Posts by Wildmind Meditation News

How to be the world’s best soulmate

wildmind meditation news

Nanci Besser, Fulfillment Daily

The Challenge: Everyone wants to find their soulmate, but how can we be that for someone else?The Science: Surprisingly, empathy and kindness toward yourself is the key to being a wonderful partner.
The Solution: Here are 3 steps to becoming AND finding the perfect soulmate.
Everyone wants a soulmate. Yet what does it take to be a perfect partner to that soulmate? A research study shows us the secret to being a wonderful soulmate, and it’s something most of us have never heard of: self-compassion.

Everything comes in 3’s

At this point in your existing or budding relationship you probably know the crucial basics about one another: Human? –Check; Approximate age/height? –Check, check; Occupation? –Check; Do you practice self-compassion in your life? ? -Uh, no…why on Earth would that matter?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

Practicing self-compassion might be a strong indicator of the presence or absence of empathy in an individual. (Block-Lerner et al., 2007; Morgan & Morgan, 2005) Empathy is the ability to see the world through the eyes of another person. Empathy is what we are all seeking from our relationship partner: the space to be who we are without judgment.

The good news: it is never too late to add more self-compassion into your life. If you want to have the ideal, empathic partner, be the ideal, empathic partner first by practicing self-compassion daily.

Here are three secret steps to add self-compassion practices into your everyday life:

Step 1: Look Within

Noted psychologist, Dr. Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as (Neff, 2003)

Looking without resistance at one’s own discomfort, experiencing kindness and caring toward      oneself, applying a gentle, nonjudgmental attitude toward one’s shortcomings, and acknowledging      that one’s experience is part of the human experience (p. 224).

Beginning the journey to self-compassion within our mind shifts our perceptions of the outside world. A great way to start the journey is to journal. Journaling is not a novel concept, but journaling without judgment may be for you. Write about your day, listing your interactions with others as facts without interpretations.

Do not restrict yourself expressing your feelings, but resist criticizing or judging your choices. This is not a “bliss ninny” approach, but be patient with your observations. If we look at an issue or seeming problem with kindness and without denial, it is much easier to see the options for transcending the dilemma.

Step 2: Forgive

The next step is to make an honest inventory of the choices you wish you could do-over. Like the first step, the goal here is not to create an infinite well of guilt. Rather, illuminate any self-judgments, stopping them from festering and accumulating in your mind.

In your journal, list alternate actions for each situation. Then, choose one alternate action that speaks to your heart. Now, tell yourself you did the best you could and forgive yourself for the mistaken choice.

Next, close your eyes and envision the moment before you chose your past action that you wish to change.

Then, take a deep, cleansing breath and insert the alternate action you chose before into your vision, allowing yourself to experience a different outcome based upon your different choice.

Tell yourself that each exhale releases the guilt you felt and each inhale allows you to choose being present. Sit still and allow your mind to quiet and countdown from three to one, and then open your eyes.

Step 3: Extend

Projecting your anger and resentment upon others is an inability to forgive yourself. What we choose not to look upon within us, we often cast out upon others, usually to those closest to us.

After completing step two above, you are ready to share your kindness and forgiveness with others through extension of your time and service. Search your heart and soul for a philanthropic activity or cause that speaks to you.

Or, if time is limited, do your best to smile at everyone your eyes meet for one day. There is always time to be kind and to share the compassion you experience within with others at any moment and at anyplace.

Happily Ever After

Incorporating these three secret steps into your daily life changes your perceptions of the outside world. This is the ideal stage to meet your potential soulmate or to enrich your present relationship with the empathy developed through self-compassion. You will be what you are looking for from another. Combining two self-compassionate/empathic soulmates may be greater than the sum of your individual selves. Figuratively, 1+1 may equal 3. What more could you possibly want?

Resources:

  • Block-Lerner, J., Adair, C., Plumb, J. C., Rhatigan, D. L., & Orsillo, S. M. (2007). The case for mindfulness-based approaches in the cultivation of empathy: Does nonjudgmental, present-moment awareness increase capacity for perspective-taking and empathic concern? Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 33 (4), 501– 516.
  • Morgan, W. D., & Morgan, S. T. (2005). Cultivating attention and empathy. In Germer, C. K., Siegel, R. D., & Fulton, P. R. (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 73-90). New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self- compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223-250.

Original article no longer available

Read More

Pain relief with mindfulness meditation

wildmind meditation news

Study findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience provide “novel evidence demonstrating that mindfulness meditation produces greater pain relief and employs distinct neural mechanisms than placebo cream and sham mindfulness meditation,” according to the authors.

