psychology and meditation

Incorporating meditation training into an outpatient psychiatry practice

Greg Sazima, Psychiatric Times: You can’t open a newspaper or browse a health website these days without seeing the latest glowing testimonial to the benefits of meditation training. Yet only a small subset of psychiatrists actually practice meditation, and fewer still incorporate awareness training into their tool kit in treating their patients. It’s not as if there has been an absence of attention to meditation in the mental health community. The works of Drs Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mark Epstein, Marsha Linehan, and others as well as more recent research have reinforced meditation’s ameliorative effect 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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Meditation, mindfulness may affect way your genes behave

Ben Locwin, Genetic Literacy Project: In the world of psychotherapy and biopsychology, mindfulness has experienced a tremendous amount of attention recently — mostly because in many of the challenges of the mind it is put up against, mindfulness has fared very well — performing as well as (or better than) drug therapies in some cases.

Mindfulness is endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA) as a preventive therapy for cardiovascular disease and they also recommend mindfulness as a strategy for overeating.

However, for physicians and patients to fully unlock …

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Mindfulness: the craze sweeping through schools is now at a university near you

Harriet Swain, The Guardian: Slowly take a raisin and examine every wrinkle and fold of its surface. Feel its texture with your fingers. Inhale its scent. Squeeze it and hear how it sounds. Raise it to your lips, place it in your mouth, explore it with your tongue. Prepare to chew. As you bite into it, notice the bursts of taste and how these change, and be aware of when you feel ready to swallow. Finally, feel the raisin travel into your body.

This is a common introductory exercise in mindfulness – a practice derived from Buddhist meditation that involves paying attention to the …

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Mindfulness meditation may improve memory for teens

wildmind meditation newsKathryn Doyle, Reuters: Adolescents assigned to a mindfulness meditation program appeared to have improvements in memory in a recent study.

“These results are consistent with a growing body of research in adults that has found mindfulness meditation to be a helpful tool for enhancing working memory capacity,” said Kristen E. Jastrowski Mano of the psychology department at the University of Cincinnati, who coauthored the new study.

The researchers randomly divided 198 public middle school students into three groups: mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga or a waitlist. Most students were female, ages 12 to 15, and from low-income households that qualified for reduced-cost lunch.

Before the study began and …

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Taking the self out of self-compassion

man looking at universe

One of the most interesting studies I’ve ever seen was by James Pennebaker, a University of Texas psychology professor, and Shannon Wiltsey Stirman, who is now associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

Poets are particularly prone to taking their own lives, and Pennebaker and Stirman were interested to see if the writings of poets who had killed themselves contained linguistic clues that could have predicted their fate. They matched together, by age, era, nationality, educational background, and sex, poets who had and had not killed themselves, and ran their works through a computer program that looked for patterns in the language they used.

What they found was that the poets who had killed themselves were far more self-referential than those who hadn’t. Right from the beginning, those who ended up committing suicide used the words “I,” “me,” and “my” in their writings far more often than those who died naturally or are still alive. Also, the suicidal poets became increasingly self-referential as time passed, using first person singular pronouns more and more often, right up until they took their own lives.

Poets who didn’t kill themselves, on the other hand, used those words more rarely, and instead referred more often to “we,” “us,” and “ours”—words that embed a sense of connection. And those words were used more and more often over the course of their lives.

Part of our conditioning tells us that if we want to be happy we need to focus on “number one.” And yet, as the Harry Nilsson song says, “One is the loneliest number.” Connecting with others, and thus reducing our focus on ourselves, is an important form of emotional buffering, helping us to deal with life’s ups and downs, and also providing the rich and nourishing experience of loving and being loved. Those who disconnect and withdraw into themselves experience greater suffering, to the extent that life can become unbearable.

So what does this tell us about self-compassion? After all, isn’t the word “self” right there in the name? Does this mean that focusing on ourselves might actually make us less happy?
In self-compassion, one part of us sends compassion to a suffering part of ourselves, not because the suffering part of us is a part of us, but simply because compassion is the appropriate response to pain. It doesn’t actually matter whether the suffering is inside us or outside us, part of us or not part of us—the compassionate part of us has compassion for suffering because that’s what suffering needs. 

In a way there’s no such thing as “self-compassion.” There’s just “compassion.” There’s just the desire to care for anything that’s suffering, and to remove the suffering if possible, with no regard to whether it’s “our” suffering or not. By cultivating compassion for suffering within ourselves, we automatically become more compassionate toward others, and thus become more connected to them, and thus become happier. With self-compassion we don’t see ourselves as different from others because of our suffering, but see ourselves as connected to others because we all suffer.

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Wash the dishes and cleanse the mind?

wildmind meditation newsAnn Lukits, Wall Street Journal: Washing the dishes may be a convenient detox for overwrought minds, a study in the journal Mindfulness suggests. The study found that washing dishes mindfully—focusing on the smell of the soap, and the shape and feel of the dishes, for example—significantly reduced nervousness and increased mental stimulation in dishwashers compared with a control group.

Mindful dishwashing also heightened the sense of time pleasurably slowing down. Studies have associated altered time perception with greater psychological well-being, the researchers said.

Mindfulness refers both to a peaceful cognitive state and a popular form of therapeutic meditation that calms the mind …

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Mindfulness is the easiest and hardest thing to practice

wildmind meditation newsRyan M. Niemiec, Psy.D, Psych Central: Allow me to explain this paradox; and then I’ll provide 5 tips to help you with your practice.

Look at your right hand. See the shades of color in your skin? Notice the lines on your palm and the lines that separate the segments of your fingers? Easy to see, right? You just brought mindfulness to your right hand in this moment.

Now, consider the task of facing your deepest grief and sorrow. Or reflect on how it might be for you to bring your attention to extreme physical pain, hour after hour. Much more difficult to bring your …

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Mindfulness: the common thread

wildmind meditation newsGarrett Heaney, Montpelier Bridge: Over the past few years, in my quest to become a perfect human, I have sought a number of different therapies, therapists, counselors, and programming — each with its own specific agenda in attending to my mental health. Through it all has been a common thread that seems to tie together each of these individual disciplines in mental health. This thread, of course, is “mindfulness.”

It seems no matter where I was physically or mentally, whether battling depression, partying too much, or sitting in a weekly session of dialectical behavioral therapy, the concept of mindfulness was always right there in the …

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Mindfulness can help de-stress children and youth

wildmind meditation newsDr. Peter Nieman, Calgary Herald: Ask any teacher or pediatrician what has been the single predominant shift in their work over the past two or three decades. The odds are high that many will admit that children and youth are experiencing a dramatic increase of medical conditions which previously were only seen in adults.

To see diabetes in children — previously called “adult-onset-diabetes” — is now so common that few people gasp. To see children whose coronary vessels have aged prematurely surprises few pediatric cardiologists. And the notion that childhood should be a time of innocence and playfulness, lasting well into the teen years, experienced a …

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