Posts by Wildmind Meditation News

A truly shocking reason to meditate

Tim Brownson, A Daring Adventure: Next week I am going on a meditation retreat for 3 days.

It’s only the second time I have ever been on a retreat and the last time three years ago I made a bit of a fool of myself (read more here for the full, rather embarrassing story), although I still had a great time.

Even though I’d been meditating for 7 or 8 years I’d rarely sat for more than 30 minutes at a time and 20 minutes was probably a closer average before that retreat.

Rather strangely I was a tad stressed on …

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Intensive meditation training seems to enhance people’s compassion

Alex Fradera, BPS Research Digest: Psychological research into meditation has overwhelmingly focused on its cognitive consequences, considering the practice as a kind of training for attention and behaviour control, together with stress alleviation. But contemplation traditions make far wider claims for meditation, such as that it helps practitioners cultivate concern for the welfare of others. A new study in the journal Emotion supports this perspective, using a rigorous measure of emotional response to show signs of enhanced compassion following intensive, long-term meditation.

Erika Rosenberg at the University of California, Davis and her …

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Sincerity and meditation

Devi Sawh, Huffington Post: It was funny to me when at a meditation retreat in 2015, the facilitator used the word “sincere” to describe the type of meditator I am. It was funny because that has not always been the case. I have had to work for that like just about everything else on this journey of self-growth.

I remember a very long time ago when I first started to try to make meditation a daily practice, I had a very hard time being sincere each time I sat for meditation. I was trying it because I was …

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Mindfulness meditation linked to the reduction of a key inflammation marker

Fiona MacDonald, Science Alert: Mindfulness meditation has been linked both to a whole lot of health benefits over the years, from altering cancer survivors’ cells to improving heart health. And while it sounds pretty new-age, research has shown that meditation really can change the shape, volume, and connectivity of our brains. But until now, no one’s known how those brain changes can impact our overall health.

Now new research could help explain that link between mind and body, with a study showing that stressed-out adults who practiced mindfulness meditation not only had their brain connectivity …

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Exercise and meditation — together — help beat depression

EurekaAlert: Meditation and aerobic exercise done together helps reduce depression, according to a new Rutgers study.

The study, published in Translational Psychiatry this month, found that this mind and body combination – done twice a week for only two months – reduced the symptoms for a group of students by 40 percent.

“We are excited by the findings because we saw such a meaningful improvement in both clinically depressed and non-depressed students,” says Brandon Alderman, lead author of the research study. “It is the first time that both of these two behavioral therapies have been looked at together for dealing with depression.”

Alderman, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science, and Tracey Shors, professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, both in the School of Arts and Sciences, discovered that a combination of mental and physical training (MAP) enabled students with major depressive disorder not to let problems or negative thoughts overwhelm them.

“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression,” says Shors. “But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”

The men and women in the Rutgers study who completed the eight-week program – 22 suffering with depression and 30 mentally healthy students – reported fewer depressive symptoms and said they did not spend as much time worrying about negative situations taking place in their lives as they did before the study began.

This group also provided MAP training to young mothers who had been homeless but were living at a residential treatment facility when they began the study. The women involved in the research exhibited severe depressive symptoms and elevated anxiety levels at the beginning. But at the end of the eight weeks, they too, reported that their depression and anxiety had eased, they felt more motivated, and they were able to focus more positively on their lives.

Depression – a debilitating disorder that affects nearly one in five Americans sometime in their life – often occurs in adolescence or young adulthood. Until recently, Rutgers scientists say, the most common treatment for depression has been psychotropic medications that influence brain chemicals and regulate emotions and thought patterns along with talk therapy that can work but takes considerable time and commitment on the part of the patient.

Rutgers researchers say those who participated in the study began with 30 minutes of focused attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. They were told that if their thoughts drifted to the past or the future they should refocus on their breathing – enabling those with depression to accept moment-to-moment changes in attention.

Shors, who studies the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus – the portion of the brain known to be necessary for some types of new learning–says even though neurogenesis cannot be monitored in humans, scientists have shown in animal models that aerobic exercise increases the number of new neurons and effortful learning keeps a significant number of those cells alive.

The idea for the human intervention came from her laboratory studies, she says, with the main goal of helping individuals acquire new skills so that they can learn to recover from stressful life events. By learning to focus their attention and exercise, people who are fighting depression can acquire new cognitive skills that can help them process information and reduce the overwhelming recollection of memories from the past, Shors says.

