depression

Understanding depression: mindfulness and acceptance

wildmind meditation newsKate Lochte & Matt Markgraf, WKMS.org: “One of the cornerstones of treatments for depression is getting out and moving in the world in ways that matter to the individual,” says Dr. Michael Bordieri, assistant professor of psychology at Murray State University. Mindfulness can be a way to help achieve that, by becoming aware of ones thoughts and not changing them, but rather letting them go. This is the topic of the fourth conversation in our series on understanding depression: the emerging therapeutic use of mindfulness.

Mindfulness isn’t necessarily new, it’s been practiced in eastern medicine for centuries. New to western scientific scrutiny and …

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How mindfulness can help preschool teachers cope

wildmind meditation newsDave Shaw, The Epoch Times: A new survey of early childhood education teachers shows that mindfulness is linked with alleviating lasting physical and emotional effects of childhood adversity.

The findings are especially important because adults who were abused or neglected as children typically experience poorer health, according to Robert Whitaker, professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University.

“Previous research has shown that childhood traumas worsen adult health through changes in how the body responds to stress,” says Whitaker, who led the new study in Preventative Medicine. He adds that some people might adopt poor health behaviors, like smoking, to cope with …

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How to calm your brain and find peace during a busy day

wildmind meditation newsAmy Capetta, Today.com: The positive power of meditation has made the news once again. Research from Carnegie Mellon University states that practicing mindfulness meditation for 25 minutes per session for three consecutive days can alleviate psychological stress. An analysis of previous studies compiled earlier this year showed this type of meditation—which involves paying attention to your surroundings while concentrating on your breathing—to be “moderately” effective in battling depression, anxiety and pain.

“One of the most important benefits of mindfulness meditation is the ability for us to more fully live our lives,” states Janice L. Marturano, executive director of the Institute For Mindful Leadership and …

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The mindfulness boom and its modern misconceptions

wildmind meditation newsWorldcrunch: In 1979, a stressed-out molecular biologist took a Buddhist meditation technique, removed its mysticism, and transplanted it to an American university hospital. This is how mindfulness was born, in the University of Massachusetts Boston, instigated by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.

The discipline then made its way into the medical world, where — according to scientific studies — it proved to be particularly effective to prevent depression relapses and to handle anxiety disorders. Incubation, blooming, booming. Now, 35 years after its birth, mindfulness is on everyone’s lips.

This is a crucial year for mindfulness, which represents the rare case of an originally Oriental practice infiltrating the West through science rather than spirituality. In February 2014, Time dedicated its front page to the topic with the headline “The Mindful Revolution,” marking its central place in the spirit of the times.

Soon after, concerned voices chimed in on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean asking if we shouldn’t also be afraid of it. Instead of the heavenly appeasement that one could gullibly expect of such a technique, a few practitioners revealed that mindfulness had plunged them into the torment of a mental void. Others, in larger numbers, often noted there was a difficult time to endure at one point or another. In the end, all this is probably a good thing. After the booming fad period, the perception of mindfulness is entering a phase where it is taken seriously.

“Patients have told me, ‘I’ve been through unpleasant side effects, but I didn’t dare say anything negative, because everyone is talking about mindfulness in such a positive way,'” says the British psychiatrist Florian Ruths, a practitioner and specialized researcher in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy at the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

For him, this is a known problem. “Several studies show mindfulness can have unpleasant side effects,” he says. “Most of these are perfectly harmless, but when you experience them, you don’t necessarily know it.” The strongest and rarest of these, he says, are episodes of depersonalization, a sensation where, instead of being in your own life, you feel as if you were in a film, or as if the surrounding world wasn’t real. “Normally, it disappears in a few minutes,” he says. “Very rarely, it can last up to a few days. Our research will concentrate on this.”

Not a relaxation technique

Ruths makes the logical observation that everything that has an effect can also have side effects. “Mindfulness is a powerful intervention technique for patients suffering from depression, anxiety or stress,” he says. “This means it necessarily has an effect on the brain and particularly on its capacity to connect to your experience in a different way.”

Mindfulness is the idea that by improving the quality of your attention, you can manage to sense situations that cause stress. “Instead of reacting in an automatic way, which often increases discomfort, you then manage to put some space between you and the situation,” explains Guido Bondolfi, a psychiatry professor on the medical faculty at the University of Geneva.

