Scans suggest just 20 minutes of meditation could improve your life

From Wired Meditation

Meditation apps promising to de-stress your life in ten minutes or less have made the idea of balancing your mind in a way that’s convenient incredibly attractive. But unlike a lot of fads, it’s important to remember there is a scientific basis for meditation.

meditationPast studies have shown that meditation can sharpen cognitive skills, and even lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s a practice that has been around for a few thousand years, but one we are only just beginning to understand.

Neuroscientists from Michigan State University (MSU) have now presented clinical data suggesting the practice can help anyone deal with intensely emotional situations in a calm and balanced way, whether they are “naturals” at meditation or undergo a crash course.

“Our findings not only demonstrate that meditation improves emotional health, but that people can acquire these benefits regardless of their ‘natural’ ability to be mindful,” said Yanli Lin, lead author on the study. “It just takes some practice.”

Read the full article.

UPMC Shadyside is offering eight-week Mindfulness Meditation / MBSR classes



Do you suffer from chronic pain, stress, anxiety, depression, or sleep problems? Did you know you already have the tools to fight stress, anxiety, and pain and to boost your sense of well-being?

Mindfulness meditation is a powerful practice that can help you finely tune your attention to thoughts, emotions, and reactivity to physical sensations. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, which involves mindfulness meditation, is now taught at over 250 centers in the United States. Its principles can be applied in everyday life to reduce stress, pain, and symptoms of illness and can help you make positive changes in your health attitudes and behaviors.

The Center for Integrative Medicine at UPMC Shadyside is offering eight-week Mindfulness Meditation / MBSR classes, which include discussion and instruction in several meditation practices and gentle mindful yoga stretches as well as recordings of meditation guidance for home practice. Space is limited. Call to register for the Orientation session to learn more: 412-623-3023.

A free (required)orientation session is offered the first Monday of each month, 7-8:30pm and Thursday 9/12, 7-8:30pm. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 8-Week Class is offered in the fall, spring, and summer. The next class starts 9/15/2016. Call the Center for Integrative Medicine at UPMC Shadyside, at 412-623-3023, or email for more information and to register.

Mindfulness may ease depression, stress in poor African-American women

From PsychCentral

Mindfulness training may help alleviate symptoms of depression and stress in African-American women with lower socio-economic status, according to a new pilot study by researchers at Northwestern Medicine.

PostureIt is well-established that poor black women have an increased risk of depressive disorders. However, they rarely seek out antidepressants or psychotherapy due to negative attitudes and stigma associated with conventional mental health treatments. Mindfulness may provide an effective alternative to these conventional treatments.

“Many women are in need of help with their depression and coping with daily life, but they don’t seek it out because of limited access to high-quality mental health services and the stigma within their families and communities,” said lead researcher Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Our study shows that there are alternatives to traditional mental health treatment, such as mind-body approaches, that effectively alleviate symptoms, and can be done autonomously in the comfort of their own home.”

The study involving 31 black women is the first to test the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions among disadvantaged women with depression in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which provides comprehensive community-based medical care to low-income individuals.

Read the full article.

Meditation can boost attention and lower stress


Meditation has long been promoted as a way to feel more at peace. But research from a Texas Tech University faculty member shows it can significantly improve attention, working memory, creativity, immune function, emotional regulation, self-control, cognitive and school performance and healthy habits while reducing stress.

meditation in schoolYi-Yuan Tang, the presidential endowed chair in neuroscience and a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, has developed a novel method of mindfulness meditation called Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT).

“Meditation encompasses a family of complex practices that includes mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, yoga, tai chi and chi gong,” Tang said. “Of these practices, mindfulness meditation — often described as nonjudgmental attention to present-moment experiences — has received most attention in neuroscience research over the past two decades. For example, when we observe our thoughts or emotions in the mind, we are often involved in them. With IBMT practice, you distance your thoughts or emotions and realize they are not you, then you see the reality in an insightful and different way. Mindfulness helps you be aware of these mental processes at the present, and you just observe without judgment of these activities.”

IBMT avoids struggles to control thought, relying instead on a state of restful alertness that allows for a high degree of body-mind awareness while receiving instructions from a qualified coach, who provides body-adjustment guidance, mental imagery and other techniques while soothing music plays in the background. Thought control is achieved gradually through posture, relaxation, body-mind harmony and balance.

“IBMT works by brain (central nervous system) and body (autonomic nervous system) interaction – IBMT coaches help participants to change both body and mind states to achieve a meditative state; this is why participating in just five 20-minute sessions of IBMT has shown increased attention, relaxation, calmness, body-mind awareness and brain activity,” Tang said. “Most participants notice a significant decrease in daily stress, anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue. Additionally, IBMT participants show an overall improvement in emotional and cognitive performance as well as improved social behavior.”

Read the full article.


Apple is bringing meditation to your wrist

From BuzzFeed….

Apple wants you to take a deep breath, savor the moment, and slowly let it go. Preferably while wearing an Apple Watch.

sub-buzz-13642-1466724411-21Last week, Apple unveiled Breathe, an app that will be the tech giant’s first foray into quantified mindfulness when it becomes available on the Apple Watch this fall. Breathe will join the hundreds of other meditation-themed apps that aim to help users find calm. But while scientific research indicates that meditation can improve conditions like anxiety, depression, and pain, there is scarce evidence that meditation in app form also has the same health benefits.

“Just doing some deep breathing can have some great benefits for a lot of people,” whether they’re taking a break from a busy work day or winding down for the day, Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness for health technologies, told BuzzFeed News. And with an app like Breathe, “it wouldn’t be hard for them to do it, regardless if they were a beginner or were very experienced with having more mindfulness in their day.”