Led by Fadel Zeidan, PhD, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the study team found that mindfulness meditation—unlike other cognitive-based approaches to reduce pain, such as hypnosis, acupuncture, distraction, and even the placebo effect—does not appear to utilize the endogenous opioid system to reduce pain.

“Our finding was surprising and could be important for the millions of chronic pain sufferers who are seeking a fast-acting, non-opiate-based therapy to alleviate their pain,” said Zeidan. The finding is all the more important considering that the approximately 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain—according to estimates from the Institute of Medicine—spend more than $600 billion annually on treatment. The finding could also provide much-needed relief to the increasing problem of opioid addiction from prescription medications to heroin, which the CDC has labeled an epidemic.

Although mindfulness meditation had been shown in previous research to reduce pain in experimental and clinical settings, whether it engaged pain-relieving mechanisms other than those associated with the placebo effect (eg, conditioning, psychological context, beliefs) had yet to be defined.

To determine if the analgesic mechanisms of mindfulness meditation are different from placebo or use the body’s opioids, the researchers injected participants with naloxone to block the pain-reducing effects of opioids and then randomly assigned 75 healthy volunteers to 4 days (20 minutes per day) of the following:

  • Mindfulness meditation plus naloxone
  • Non-meditation control plus naloxone
  • Meditation plus saline placebo
  • Non-meditation control plus saline placebo

The study teamed used a thermal probe to heat a small area of participants’ skin to 120.2 degrees, a heat most people find very painful. Participants rated their pain on a sliding scale. Patients in the meditation plus naloxone group experienced a 24% reduction from baseline in pain ratings.

According to Zeidan, this finding shows that even when opioid receptors are chemically blocked, meditation appears to be able to significantly reduce pain by using a different pathway. The mediation plus placebo-saline injection group also experienced a reduction in paint ratings, down 21% from baseline. However, participants in both non-meditation control groups—either with naloxone or placebo-saline injection—actually reported increases in pain.

“Our team has demonstrated across four separate studies that meditation, after a short training period, can reduce experimentally induced pain,” said Zeidan. “And now this study shows that meditation doesn’t work through the body’s opioid system. This study adds to the growing body of evidence that something unique is happening with how meditation reduces pain. These findings are especially significant to those who have built up a tolerance to opiate-based drugs and are looking for a non-addictive way to reduce their pain.”

In a follow-up study, the investigators hope to determine if and how mindfulness meditation can affect a number of various chronic pain conditions.

“At the very least, we believe that meditation could be used in conjunction with other traditional drug therapies to enhance pain relief without it producing the addictive side effects and other consequences that may arise from opiate drugs,” said Zeidan.

Read More

Is mindfulness another task on your to-do list?

wildmind meditation news

Kathy Walsh, Huffington Post: Is mindfulness just another thing on your to-do list? Or is it woven into your day, like a beautiful golden thread through your tapestry. Are you rushing through your mindful activity? Or are you doing it with joy? Does it come from your heart and soul or your mind?

Today, I have to

1) Do Laundry

2) Buy Groceries

3) Drive Carpool to Practice

4) Call Babysitter

5) Be Positive

6) Write in a Gratitude Journal

7) Meditate

Is mindfulness just another thing on your to-do list? Or is it woven into your day, like a beautiful golden thread through your tapestry. Are you rushing through your mindful activity? Or are you doing it with joy? Does it come from your heart and soul or your mind?

I began mindful parenting 28 years ago when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I meditated to dolphin music, wrote my thoughts and feelings in a journal, and sent positive, loving thoughts to the…

Read the original article »

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

How to practice mindfulness throughout your work day

wildmind meditation news

Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter, Greater Good Science Center: You probably know the feeling all too well: You arrive at the office with a clear plan for the day and then, in what feels like just a moment, you find yourself on your way back home. Nine or ten hours have passed but you’ve accomplished only a few of your priorities. And, most likely, you can’t even remember exactly what you did all day. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Research shows that people spend almost 47 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing. In other words, many of us operate on autopilot.

Add to this that we have entered what many people are calling the “attention economy.” In the attention economy, the ability to maintain focus and concentration is every bit as important as technical or management skills. And because leaders need to absorb and synthesize a growing flood of information in order to make good decisions, they’re hit particularly hard by this emerging trend.

