Category Archives: In the News

PittEd Magazine March 2017: Mindfulness and Health

This issue of PittEd magazine features conducted by faculty and alumni at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education showing that “mindfulness”—the practice of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present—can be a powerful tool for improving health and wellness outcomes for young children, adolescents, and adults.

News stressing you out?

From patch.com

Reading the news can be a stressful ordeal: Deaths, wars and political turmoil fill the pages of the press, even when we live in relatively peaceful times. But it’s important to stay informed, even if it makes us anxious.

maxresdefaultHow do you find a balance between keeping up-to-date and staying calm? New studies point to benefits of “mindfulness,” an increasingly popular form of anxiety-reduction habits and practices that get people to focus on the present moment, warding off future- and past-directed stressors.

One study, from Georgetown University Medical Center and funded by the National Institutes of Health, took a clinical approach to systematically testing the practice. Led by Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, an associate professor at the university, the research team divided a group of 89 patients with generalized anxiety disorder into two groups: one focused on mindfulness meditation and the other on generic stress management techniques.

Read the full article.

Mindfulness meditation may help treat anxiety disorders

From Forbes.com

960x0Our understanding of the ways in which meditation works in the body and brain is becoming more and more nuanced with every study that comes out. Not only does a meditation practice seem to change the structure of the brain in certain ways, but it also seems to affect the way it functions. One way researchers can track this is by measuring the levels of neurotransmitters, hormones and biomarkers. A new study finds that eight weeks of meditation can significantly alter the stress response in people with generalized anxiety disorder, and this is evident in the levels of stress hormones and inflammatory markers.

The study will be published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Read the full Forbes.com article.

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

From newswire.com

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.

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.

‘Mindful eating’ may reduce cardiometabolic risk in adults with obesity

From Endocrine Today

Jennifer J. Daubenmier, PhD
Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD

Adults with obesity randomly assigned to a mindfulness intervention program — including sitting meditation, yoga and mindful eating practices — saw greater improvements in both fasting glucose and triglyceride levels than adults in a standard weight-loss intervention program, according to study findings published in Obesity.

“Mindful eating techniques, in combination with a regular mindfulness meditation practice, may bolster the long-term effects of diet and exercise weight-loss programs for obesity on risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including fasting glucose levels and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol,” Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, assistant professor at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Endocrine Today.

Read the full article on Healio.

Carnegie Mellon researcher finds meditation trains brain

From Carnegie Mellon University

Everyone gets stressed, and we all deal with our stress in different ways — meditation, exercise, or eating chocolate, to name a few examples. But new research out of Carnegie Mellon’s psychology department shows that mindfulness meditation, a state of focusing on the present and interacting nonjudgementally with thoughts, may physically change your brain and help you feel better.

FallWinter11-MeditationMindfulness meditation is a form of focus exercise that can take many forms, but a common one involves sitting upright with closed eyes and focusing on breathing. When the mind wanders, one passively acknowledges thoughts and returns to focus on breathing. The idea is to focus on the present moment instead of thinking about the past or the future.

Over the past few decades, research into mindfulness meditation has shown that it helps improve a broad range of stress-related physical health, disease, and psychiatric outcomes, such as depression and anxiety, but little is known about the neurobiological mechanisms behind these positive health outcomes.

A new study published in Biological Psychiatry and led by David Creswell, an associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, shows that mindfulness meditation reduces interleukin-6, a biomarker of systemic inflammation, in high-stress, unemployed adults more so than simple relaxation techniques.

“Not only did we show that mindfulness meditation training could reduce a health biomarker of inflammation, but we also showed what mindfulness training-related brain changes drove these beneficial health effects,” Creswell said.

Read the full article.