“We know these therapies can be practiced over a lifetime and that they will be effective in improving mental and cognitive health,” says Alderman. “The good news is that this intervention can be practiced by anyone at any time and at no cost.”

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How mindfulness can help women with postpartum depression

Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post: More than 3 million American women suffer from postpartum depression each year — including up to 40 percent of women who have been treated for depression.

After working with many new and expecting mothers, Dr. Sona Dimidjian, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, began to question what her profession was doing to support these women — and decided to investigate an alternative solution to the conventional treatment. Those options, of psychotherapy and pharmaceuticals, aren’t always effective, and many women don’t want to take antidepressants …

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Calming the teenage mind in the classroom

Kelly Wallace, CNN: At the start of the school year at Marblehead High School in Massachusetts, students started moving their desks out of the way, grabbing a mat and laying down on the floor for guided meditation before French class. Lexxi Seay, a senior, was skeptical.

“I actually never believed really in meditation. … I thought it was a joke,” she said during an interview.

That all changed one day back in September. While she was on her computer working and everyone else in her class was meditating, she just fell asleep sitting up. “When I …

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Neurobiological changes explain how mindfulness meditation improves health

Eureka Alert, Press Release: Over the past decade, mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve a broad range of health and disease outcomes, such as slowing HIV progression and improving healthy aging. Yet, little is known about the brain changes that produce these beneficial health effects.

New research from Carnegie Mellon University provides a window into the brain changes that link mindfulness meditation training with health in stressed adults. Published in Biological Psychiatry, the study shows that mindfulness meditation training, compared to relaxation training, reduces Interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress, unemployed community adults.

The biological health-related benefits occur because mindfulness meditation training fundamentally alters brain network functional connectivity patterns and the brain changes statistically explain the improvements in inflammation.

“We’ve now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits,” said David Creswell, lead author and associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

For the randomized controlled trial, 35 job-seeking, stressed adults were exposed to either an intensive three-day mindfulness meditation retreat program or a well-matched relaxation retreat program that did not have a mindfulness component. All participants completed a five-minute resting state brain scan before and after the three-day program. They also provided blood samples right before the intervention began and at a four-month follow-up.

The brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation training increased the functional connectivity of the participants’ resting default mode network in areas important to attention and executive control, namely the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Participants who received the relaxation training did not show these brain changes.

The participants who completed the mindfulness meditation program also had reduced IL-6 levels, and the changes in brain functional connectivity coupling accounted for the lower inflammation levels.

“We think that these brain changes provide a neurobiological marker for improved executive control and stress resilience, such that mindfulness meditation training improves your brain’s ability to help you manage stress, and these changes improve a broad range of stress-related health outcomes, such as your inflammatory health,” Creswell said.

This work bridges health psychology and neuroscience and falls under the new field of health neuroscience, which Creswell is credited with co-founding. It also is another example of the many brain research breakthroughs at Carnegie Mellon. CMU has created some of the first cognitive tutors, helped to develop the Jeopardy-winning Watson, founded a groundbreaking doctoral program in neural computation, and is the birthplace of artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology. Building on its strengths in biology, computer science, psychology, statistics and engineering, CMU launched BrainHub, an initiative that focuses on how the structure and activity of the brain give rise to complex behaviors.

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An honest narrative of a first meditation

Hunter Colvin, The Vermont Cynic: I’ve never really meditated.

Not unless you count the mini meditation I did at the end of a yoga class I took that one time. But I was too busy wiping copious amounts of sweat from, well, everywhere to really meditate.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of meditation, though. I mean, to empty your mind and focus on the present is really impressive.

I can’t even make my mind stop making “Supernatural” or …

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Meditation: what can and can’t be taught

Steven Schwartzberg, Huffington Post: By most standards, I’m a fairly experienced meditator. I meditate daily, and have for years. I’ve spent months at a time immersed in silent practice. I study it, teach it, and write about it.

I can still wonder if I’m doing it wrong.

Meditation is deeply personal. Except with the broadest brushstrokes, this intricate journey into one’s most intimate inner experience can not be translated or taught. Teachers may of course share their intuition and expertise, but it is not possible to get inside …

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