The good news is you can train your brain to focus better by incorporating mindfulness exercises throughout your day. Based on our experience with thousands of leaders in over 250 organizations, here are some guidelines for becoming a more…

Read the original article »

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

How meditating in a tiny Iowa town helped me recover from war

wildmind meditation news

Supriya Venkatesan, Washington Post: At 19, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Iraq. I spent 15 months there — eight at the U.S. Embassy, where I supported the communications for top generals. I understand that decisions at that level are complex and layered, but for me, as an observer, some of those actions left my conscience uneasy.

To counteract my guilt, I volunteered as a medic on my sole day off at Ibn Sina Hospital, the largest combat hospital in Iraq. There I helped wounded Iraqi civilians heal or transition into the afterlife. But I still felt lost and disconnected. I was nostalgic for a young adulthood I never had. While other 20-somethings had traditional college trajectories, followed by the hallmarks of first job interviews and early career wins, I had spent six emotionally numbing years doing ruck marches, camping out on mountaintops near the demilitarized zone in South Korea and fighting someone else’s battle in Iraq.

During my deployment, a few soldiers and I were awarded a short resort stay in Kuwait. There, I had a brief but powerful experience in a meditation healing session. I wanted more. So when I returned to the United States at the end of my service, I headed to Iowa.

Forty-eight hours after being discharged from the Army, I arrived on campus at Maharishi University…

Read the original article »

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Schools combine meditation and brain science to help combat discipline problems

wildmind meditation news

Shaina Cavazos, Chalkbeat Indiana: It was the Friday morning before spring break, and Deanna Nibarger’s fifth-graders were noisily chatting and enjoying their breakfast of milk, granola bars and raisins when a woman’s voice crackled over the school intercom:

“Sit up straight and close your eyes,” the woman on the intercom said.

The room immediately went silent as the woman’s command was followed by a series of short, high-pitched “dings,” as if someone were hitting a key on a metal xylophone and letting the sound reverberate.

See also:

A trance settled over the class for nearly a minute. Then, the daily morning announcements resumed, and the class sprang back to life as everyone stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Rarely do such moments of calm appear in elementary school classrooms, but it’s exactly this kind of focus that Crooked Creek Elementary School in Washington Township is looking to build in its students. The dings over the intercom are one example of ways teachers at the school have armed students with meditation-like practices to help increase focus and attention.

It might sound strange, but in a fast-paced classroom, teachers at Crooked Creek say just having their students close their eyes and listen for a minute can help them improve their ability to focus. It’s part of the school’s efforts to incorporate the tenets of the growing academic field known as “educational neuroscience” into the classroom…

The field of educational neuroscience is at the intersection of cognitive psychology, education and neuroscience, and some of its teachings suggest findings from brain research can be applied to classroom management and discipline techniques.

Some trend toward the area of “mindfulness,” such as attempting to sharpen students’ focus through meditation. Other facets of the field that Crooked Creek teachers employ in the classroom include taking short breaks from instruction to ward off boredom and teaching children explicitly about parts of the brain and how they respond to stress.

Crooked Creek has been working with teacher and college professor Lori Desautels to help infuse elements of educational neuroscience into the classroom.

Desautels isn’t just teaching brain science to the teachers. She’s also helping children understand how their own brains work to in an effort to help them learn to change their behavior.

The educational neuroscience field is in flux, and some of its teachings — especially ones that directly tie student learning outcomes to brain science — still leave neuroscientists skeptical. But that’s not at the core of what Desautels is doing in Indianapolis schools. Rather, it’s about using what experts know about the brain to build stronger relationships and classroom culture.

“We are in a new time in education,” said Desautels, who works with teachers and students in several Indianapolis schools. “We hear about reform every day in the paper. We read it, we hear it in the news, but what’s really at the crux of all of this is educational neuroscience. Students are learning about their own neuroanatomy, and they are loving it.”

A growing field

Researchers have been exploring how brain science and education work together for about 50 years, but Desautels said the field has recently morphed into something new that is taking off across the country and outside the U.S.

“It’s a brand-new discipline that is catching on fire right now,” Desautels said.

The idea is to introduce both teachers and students to a basic understanding of how the brain works. If teachers have an idea of what’s going on behind the bad behavior, they can more effectively reach their students because they know it might not just be a child choosing to be defiant or difficult. When students know how parts of their brains work, they might better understand why they might feel frustrated or aggressive. That can help them develop strategies to lower stress so they can work to improve behavior in the future.

“Neuroanatomy knowledge eases their stress because they know they are not alone and can have control over that,” Desautels said.

The exact relationship between the how the brain works and how kids learn — and how teachers should teach — isn’t fully fleshed out, said Lise Eliot, a neuroscience professor from Chicago Medical School and Rosalind Franklin University.

