Category Archives: Opinion

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.

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.

Mindfulness: there’s an app for that

By Gabe Jaffe Mindfulness apps

Mindfulness practice has been scientifically shown to decrease anxiety, improve sleep, heighten productivity, and increase overall sense of well-being. Apps can help us attain these benefits by providing structure and guidance to our practice. We tried out the most popular mindfulness apps and chose our favorites to recommend to you.

For the beginner: Headspace walks you through your entire mindfulness journey step-by-step. Narrator Andy Puddicombe teaches you the basics of mindfulness and then slowly introduces longer and more advanced meditations. After completing a 30-day foundation course, users can choose themed packs in areas such as “anxiety” and “creativity.” To keep you on track, the app displays your progress and sends reminders to sit as designated times. You can try it out for 10 days for free, and afterwards it is $14 per month or $93 for the year.

(Note: “Calm” provides a less polished but similar experience to Headspace for only $10/month or $40/year.)

For the occasional user: Stop, Breathe, and Think is for those who would rather meditate spontaneously than have a regimented practice. When you log in, the app asks how you are feeling and suggests meditations that match your mood. Most of the app’s services are free, and you can purchase bonus guided meditations like “Falling Asleep and “Dealing with Anxiety” for a dollar or two each.

For children: Smiling Mind is a mindfulness app with services specifically geared toward children. Mom and Dad can rejoice, too, because the app is completely free.

For the intermediate or advanced: Insight Timer offers 1000 guided meditations from teachers in the mindfulness and Buddhist communities. It also includes a customizable, virtual bell with options like “ring every 5 minutes during 25-minute meditation.” Furthermore, users can join discussion groups to support their practice on topics like “Poetry and Meditation” or “Women Meditate Worldwide.”

For staying present off the meditation cushion: ChillInstead of guiding formal meditation practice, this app sends the user “Mindfulness Reminders” to come back to the present moment throughout the day. Additionally, Chill provides a unique quote to enjoy and contemplate every day.

Zen and the art of dying well

 From the New York Times

By Courtney E. Martin

What is the “right” way to die? We’re experiencing a zeitgeist moment about that. “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,” by Atul Gawande, is a best-selling book. Videos by Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old who wanted to die in a way of her own choosing, went viral last year. And in more than 20 countries, thousands of people have dined and discussed dying through a project called “Death Over Dinner.”

In fact, we can’t afford not to have this conversation. According to the National Institute of Health, 5 percent of the most seriously ill Americans account for more than 50 percent of health care spending, with most costs incurred in the last year of life in hospital settings. Economists call this a “cure at all cost” attitude. And in the next 25 years, longer life spans and the aging of baby boomers are expected to double the number of Americans 65 years or older, to about 72 million.

What if the most promising way to fix the system is to actually do less for the dying?

That’s what the not-for-profit Zen Hospice Project has been trying to prove through a fascinating, small-scale experiment in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.

Continue reading on the New York Times.

5 Surprising Ways Mindfulness Can Change You

From the Huffington Post

In the past few decades, research on meditation and other mindfulness practices has flourished, shedding light on both the way that mindfulness affects the brain and its physical and mental health benefits.

Personality scientists are forging new insights about how mindfulness affects human motivation and behavior, alongside health and wellbeing. Last week, some of the world’s leading mindfulness researchers presented new studies highlighting outcomes of meditation at a symposium on mindfulness at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s annual conference in Long Beach.

Based on these new findings in social and personality psychology, here are five things you never knew mindfulness could do for you.