As part of a joint project between the faculty and the Higher Health School of Geneva, Bondolfi just launched a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) centered on mindfulness. Historically, mindfulness was developed for those left behind by allopathic medicine: people suffering from chronic diseases, obstructive pains resistant to conventional approaches or terminal illnesses for which there is not much to do beyond palliative care. The medical success of the approach has been certified by many studies — including Guido Bondolfi and his team’s, carried out with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

“If you suffer from depression, a large part of what you are experiencing is negative thoughts about yourself, the world and other people,” Ruths says. “Instead of avoiding these thoughts, looking to distract yourself from them or weighing yourself down, we ask patients to sit down and feel what they are living, by letting thoughts flow without interfering. People often experience changes.”

It is therefore easy to understand that mindfulness may include unpleasant phases. Essentially therapeutic, the process is radically different from the search for a hypothetical ticket to nirvana. “Mindfulness meditation does not aim to get you high, to smoke a joint, to have your head in the clouds, look for altered states of consciousness,” Bondolfi insists. “It’s quite the opposite: be even more conscious than usual.”

There is of course a paradox because it’s not a relaxation session. In mindfulness, there is no specific goal or a dream place to go to. It’s about warmly welcoming our internal states. “The only intention you have is to open up and connect with your current state,” Bondolfi says, “which sometimes means being in a bad mood, feeling pain or wanting to shut the whole world out.”

The popularity of mindfulness, especially in the U.S., has had some setbacks, mostly with instructors whose backgrounds were not properly checked by unscrupulous private agencies. And Bondolfi says that “commonsense” is also necessary to prevent people suffering from severe mental disorders from practicing mindfulness. For the few who have been on the verge of the great void, they can be reassured by the fact that the ancient Buddhist texts predicted it. It is called “falling in the well of nothingness.”

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I stopped meditating: Here’s what happened

wildmind meditation newsMary-Lou Stephens, Huffington Post: This is a hard admission to make. After all I wrote a book about how meditation saved my job, changed my life and helped me find a husband. I’ve written columns and blogs about the countless benefits meditation brings. Meditation was a solid part of my life, like clockwork every morning. Even during the times when I was so busy I could only grant this life changing practice ten minutes at the most. So why did I stop?

Meditation is like a seedling. We plant it, nurture it and protect it from the things that want to destroy it …

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Meditation is fine, but what about the Buddhism behind it?

wildmind meditation newsJessica Brown, The Independent: Closing your eyes and being mindful isn’t the only way to achieve inner wellbeing.

Just when you thought it was safe to close your eyes, there has been recent warnings from psychiatrists on the adverse effects of mindfulness meditation. As well as evidence of underqualified teachers, there have been rare cases of depersonalisation, where people feel an out-of-body experience.
There has also been questions raised over the vulnerability of some of those who seek meditation as a form of treatment, regarding the increase in awareness and the emotions this can conjure.

Meditation has fast become synonymous with the improvement …

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CBT mindfulness for depression may also reduce MD visits

wildmind meditation newsRick Nauert, PsychCentral: New Canadian research finds a reduction in primary care visits among individuals receiving mindfulness-based therapy for depression.

Investigators discovered frequent health service users who received mindfulness-based cognitive therapy showed a significant reduction in non-mental health care visits over a one-year period, compared with those who received other types of group therapy.

The mindfulness therapy group had one fewer non-mental health visit per year, for every two individuals treated with this therapy – which translates into a reduction of nearly 2,500 visits to primary care physicians, emergency departments or non-psychiatric specialists in Ontario over eight years.

“We speculate that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy …

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Is mindfulness good medicine?

wildmind meditation newsHal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld, Scientific American: Mindfulness meditation can help alleviate depression and possibly anxiety.

In a typical mindfulness meditation session, a person sits on the floor, eyes closed, back straight and legs crossed, his body positioned to facilitate his inner experiences. For 10 to 15 minutes, he observes his thoughts as if he were an outsider looking in. He pays particular attention to his breathing, and when his mind wanders to other thoughts, he brings his attention back to his breath. As he practices, his mind empties of thoughts, and he becomes calmer and more peaceful.