“The so-called ‘neuroscience of education”… it’s not ready for prime time yet,” Eliot said. “There are a lot of very good neuroscientists who are interested in translating our understanding to how our brain learns to better educational practices, but I would say that at this point, improvements in educational practice have come only from the behavioral level.”

And that’s mainly where Desautel’s work lies — in using new strategies and information to improve behavior. The methods are especially relevant as schools look to correct disparities in instances of school discipline. Indiana, like many places across the country, has acknowledged racial differences in the way that suspensions, expulsions and other punishments are meted out.

Nibarger, the fifth-grade teacher from Crooked Creek, had a background in special education and behavior management before she ever met Desautels. The year she came to Washington Township just happened to be the first year Desautels piloted her approach with the Crooked Creek fifth-graders.

Since she started working with Desautels three years ago, she’s seen school culture begin to change, and she’s more sure of her own teaching. The very first year of the pilot, no students were suspended, and school office referrals decreased, she said.

Understanding what her kids’ brains might be going through during moments of stress or frustration has helped Nibarger make sense of a lot of disparate classroom management concepts she’d already learned.

“It has kind of affirmed a lot of what I already knew to be best practice,” she said. “When people asked me what I was doing for behavior, I didn’t have research or knowledge to do that. Now I know why I do what I do.”

Educational neuroscience, Desautels said, is the intersection of cognitive psychology, education and neuroscience. The element of it that encourages building relationships through better understanding of how emotions and stress impact the brain informs some of the philosophies behind discipline strategies becoming popular in the U.S, she said.

At Crooked Creek, Nibarger has taken the lessons to heart and uses them on a daily basis.

“If you were to come to room 18, we talk a lot about emotions being contagious.” Nibarger said. “We do morning meetings, and we talk through conflict. I teach the kids about neuroplasticity; their brains being able to change because of their experiences in life.”

Using brain knowledge to better behavior

One of the first things Desautels teaches students and teachers is “the 90-second rule,” which admittedly has a much larger following in psychological circles than neuroscientific ones.

“Our body rinses clear and clean of negative emotion in 90 seconds,” she said. “Why do we stay irritated for so long? We keep thinking about it, replaying it and generating more negative emotions.”

The premise is championed by Harvard-educated brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor, who essentially says the chemicals that course through the brain during a stressful experience dissipate after 90 seconds. Eliot said she wasn’t familiar with the concept. But while emotional recovery time is likely different from person to person, the point, Desautels said, is to let kids know they can have a hand in controlling their emotions.

Things don’t always run smoothly in classrooms, between teachers and students or between kids themselves — conflict is inevitable. But rather than focusing on just being reactive, Desautels said, teachers and students can arm themselves with strategies early on so moments of stress don’t turn into meltdowns.

There are three key ways to de-escalate a conflict that are known to reduce stress as well: movement, time and breathing.

When kids can release energy by moving around, take some time away from the stressful moment or just breathe, Desautels said, they can calm down and actually think about what’s going on around them. Otherwise, they stay stressed out and might lash out more, she said.

The same goes for teachers — those strategies can ease their tension so they can respond constructively to a student. Desautels recommends asking these questions: What do you need? How can I help? What can we do to make this better?

“Consequences don’t need to be immediate,” Desautels said. “That, neurobiologically, is the worst thing we can do.”

When the brain is under stress, Desautels said, the part that controls problem-solving, logic, planning and organizing — known as the “prefrontal cortex” — isn’t getting enough blood and oxygen. Instead, all the blood is heading to the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotion. That’s why feeling upset might make a child yell or hit before it makes them sit back and talk a problem through. Plus, the prefrontal cortex is one of the last parts of the brain to develop, so children are already more likely to respond emotionally to stress than adults.

“We have to prime the brain for discipline and learning before we can do anything else,” Desautels said. “Unless we teach the behaviors that we want to see, many times emotional regulation, which is what negative behavior is all about, it’s not there. And we just assume everybody is born having great ability to emotionally regulate.”

Teaching neuroscience to kids isn’t quite as hard as it sounds — First, they’ll start with model that lets them learn each part of the brain and what it does.

In Nibarger’s class, it’s clear the teaching has taken hold. Her students use words and phrases like “neurons” and “brain trauma” in regular classroom conversation. On the day before spring break, she asked them to tell her what happens when you have “hidden anger.”

Almost immediately, one boy piped up. He said a lack of sleep can cause trauma in the brain that blocks synapses from firing, which mean the brain works more slowly. Another girl said keeping anger to yourself means you can’t connect well to your friends.

“If you don’t talk about it and get it out of your system, you get frustrated and isolated,” she said.

