Dr. Oz’s staff, the benefits simply come down to personal experience.
“I noticed I was much calmer and I was able to get to sleep a lot earlier; that’s just paid off through the day. I can concentrate, I can get more done. I’m just easier to get along with I think,” said Walter Kenny, Field Coordinator for The Dr. Oz Show.
“I think that it’s made us here really connect as a group, and I think when you feel connected to your coworkers, you work harder. And when you work harder and more efficiently, I think everybody’s happy,” said Michelle Wasserman, the show’s Supervising Producer of Post.
A Wide Range of Businesses Now Offering TM to Employees
An increasing number of business owners across the US and around the world are now offering the TM technique as a self-actualization tool for employees. Oprah Winfrey recently made the program available to her staff at the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) offices, as did Oliver’s Real Food CEO Jason Gunn. Well-known media personalities such as CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos use the TM technique to provide respite from their hectic schedules.
“It’s such a profoundly powerful tool to turbo charge the people in your organization that it would unwise not to not at least try it,” said Dr. Oz. “And I think if you want your organization, your people, your family, you, if you want to do things smarter, not harder, whatever the mission you have, transcendental meditation is your path. And the fact that it’s accessible and available to every one of your employees on their own time – it makes it one of those gifts that keeps on giving.”
About the Transcendental Meditation technique
The TM technique is an effortless meditation technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with one’s eyes closed. Published studies [link to have found that TM reduces stress and anxiety, improves learning ability, and promotes wellness for mind and body.
The TM technique is available in the USA through Maharishi Foundation USA, a federally recognized nonprofit educational organization. Through partnerships with other nonprofit organizations and foundations such as the David Lynch Foundation, full TM scholarships have been given to over 250,000 at-risk children, veterans suffering from PTSD, homeless people, and others.
To view this video on YouTube, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCE1KmOKRsQ
Media Contact: Christian Hoffmann, Maharishi Foundation USA, 360-447-8108, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE Maharishi Foundation USA
The following article gives us a great look into how one of the movers and shakers of the wellness industry manages his time, energy and focus on a daily basis. Do you follow any of his techniques?
What Does the Founder of the ‘Headspace’ App Do When He Gets Stressed?
Rich Pierson is the other half of Headspace, the online meditation company that brings wellbeing, meditation and mindfulness to the masses. At HuffPost UK Lifestyle we’re massive fans – you can start a free 10 day trial online (or download it to your smartphone) and it just involves 10 minutes of meditation each day.
Rich is one of the nine panelists at the Third Metric conference on 30 July in London, who are discussing – along with founder Arianna Huffington – the redefining of the word success to include wellbeing as well as money and power.
We were most curious however, to find out how Rich takes time out for himself and stays balanced.
You bring mindfulness and meditation to the masses – but how do you make time for yourself?
I have a little routine that I am pretty strict about. I get up about 6am for 45 minutes of meditation and then I surf for an hour, have breakfast and then get to the office for around 9.
I find that the combination of that routine coupled with regular annual leave really make a huge difference.
What do you do for a time-out when you feel like things are getting on top of you?
I go for a walk, turn my phone off and if I can, I grab my surfboard. If time is limited I take 10, which is part of our meditation programme.
How would you describe mindfulness to someone who has no clue what it is?
It’s so difficult to explain an experience in words, but I will give it my best shot as a total beginner.
In it’s simplest form, I think it’s a skillful way to learn how to train your mind. in learning how your mind works, you learn how to react more effectively in the moment, which in turn allows you to handle and accept life as it comes. it really is the most profound, yet brutally simple technique. Almost too simple for our minds to understand. My biggest advice is try it and learn for yourself.
What are the main challenges with running a global business and grounding yourself? How do you manage it?
It really is tricky and I definitely struggle with it. The travel and the time differences wreak havoc, sometimes with my surf schedule, which is very upsetting.
On the whole, the biggest thing is my commitment to my meditation practice, 45 minutes in the morning followed by 45 minutes as soon as I finish my work, really help to segment my day.
RICH’S TOP TIPS FOR TIME-OUT
- I have periods of the day where I duck out of technology completely
- I never have my phone or laptop in my bedroom
- I never check emails until I get to work
- I never check emails on annual leave
I genuinely feel that we will look back in 10 years time at technology and it will be viewed in the same way we view cigarettes today, and people will say: “What the hell were we doing?”. It obviously has an important role to play in the modern world, but it’s definitely out of balance.
What are the small ways in which we can start giving back to our families, our communities and the world on a daily basis?
I think the most profound effect of meditation is that it teaches you to listen and be patient. I think the kindest thing you can do for anyone is be completely present and listen. Listening without any intention to force yourself on a situation is so simple, but so powerful. That has a huge ripple effect beyond the person you have been patient with.
Do you have a mantra on how to keep balanced and happy?
Meditate, then surf, then meditate and then do some surfing.
MORE ON THE THIRD METRIC:
Do you feel like you get everything you need to do done?
There is always more to do, the key is accepting you’re not superman. Once you get that and realise the world doesn’t revolve around your ability to make stuff happen, you don’t mind having a long to-do list.
How do you like to unwind?
Hang out with my amazing girlfriend, surf, meditate, cook, ski and hike.
This just may be the solution those of us who struggle with sleep have been looking for!
I’ve been using binaural music off and on for about a year and, when I’m at my worst, it’s been the best aid I’ve found to falling asleep without resorting to drugs. But keeping the headphones on has been a challenge – the over the head ones are too bulking and uncomfortable while the earbuds don’t stay in. This looks like it will resolve that issue while also taking care of too much light in the room. Woo hoo!
NeuroDreamer: $90 pledge
Taking a moment to relax and get some rest is vital to everyday functioning in humans…someone needs to tell that to our brains. Coming down after a long day is hard for a lot of us, and if you prefer to solve this problem with technology, a new Kickstarter project may be worth checking out. The NeuroDreamer is a sleep mask that uses light and sound to mimic the brainwaves that occur when you’re falling asleep. The fading lights and ambient music coax the brain into turning off for the night (or for a few minutes) by enhancing the natural way our body calms down.
Constructed from cotton and memory foam, the mask is described as an “entrainment” device. According to the website, “entrainment” is the the process of externally presenting brainwave frequencies to the brain, allowing it to synchronize to those frequencies.”
Using light and sound, the mask creates brainwave frequencies that match the natural activity that happens in the brain when we are falling asleep. Binaural beats in the music and synchronized light are controlled through a microcontroller in the mask. Three buttons on one side of the mask control the type of music played, volume and brightness of the lights.
While the need for a good night’s sleep or just a few minutes of relaxation is universal, the NeuroDreamer is not. Anyone who is sensitive to flashing lights (strobe lights, cameras, etc.) should definitely avoid the mask because it may cause seizures. Check out its Kickstarter page, a pledge of $90 or more gets you a mask once production starts.
Credit: Mitch Altman