mindfulness in daily life

The structure of gratitude

wildmind meditation newsDavid Brooks, NY Times: I’m sometimes grumpier when I stay at a nice hotel. I have certain expectations about the service that’s going to be provided. I get impatient if I have to crawl around looking for a power outlet, if the shower controls are unfathomable, if the place considers itself too fancy to put a coffee machine in each room. I’m sometimes happier at a budget motel, where my expectations are lower, and where a functioning iron is a bonus and the waffle maker in the breakfast area is a treat.

This little phenomenon shows how powerfully expectations structure our moods and …

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Mindfulness is a capitalist grift: How faux enlightenment maintains our status quo

wildmind meditation newsKali Holloway, Salon: I stumbled across mindfulness, the meditation practice now favored by titans of tech, sensitive C-suiters, new media gurus and celebrities, without even really knowing it.

A couple of years ago, I was deeply mired in an insane schedule that involved almost everything (compulsive list-making at 4am, vacations mostly spent working, lots of being “on”) except for one desperately missed item (sleep; pretty much just sleep). A friend suggested I download Headspace, a meditation app he swore would calm the thoughts buzzing incessantly in my head, relax my anxious energy and help me be more present. I took his advice, noting the app’s first 10 trial sessions — to be done at the same time over 10 consecutive days — were free. When I found the time to do it, it was, at best, incredibly relaxing; at worst, it barely made a dent in my frazzled synapses. When I didn’t find the time (because again, schedule), the effort to somehow make time became its own source of stress. In the end, I got an equally hectic yet far more satisfying career, took up running and forgot Headspace existed.

That is, until the term “mindfulness” reached a tipping point of near ubiquity. As it turned out, what I’d regarded as just a digitized form of guided meditation was actually a “mindfulness technique,” part of a bigger, buzzy, Buddhism-derived movement toward some version of corporate enlightenment. As long ago as 2012 …

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Is mindfulness a technique that can help kids succeed?

wildmind meditation newsNews.com.au: I’m in a small room with 25 other people. At our teacher’s instruction, we are all sitting very still, eyes closed, hands in our laps, concentrating on our breath.

Outside, a bus roars past, which makes me sneakily open one eye. But it appears I’m the only one who’s distracted; nobody else has moved. Eventually, the teacher invites everyone to open their eyes when they’re ready. There’s a second of silence before chairs scrape back and there’s some muffled chatter among the participants. The clatter of a pencil case falling to the floor reminds me exactly where I am; not in an idyllic …

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Mind your manners: mindfulness becoming a way of life

wildmind meditation newsBrian Haggerty, NorthJersey.com: Mindfulness. You may be reading about or hearing this word more often. While the word is not new, its usage among the general population as well as within education is on the rise. In essence, it is a state of mind which is achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts and physical sensations. Originally intended as a means of therapy, mindfulness, today, is becoming more of a way of life. We are, after all, the sum total of our thoughts. Our thoughts affect the way we feel by producing chemicals, …

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Surprising science-backed ways to boost your mood

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Erin Brodwin, Business Insider: We all have a remarkable capacity to make ourselves happier.

Each of the little things we do to boost our mood — from reading an adventure story to keeping a gratitude journal or even gazing up at the stars on a clear night — can add up to greater overall satisfaction.

But happiness doesn’t come easy. We have to work at it.

Here are some of the things that psychologists and social science researchers have found that have the power to lift your spirits and keep them high.

Write down 3 things you’re grateful for

Keeping tabs on the things you feel lucky to have in your life is a great way to boost your mood.

In a recent study from psychologists at UC Davis, researchers had 3 groups of volunteers keep weekly journals focused on a single topic. While one group wrote about major events that had happened that week, the second group wrote about hassles they’d experienced, and the last group wrote about things they were grateful for.

Ten weeks later, those in the gratitude-journal group reported feeling more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives than those in any of the other groups and reported fewer physical symptoms of discomfort, from runny noses to headaches.