Aside from the three basic strategies of movement, time and breathing, Desautels encourages teachers to use “brain breaks” to keep kids from drifting off during class.

“The brain pays attention to novelty,” Desautels said. “It’s a good way to change up because the brain is lulled to sleep with routine.”

A brain break could be almost anything — kids can get up and balance on one foot or play coordination games that ask them to hold out both hands and switch between making an “L” with one hand and a Sign Language “I” with the other. Or, it can be chimes on the intercom to give children a moment of calm in the morning.

Using the brain breaks and attention exercises throughout the school day not only helps kids shake things up if they need to refocus, but they are strategies they can turn to in times of stress.

The approach isn’t magic — managing behavior can still be slow-going, Desautels said, especially if kids become aggressive and don’t yet trust their teachers.

One third-grade class she’s working in this year at Washington Township’s Greenbriar Elementary School is particularly challenging — many of the students come from low-income families, and some have parents in jail.

Sometimes, they’ll yell or swear or even knock over a desk. Desautels said that can be typical for students constantly living in a state of stress, but the class is making progress. She encourages teachers to carve out areas of their classrooms where kids can go to take a break and calm down. Teachers at the school are partnered with each other so they have extra hands if one needs to the leave the classroom with the student or contact a parent.

How to deal with frequently disruptive, or even violent, students is a question common to most all classroom management or discipline techniques. There isn’t an easy answer Desautels said — it takes time for teachers and students to build trust. Incorporating aspects of educational neuroscience can help ensure that when confrontation does happen, frustration and rash decisions aren’t king.

“For teachers who say it’s too gentle, I say absolutely not,” Desautels said. “What we have to do is set up those procedures and transitions and boundaries, and the hardest part is we have to stay connected emotionally to those students during the worst of conflicts.

And regardless of the particular field you’re in, Eliot said, that connection piece is paramount to success in the classroom.

“What we know about human brain function is that it can’t be divorced from social environment,” Eliot said. “The more teachers appreciate how crucial that is to have healthy positive, nurturing relationships and extensive bonding and connecting and mentoring of their students, the more successful they’ll be, the healthier their students will be and the better they’ll learn.”

Read the original article »

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Six ways to start practicing self-compassion — even if you believe you’re undeserving

wildmind meditation news

For many of us being kind to ourselves is hard. It’s hard even when we’re struggling — and need compassion most. Instead, we get mad. We tell ourselves to buck up. We wonder why we’re so weak. We criticize and hurl insults. We withhold our favorite things — telling ourselves that we don’t deserve to participate in enjoyable activities, because after all, we screwed up everything.

But the good news is that we can learn to cultivate self-compassion. Which is vital. Self-compassion helps us to meet life’s challenges in a supportive way, said Amy Finlay-Jones, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist, compassion teacher, and researcher who specializes in self-compassion. In fact, according to research, self-compassion has a measurable effect on our mental health and well-being, she said. (See here and here.)

Self-compassion is “the intentional cultivation of a relationship with oneself that is respectful, kind and compassionate,” said Celedra Gildea, Ph.D, a psychotherapist in Portland, Ore., who leads Mindful Self-Compassion, Compassion Cultivation Training and Mindfulness groups. Below are six ways you can start cultivating self-compassion, even if you’ve been berating yourself for years.

Reduce disparaging times, and up kind moments

Simply notice when you feel most self-critical and aggressive toward yourself, Finlay-Jones said. Maybe it’s when you’re tired or overworked. Maybe it’s when you’re spending too much time on social media. “Whatever it is, see if you can refrain from it a little.”

Also, pay attention to the times you feel nourished and comfortable with yourself, she said. This might be when you’re taking a walk in nature or hanging out with friends or working on a creative project. “Whatever it is, see if you can cultivate a little more of it in your life.”

This can give us more space to be gentle and curious with ourselves, Finlay-Jones said.

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Take a self-compassion break

Gildea suggested trying an exercise created by self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, which helps us recognize and soothe our suffering. Put your hand on your heart or any place that feels comforting.

Simply say, “This hurts” or “This is suffering.” Next, say something that acknowledges that you’re part of a community of people struggling, such as: “I’m not alone” or “We all struggle in our lives.” Lastly, offer yourself some kindness, such as: “May I be kind to myself,” “May I accept myself as I am,” or “May I be patient.”

