Category Archives: Mindfulness and Health

Is mindfulness meditation good for kids? Here’s what the science actually says.

From Vox online (by )…

The companies and foundations largely responsible for introducing mindfulness programing into schools tout its psychological benefits — such as reduced stress and increased attention. And they say the evidence for mindfulness is based on decades of scientific research.

But research quality is not the same as quantity. And considering that more and more US schools are embracing it, I decided to take a look through the literature: What does the science actually say about mindfulness in kids?

I read more than a dozen studies — including systematic meta-reviews, which account for thousands of other papers — analyzing the best available research on mindfulness (in both students and adults) and talked to researchers and advocates involved in the work. I asked these experts what questions and concerns parents should have when they hear mindfulness is coming to their schools. (Scroll down for those questions.)

The short of it: The relatively few studies we have on mindfulness in schools suggest a generally positive effect on decreasing anxiety and increasing cognitive performance. But the hype around mindfulness also seems to be outpacing the science, especially when it comes to teaching these practices to children.

Read the full article on Vox.com.

More proof that mindfulness helps students combat stress, depression – just ask student Rob Stephens at CMU

From NBCnews.com

When Rob Stephens, a 22-year-old senior, walks into the Mindfulness Room at Carnegie Mellon University, he leaves his homework and stress at the door. He is surrounded by a waterfall wall, plants, lots of natural light and an open space with cushions on the floor — a 24/7 space is set aside for meditation or just peaceful thinking.

CMU student Rob Stephens

“I definitely think it helps to de-stress,” said Stephens, a global studies major from Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s the time I spend making sure I am OK.” Rob Stephens visits the Mindfulness Room at Carnegie Mellon, where he can meditate, bond with dogs or just chill out. Sara Jahanian

Mindfulness is as popular at colleges nationwide as it is now at CMU. “It’s someone giving themselves uninterrupted mental space,” said Stephens. “Some focus on themselves or others. It’s a time to stop and refocus your purpose.” Studies show the practice may be an antidote to the high levels of stress and depression seen on college campuses.

The American College Health Association found in a 2015 study that more than 85 percent said they “felt overwhelmed” by the demands of college. And a third of all student said stress had a negative effect on their overall academic performance.

Recently, Stephens enjoyed playing with therapy dogs in the mindfulness room. Students bond with a dog in Carnegie Mellon’s Mindfulness Room. Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Some use the time to take a nap, “to reset their brain,” he said. For others it might include meditation, or focused time at the gym or in yoga. “People can do a lot of mindful things,” Stephens said. “For me, it was time to be with another creature. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a [yoga] child’s pose.”

Read the full article.

How to be mindful when you are angry

From the New  York Times

“Anger is a natural, life-affirming emotion. It lets us know when a boundary has been crossed, when our needs are not being met, or when someone we care about is in danger. But when misdirected, anger can harm our physical health and our relationships. Being mindful of anger means not suppressing, denying or avoiding it and also not acting out in harmful ways. Instead, connect with the direct experience of the anger, and then decide what action you want to take.” — Jessica Morey, executive director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education

Read the full article.

How generations meditate on mindfulness

From Forbes Magazine online

According to a recent UC-Davis report, mindfulness training triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class activities. In recent years, this sort of validating research has helped push mindfulness from a niche interest to a full-blown lifestyle. From the boardroom to the classroom, Americans of all ages are putting their own spin on the practice. Boomers were originally attracted to mindfulness for its holistic benefits. Today, Generation X is using mindfulness as an individual practice to rise above the competition, while Millennials are using it as a team-strengthening exercise.

Read the article on Forbes.com.

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.

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

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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 mindfulness@upmc.edu for more information and to register.

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.

 

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.