Go on a hike or gaze up at the stars on a clear night

Awe is a powerful — even awesome, you might say — human emotion. And a handful of recent studies have found a link between experiencing a sense of awe — that feeling you get when you look up at a starry sky or out across a wide open valley — with feeling less stressed and more satisfied.

People who’ve recently had an awe-inspiring experience are also more likely to say they feel more curious about the world around them and to act more generously toward others.

Move to Switzerland

Ok, moving to Switzerland might not make you happy, but people who live there are some of the happiest in the world, according to the 2015 World Happiness Report, a ranking compiled by an international team of economists, neuroscientists, and statisticians to measure global well-being.

One of the report’s key findings, based on decades of neuroscientific and psychological research, suggests that keeping the brain happy relies on 4 main factors, which include staying positive, recovering from negative feelings, spending time with loved ones, and being mindful.

“These findings highlight the view that happiness and well-being are best regarded as skills that can be enhanced through training,” the researchers write in their report.

Drink coffee (not too much, though)

They don’t call it “Central Perk” for nothing. As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine doesn’t just boost alertness, it can also improve your mood.

Several studies have even found a connection between caffeine consumption and a reduced depression risk, as well as an even a lower risk of suicide. However, at least one of these studies specifically found this connection with caffeinated coffee but not tea, though others found the same effect for tea as well.

Meditate

You don’t have to be Don Draper to reap the benefits of some peace and quiet.

Multiple studies suggest that meditating — focusing intently and quietly on the present for set periods of time — can help lessen feelings of depression and anxiety. Research in long term meditators — Buddhist monks, for example — shows that these peoples’ brains have well-developed areas that could be linked to heightened awareness and emotional control. While it’s possible that people with such brains might be more likely to meditate in the first place, other studies do show that people who complete a meditation program tend to show brain changes linked with self-awareness, perspective, and memory.

Read an adventure story

You may be able to get the benefits of an awe-inspiring experience just by reading about someone else’s. A small 2012 study found that even when people simply read about someone else’s awe-inspiring experience, they were more satisfied, less stressed, and more willing to volunteer their time to help others compared with people who were simply shown something that made them feel happy.

Get outside

Stressed out? Head for a forest. One study found that a group of students sent into the trees for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent the same two nights in a city.

In another study, researchers found a decrease in both heart rate and cortisol levels in people in the forest when compared to those in urban areas. “Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

Go for a nature walk

If living in a big city has you feeling a bit down, there’s good news: A brief walk in nature could be all it takes to chase away those negative thoughts.

At least that’s the finding of a new study published last month.

In the study, a group of 38 Northern Californians (18 women and 20 men) were split up into two groups — one who took a 90-minute walk in nature and another that did the same walk in the city. The nature walkers reported having fewer negative thoughts about themselves after the walk than before the walk, while the urban walkers reported no change.

What’s more, fMRI brain scans revealed less activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC), a brain region that may play a key role in some mood disorders and has been linked with patterns of negative thought, according to the study. Those who went on the urban walk did not show any of these benefits, the study found.

Do things you do when you’re happy — even if you’re not

Experiencing positive emotions not only appear to have the power to neutralize negative ones, but can also encourage people to be more proactive. “Positive emotions may aid those feeling trapped or helpless in the midst of negative moods, thoughts, or behaviors — for example, grief, pessimism, or isolation — spurring them to take positive action,” write a team of UC Riverside psychologists in a recent paper summarizing these findings.

Participate in cultural activities

Visiting a museum or seeing a concert is yet another way to boost your mood. A study that examined the anxiety, depression, and life satisfaction of over 50,000 adults in Norway offered an interesting link: People who participated in more cultural activities, like attending a play or joining a club, reported lower levels of anxiety and depression as well as a higher satisfaction with their overall quality of life. So get out there and participate!

Listen to sad songs.

Happiness is entirely subjective, meaning that what makes one person happy might affect someone else differently. However, listening to sad music seems to be a common activity that’s been linked with increased happiness around the globe.