Speak tender words — like you would to a child or your child

“Many of us think that we don’t have the capacity or words to give ourselves compassion,” Gildea said. She shared a powerful story that reveals we do. Gildea was volunteering at a women’s abuse shelter, trying to teach a group of women the self-compassion break. Because of all the pain they’d endured, they couldn’t find any words of compassion for themselves.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Another volunteer brought in a baby who was crying. The mom took her baby into her arms and started whispering loving words, like: “Don’t you worry sweet one, we are going to be OK. I’m right here and no one is going to hurt you anymore.” She was able to effortlessly shower her child with compassion.

“Deeply touched, we all put our hands on [our] hearts and spoke the same words of compassion, imagining our little child sitting next to our adult selves safely in our hearts,” Gildea said. “They had found the key.” You can try the same.

Try this loving meditation

Another way to start practicing self-compassion is by bringing to mind a loved one and noticing the feelings of love and warmth that tend to arise, Finlay-Jones said. “Step-by-step, we become more skillful at mobilizing this capacity, so that after a time, we are more able to include ourselves in the circle of compassion.” She created this beautiful meditation for readers to try.

Pay attention to how you’re practicing

“Self-compassion is not about self-improvement,” Finlay-Jones said. She stressed the importance of paying attention to how you’re practicing self-compassion. Do you have an attitude of impatience or harshness? Are you being considerate and comforting?

Many of her clients share long lists of self-care practices they’ve tried. These lists might include everything from yoga to psychotherapy to meditation to running. Yet, they feel anything but cared for. Instead, they feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, Finlay-Jones said. “This is often because they are demanding and aggressive with themselves in the process — treating themselves as though they are a problem to be fixed, and self-care is the solution.”

To be truly self-compassionate, she noted, it’s important to work on acknowledging that we are all acceptable exactly as we are.

Delve into your needs and values

Self-compassion goes deeper than supporting ourselves in the moment. According to Finlay-Jones, it “involves understanding what our deeper needs and values are, and aligning our behavior accordingly.” For instance, one deeper need all of us have is connection. As she writes in this piece, you might meet this need by spending time with friends, playing with your pet, listening to music, and helping others.

You might be thinking, but what if I don’t deserve self-compassion? What if I don’t feel worthy or loveable or deserving of kindness?

As Finlay-Jones said, start practicing anyway. “[S]elf-compassion is so important precisely because we don’t feel worthy, or deserving, or loveable. There is, therefore, no better time to start.”

Original article no longer available

 

Read More

Brain changes seen in veterans with PTSD after mindfulness training

wildmind meditation news

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Like an endlessly repeating video loop, horrible memories and thoughts can keep playing over and over in the minds of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. They intrude at the quietest moments, and don’t seem to have an off switch.

But a new study in veterans with PTSD shows the promise of mindfulness training for enhancing the ability to manage those thoughts if they come up, and not get “stuck”. Even more surprising, it actually shows the veterans’ brains changed — in ways that may help them find their own off switch for that endless loop.

The findings, published in Depression and Anxiety by a team from the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, come from a study of 23 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of them got some form of group therapy. After four months of weekly sessions, many reported that their PTSD symptoms eased up.

But only in those who got mindfulness training – a mind-body technique that focuses on in-the-moment attention and awareness – did the researchers see the brain changes that surprised even them.

Shifting brain connections
The changes showed up on functional MRI, or fMRI, brain scans that can visualize brain activity as different areas of the brain “talk” to one another through networks of connections between brain cells.

Before the mindfulness training, when the veterans were resting quietly, their brains had extra activity in regions involved in responding to threats or other outside problems. This is a sign of that endless loop of hypervigilance often seen in PTSD.

But after learning mindfulness, they developed stronger connections between two other brain networks: the one involved in our inner, sometimes meandering, thoughts, and the one involved in shifting and directing attention.

“The brain findings suggest that mindfulness training may have helped the veterans develop more capacity to shift their attention and get themselves out of being “stuck” in painful cycles of thoughts,” says Anthony King, Ph.D., a U-M Department of Psychiatry researcher who led the new study in collaboration with VA psychologists.

“We’re hopeful that this brain signature shows the potential of mindfulness to be helpful for managing PTSD for people who might initially decline therapy involving trauma processing,” he adds. “We hope it may provide emotional regulation skills to help bring them to a place where they feel better able to process their traumas.”

King, who has experience providing individual and group therapy for veterans from many conflicts, worked with a team of brain-imaging experts and PTSD specialists including senior author Israel Liberzon, M.D. They used an fMRI scanner at the VA Ann Arbor that’s dedicated to research.

In all, 14 of the veterans finished the mindfulness sessions and completed follow-up fMRI scans, and 9 finished the comparison sessions and had scans. The small size of the group means the new results are only the start of an exploration of this issue, King says.