Meditation has long been used for …

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The dark knight of the soul

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Tomas Rocha, The Atlantic: For some, meditation has become more curse than cure. Willoughby Britton wants to know why.

Set back on quiet College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, sits a dignified, four story, 19th-century house that belongs to Dr. Willoughby Britton. Inside, it is warm, spacious, and organized. The shelves are stocked with organic foods. A solid wood dining room table seats up to 12. Plants are ubiquitous. Comfortable pillows are never far from reach. The basement—with its own bed, living space, and private bathroom—often hosts a rotating cast of yogis and meditation teachers. Britton’s own living space and office are on the …

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Turning problems into spiritual opportunities

treesI remember one day, thirty years ago, when I was living in Glasgow, Scotland, and was depressed. I can’t remember what I was feeling down about, exactly, although it definitely wasn’t a clinical depression. There were just things in my life that weren’t going well, and I was taking things too seriously. But there I was, in a state of self-pity, heading home on the bus. It was a rainy night, and being on a bus in Glasgow when it’s dark and raining, and the windows are running with condensation, is not a cheery experience. I guess I spent much of the bus-ride mulling over my woes and talking myself deeper into a state of despondency. Then I stepped out into the rain, and started trudging along the sidewalk in the direction of home. I must not have been paying enough attention, because the climax of my crappy day came when I tripped on a crack in the concrete and fell flat on my face in a puddle.

How do you imagine I felt? Despondent? Humiliated? Angry? Actually, I was delighted. So much so that I burst out laughing, and had a grin on my face all the rest of the way home. I bet that sounds weird.

The reason I was so happy was that when I landed in the puddle, my first thought was “It’s a test.” I can’t say exactly why that thought popped up at that particular moment, but the notion of treating difficulties as if they were tests — of mindfulness, of character, of spiritual development — was one I’d heard a number of times. And so, instead of interpreting my fall as a sign that the universe had it in for me, or as a confirmation that things were going badly in my life, or as affirmation that I was a failure, I took it as an opportunity to practice patience, acceptance, and mindfulness, and to meet difficulties with good humor.

This kind of reinterpretation of our experience is called “reframing.” Reframing is one of the approaches that I teach to help people develop greater self compassion. Self compassion is when we relate with kindness to our painful feelings. Those feelings arise because ancient parts of the brain constantly scan our environment, looking for things that may be threats or benefits. When your mind detects a potential benefit, it sends signals into the body, creating feelings of pleasure — perhaps a sense of pleasant anticipation, or a warm glow. When your mind detects a threat, or potential threat, it sends signals that activate pain receptors in the body, and so we have a painful feeling, often in the heart or solar plexus. This painful feeling may be the heaviness of depression, or the nervousness of anxiety, or a feeling of hurt, for example. The point of this is to catch the attention of the rest of your mind, so that you can bring heightened awareness to the threat or benefit.

Falling flat on your face into a puddle is usually interpreted as a threat. We’ll assume that our clumsiness is a sign to others that we’re incompetent, and that our social status will drop, which is a painful thing.

But this thing is that this is just an interpretation, not a reality. It’s possible to change our interpretations — the filters that lead to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant feelings — either so that different feelings arise, or so we’re able to bear our suffering more easily.

  • We can reframe by considering unpleasant experiences as being a test, or an opportunity to cultivate patience.
  • We can reframe by considering our misfortunes to be the ripening of past karma, so that we’ll suffer less in the future, that particular stream of negativity having now passed though our life.
  • We can reframe by considering that unpleasant experiences are impermanent.
  • We can reframe by considering that unpleasant experiences are not us, but are simply passing though us, like clouds through the sky.
  • We can reframe by reminding ourselves that there are others who are suffering as badly, or worse, so that we feel a sense of gratitude.
  • We can reframe by seeing our misfortunes as being a way to develop empathy with others who are suffering, so that we can increase our compassion.

What’s we’re doing in all of these reframes is changing the mental filters that interpret our experience and that normally lead to the mind flagging up potential threats by creating unpleasant sensation. Now the mind registers our experiences as opportunities. We’ve turned a threat into an opportunity, and although we may not find that our unpleasant feelings vanish (though that happens sometimes) we’ll find them easier to be with, and so we won’t cause ourselves unnecessary suffering by engaging in self pity, and won’t cause others unnecessary suffering by acting out in anger.

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