Read the full article.

Recommended articles just posted on our resources page

Am I Doing This Right? on – Answers to the top 10 questions that everyone asks about meditation by  and .

Are You a Creature of (Bad) Habits? on – “A few simple steps can help you break the cycle of unhealthy actions and develop the skills to cultivate good ones.” Article by .

Take Your Mind for a Walk on – “Meditation can seem so meaningful and significant that it becomes a great big chore. In fact, with a slight shift in attitude, it can be as simple as walking the dog.” Article by .

The Top 5 Myths About Mindfulness Meditation on – Elisha Goldstein debunks some common misconceptions about mindfulness meditation.

How to Practice Walking Meditation on Lion’s Roar. Article by Leslie Booker.

How meditation quiets my academic anxiety

From the Huffington Post blog
(by Weston Ross, PhD student at Duke)

Since entering graduate school four years ago, I have always felt that if I wasn’t constantly working on research, it meant that I was a bad graduate student. As an engineering PhD student, I’ve consistently had something that I could or “should” be working on at all times. Constantly having deadlines hanging over my head became very tiresome, and so I would take time away from work, knowing that I needed to rest.

collage studentsIronically, I felt too guilty during my time off to actually relax, preventing me from realizing the benefits of my work break. I would return no more rested than before, feeling like all I had done was wasted time not working. I was disappointed with myself and even less productive than before.

My normal level of anxiety and stress was much higher than it had even been in college, and I stopped being able to sleep well at night. After two and a half years of this cycle, I was tired of being tired, and decided to seek help. I found it by reading self-help books on how to be a happy, whole person, as well as through services at the counseling and psychological services (CAPS) at my university.

In addition to counseling, CAPS offered me a semester long Koru Mindfulness and Meditation seminar. This was my first introduction to meditation, and I have since adopted it as an (almost) daily practice to help manage my stress and chronic anxiety resulting from graduate school.

Read the full article.

Pitt center promotes mindfulness on campus

From the Pitt Chronicle online

In a conference room overlooking bustling Fifth Avenue, several people gather to sit, backs straight and eyes closed, and focus on their breathing. If minds wander, these stray thoughts are acknowledged then released as attention returns to the breath. The idea is to be fully present in the moment, not thinking of the future or the past. It’s one method of mindfulness meditation, an increasingly popular modern movement with roots dating back to ancient Buddhism. A growing body of research suggests that mindfulness practice can treat a gamut of health concerns, including anxiety and addiction and can even train the brain to approach stress in new ways.

Practicing the art during the center’s March 19 Mindfulness Fair in the Frick Fine Arts Building (Photo by Emily O'Donnell)
Practicing the art during the center’s March 19 Mindfulness Fair in the Frick Fine Arts Building (Photo by Emily O’Donnell)

Practicing the art during the center’s March 19 Mindfulness Fair in the Frick Fine Arts Building (Photo by Emily O’Donnell)These biweekly, drop-in meditation sessions, which last for 30 minutes, are one of many offerings from Pitt’s new Center for Mindfulness and Consciousness Studies, which is housed in the Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology.  Led by center director Anthony Silvestre, a professor of microbiology, the free sessions attract professors, staff, and students from across the University, as well as the general public.

“Mindfulness enhances one’s concentration, reduces stress, and, in general, improves cognitive skills. Research strongly suggests that any intellectual endeavor can improve with mindfulness practice,” says Silvestre. He was ordained as a meditation teacher by the famed Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, whom Martin Luther King Jr. called “an apostle of peace and nonviolence” for his activism during the American war in Vietnam.

Development of the center began in late 2014 when several faculty members with an interest in mindfulness—including Silvestre—began to share ideas on how to enhance mindfulness on campus, in the Pittsburgh community, and around the world. They wrote a white paper outlining goals, which are to promote the practice and scholarship of mindfulness through three core areas: education, research, and service.

Read the full article.

Mind-based therapies may ease lower back pain

From the New York Times

back painSixty-five million Americans suffer from chronic lower back pain, and many feel they have tried it all: physical therapy, painkillers, shots. Now a new study reports many people may find relief with a form of meditation that harnesses the power of the mind to manage pain.

The technique, called mindfulness-based stress reduction, involves a combination of meditation, body awareness and yoga, and focuses on increasing awareness and acceptance of one’s experiences, whether they involve physical discomfort or emotional pain. People with lower back pain who learned the meditation technique showed greater improvements in function compared to those who had cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been shown to help ease pain, or standard back care.

Read the full article.

Christa Turksma will present Mindfulness for Teachers: Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education March 31 at Posvar Hall

Christa Turksma will present Mindfulness for Teachers: Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education on March 31, 4 pm – 5:15 pm. The talk will be held in room 5604 of Posvar Hall at the University of Pittsburgh. Turksma will detail the CARE Program (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education) and the research that supports her approach.
The CARE Program is a professional development workshop designed to help teacher-educators reduce stress and enliven their teaching by promoting awareness, compassion, and reflection – the inner resources they need to help students excel. The audience will also participate in short mindfulness activities throughout and at the end of the program.
Christa Turksma has worked as a Kindergarten teacher, a principal, and a child-clinical psychologist. Additionally, she has provided training to thousands of teachers across the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, England and Australia in the PATHS program (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies). With this experience, she co-developed the CARE for Educators program.
Christa Turksma has worked as a Kindergarten teacher, a principal, and a child-clinical psychologist. Additionally, she has provided training to thousands of teachers across the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, England and Australia in the PATHS program (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies). With this experience, she co-developed the CARE for Educators program.