A palatable option
Before they launched the study, the researchers weren’t sure that they could find enough veterans to try mindfulness-based training. After all, it has a reputation as an “alternative” approach and has a relationship to traditionally East and South Asian practices like meditation and yoga

But in fact, more of the initial group of veterans stuck with mindfulness-based therapy sessions – held each week for two hours with a trained mindfulness teacher and psychotherapist – than made it all the way through the comparison psychotherapy group that didn’t get mindfulness training.

“Once we explained the rationale behind mindfulness, which aims to ground and calm a person while also addressing mental phenomena, they were very interested and engaged – more than we expected,” says King. “The approach we took included standard elements of exposure therapy as well as mindfulness, to help lead veterans to be able to process the trauma itself.”

The comparison group received a VA-developed intervention that was designed for “control group” use. It included problem-solving and group support but not mindfulness or exposure therapy.

He emphasizes that people with PTSD should not see mindfulness alone as a potential solution for their symptoms, and that they should seek out providers trained specifically in PTSD care.The mindfulness group saw improvement in PTSD symptoms, in the form of decreased scores on a standard scale of PTSD severity, that was statistically significant and considered clinically meaningful, whereas the control group did not. However, the between-group effects in this small study were not considered statistically significant, and therefore King wants to explore the trend further in larger groups, and in civilians.

That’s because mindfulness sessions can sometimes actually trigger symptoms such as intrusive thoughts to flare up. So, it is very important for people with PTSD to have help from a trained counselor to use mindfulness as part of their therapy for PTSD.

“Mindfulness can help people cope with and manage their trauma memories, explore their patterns of avoidance when confronting reminders of their trauma, and better understand their reactions to their symptoms,” says King. “It helps them feel more grounded, and to notice that even very painful memories have a beginning, a middle and an end — that they can become manageable and feel safer. It’s hard work, but it can pay off.”

Network shifts
At the start of the study, and in previous U-M/VA work, the fMRI scans of veterans with PTSD showed unusual activity. Even when they were asked to rest quietly and let their minds wander freely, they had high levels of activity in brain networks that govern reactions to salient, or meaningful, external signals such as threats or dangers. Meanwhile, the default mode network, involved in inwardly focused thinking and when the mind is wandering, was not as active in them.

But at the end of the mindfulness course, the default mode area was more active – and showed increased connections to areas of the brain known as the executive network. This area gets involved in what scientists call volitional attentional shifting – purposefully moving your attention to think about or act upon something.

Those with the greatest easing of symptoms had the largest increases in connections.

“We were surprised by the findings, because there is thinking that segregation between the default mode network and the salience network is good,” says King. “But now we are hopeful that this brain signature of increased connection to areas associated with volitional attention shifting at rest may be helpful for managing PTSD, and may help patients have more capacity to help themselves get out of being stuck in painful ruts of trauma memories and rumination.”

REFERENCE: Depression and Anxiety, DOI 10.1002/da.22481, and a presentation April 1 at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America annual conference

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Why should you meditate?

wildmind meditation news

Jeena Cho, Huffington Post: Meditation has been gaining incredible momentum in recent years. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to try meditation but feel hesitant. This is understandable considering the fact that we place so much emphasis on producing more, and working more. We often hear from people comments such as, “I’d love to try meditation but I just can’t find the time.”

You are the only one who knows whether meditation is right for you or why you are interested in trying it. Still, it’s interesting to hear why someone might begin a meditation practice.

Some common reasons include:

Stress or anxiety management — Many people begin meditation as a means of managing stress or anxiety, and perhaps this is an even greater motivator for lawyers than for others, since stress is such a defining aspect of our professional lives. It’s telling that both of us, the authors of this book, began meditating to manage stress-related issues. If stress is the reason for your beginning your meditation practice, welcome! You’re in good company.

• Increasing focus and productivity — Our computers, laptops, phones, iPads, e-readers, and myriad other devices can make us more productive, but they also enable continual interruptions. These never-ending sources of distraction can leave us frayed and even undermine our fundamental ability to pay attention. Many professionals take up meditation as an antidote, to help navigate the disruption that is part of the modern working world without sacrificing their effectiveness…

Read the original article »

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Mindfulness meditation improves chronic low back pain

wildmind meditation news

Thomas G. Ciccone, Practical Pain Management: Mindfulness meditation may offer the drug-free key to pain-free living for patients aged 65 and older, according to the results of new research. The study, recently published in JAMA,1 found when patients meditated for 90 minutes a week over the course of 8 weeks, their pain symptoms, including their most severe pain, decreased significantly—a robust trend that continued for up to 6 months.