In a study that looked at 772 people on the eastern and western hemispheres, researchers found that listening to sad music generated “beneficial emotional effects such as regulating negative emotion and mood as well as consolation,” the researchers write in their paper.

Set specific goals you know you can achieve.

If you’re one of those people who like to make to-do lists on a regular basis, then listen closely: When you’re setting your goals, it’s better to be specific and set goals you know you can achieve. For example, instead of setting a goal like “save the environment,” try to recycle more.

Those two examples were tested on a group of 127 volunteers in a study published last year. The first group were provided a series of specific goals like “increase recycling” while the second group had broader goals like “save the environment.” Even though the second group completed the same tasks as the first group, the people in the second group reported feeling less satisfied with themselves than the first group. The people in the second group also reported a lower overall sense of personal happiness from completing their goal, the scientists report.

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Don’t worry, you can practice mindfulness and still be a jerk

wildmind meditation newsJeena Cho, Above the Law: In case you missed it, there was a cover story in the Wall Street Journal on mindfulness in the legal profession. It’s fair to say that when the WSJ is writing about mindfulness in law, it’s gone mainstream. I was interviewed and quoted in the article, and I’ll admit, I got a little teary eyed when I saw my name on the cover of the WSJ. Not bad for an immigrant “salon girl.”

In the July issue of the ABA Journal, there was an article titled How lawyers can avoid burnout and debilitating anxiety, citing meditation and mindfulness …

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What is mindfulness and should we be doing it?

wildmind meditation newsRosie Hopegood, The Mirror: Everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Goldie Hawn has been dropping the buzzword ‘mindfulness’ lately.

But while celebs are only just cottoning on to the technique, it’s actually been practised for thousands of years, and is now popping up in all sorts of unlikely places – big banking and tech firms are paying for their employees to take classes in order to reduce stress and anxiety at work.

And according to mindfulness expert Will Williams, anyone can benefit from the practice. “It can be particularly helpful for middle aged women, because hormonal imbalances during or approaching the menopause can be can be helped by regularly doing this kind of meditation,” he says.

It’s a technique that encourages focusing your awareness on the present, rather than mulling over the past, or fretting about the future.

It’s a form of meditation with all religious elements stripped away. There are many classes, books and apps available, but one of the most popular is Headspace (a website and app), which has been downloaded by over three million people, including celebrity fans Emma Watson and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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How mindfulness can stop the spinning

wildmind meditation newsDavid Mochel, Huffington Post: As human beings we have a tremendous capacity to respond positively and purposefully in the face of challenge. We have the ability to act on our goals and commitments even when we don’t feel like it. As a society, we have an unprecedented capacity to feed, clothe, educate, provide healthcare, and share useful information. Why then, despite our most sincere efforts, do we get stuck in repeated patterns and fail to follow through on our best intentions? Why does life sometimes feel like a struggle even when we have everything we need? The answer to these questions lies in …

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How being mindful in class has made me a more effective & reflective teacher

wildmind meditation newsThe Mindfulness Pedagogy: What we do, think, say and feel as teacher is embedded in social structures that most often are invisible but no less real. The social structures of schools and classrooms are complex, layered with aspects of power, and usually taken for granted. Mindfulness is a fruitful way to unpack or come to see these structures more clearly, thereby coming to know your pupils, way of teaching, social interactions more fully.

Being in a school environment where mindfulness is encouraged can open opportunities for learning & reflecting. Focusing on critical incidents within your day in a state of mindfulness creates space …

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Cultivating mindfulness beneficial, proponents say

wildmind meditation newsKimberly Marselas, LancasterOnline: A dozen tattooed and cross-armed teenage boys shuffle into the nondescript chapel at the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center.

Operating against a backdrop of two-way radio chatter and fluorescent lighting but speaking in hushed tones, Wynne Kinder and Christen Coscia greet each by name.

The instructors with Wellness Works in Schools aim to encourage troubled and neglected kids to open their minds, let go of their pain, and start making better choices. Though they may not tell them this, they want to help the teens develop internal tools they might use to regulate emotions.

And the instructors likely won’t refer …

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