“Preserving physical function with aging is critical to maintaining independence, because loss of independence is arguably one of the most feared consequences of aging,” the authors wrote.

The primary aim of the study was to determine the effectiveness of the mind-body program at increasing function and reducing pain in adults 65 years or older with chronic LBP.”

Mindfulness meditation is a relatively popular alternative form of medicine in the U.S. Some 18 million Americans tried meditation in 2012, alone.² A recent meta-analysis has found the practice can have moderate benefits for a number of symptoms, including pain, anxiety, and depression.³ However, up to this point, it appeared meditation’s pain-relieving benefits related to an analgesic effect on visceral pain, not necessarily musculoskeletal—a notion that could be challenged, now.

The Study

In the study, 282 community-dwelling adult patients (mean [SD] age, 74.5 [6.6] years), who were recruited from the metropolitan Pittsburgh area, either enrolled in a mindfulness meditation program (n=140) or an education program on healthy aging (n=142).

Patients in the meditation group convened for weekly sessions modeled on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR),⁴ which is designed to cultivate a better awareness of the body and mind in order to reduce stress, recognize negative cognitions, and positively influence autonomic physiological processes, including blood pressure and overall reactivity.⁵

The control group of patients instead received an education course on the “10 Keys” to Healthy Ageing, a prevention program on key health topics like hypertension management.⁶ Interestingly, one particular chair exercise introduced in the control group also was utilized in the meditation program. However, the control group’s program did not include information on pain management.

Meditation Provides Short-term Pain Benefits

Patients that practiced meditation significantly improved their current and most severe Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NRS) scores, showing additional -1.8 and -1.0 improvements over the control group, respectively. A noticeably higher percentage of patients doing meditation (56.8%) were able to achieve a 2.5-point clinically significant improvement after the 8-week course, compared to the control group (44.9%).

In fact, compared to the control group, noticeably more patients in the MBSR program were able to achieve a clinically meaningful 30% improvement both in NRS pain scores for current (54 of 132 [40.9%] vs 34 of 138 [24.6%]; P = 0.004) and most severe pain (48 of 132 [36.4%] vs 30 of 138 [21.7%]; P = 0.008). Even when evaluating patients for a more stringent 50% improvement, the meditation group also outperformed the control group for average (21 of 132 [15.9%] vs 14 of 138 [10.1%]; P = 0.16), current (43 of 132 [32.6%] vs 22 of 138 [15.9%]; P = 0.001), and most severe (21 of 132 [15.9%] vs 12 of 138 [8.7%]; P = 0.07) pain.

Caveats to Consider

However, other outcome measurements did not show robust differences between the groups, particularly at the 6-month follow-up. Pain self-efficacy, pain catastrophizing, depressive symptoms, quality of life, and even self-reported mindfulness—while any noticeable benefits for the meditation group were recorded at the 8-week mark, they were nullified after 6 months. Furthermore, significant differences in functional improvements were not sustained at 6 months, either.

This suggests the meditation, while not a game-changer in functional improvements over a longer period, may have significantly helped patients perceive improvements in their pain. Regardless of unremarkable differences in self-efficacy or catastrophizing scores, meditation patients reported more improvement in their back pain symptoms than control participants (P < .001), with a majority (80.3%) of meditation patients reporting at least minimal improvement at 8 weeks compared to the control group (37.0%).

Not only did this difference persist up to the 6-month mark, but a greater number of patients in the control group began reporting worsening symptoms, by contrast.

Limitations to Consider

The improvements in pain that mindfulness meditation appeared to offer patients was consistent with a patient-centered view of successful pain relief,⁷ something that other therapies are not able to achieve, the authors noted. The short term benefits of increased self-efficacy also can help decrease impairment, distress, pain severity for patients in pain,⁸ and while the difference in self-efficacy improvement between the study groups was not maintained at 6 months, there may be some limitations of the study to consider.

At baseline, patients already showed robust psychological profiles, with low occurrence of depressive symptoms. This could be explained by the fact the researchers excluded patients that had reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms in the past. Past studies have shown meditation to improve psychological disorders, like depression and anxiety.³

And even though the researchers excluded patients who were familiar with mindfulness meditation programs, baseline mindfulness scores for all participating subjects noticeably were strong. So despite the fact that qualitative reports showed patients experience increased mindfulness upon learning how to meditate, the quantitative scores did not reflect this. Also, participation rates were not very high for the 6 monthly booster sessions following the initial 8-week course, which may have dulled the measurements, as well.

Promo for Wildmind's meditation initiative

Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More
Menu