Category Archives: Research

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.”

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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.

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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.

 

‘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.

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Meditation reduces emotional pain

From Time Magazine online… (by Mandy Oaklander)

Open any magazine and you’ll find that mindfulness has gone mainstream. You’ll also notice there are studies that purport to show meditation’s benefits on just about everything, from kids’ math scores and migraine length to HIV management and bouncing back after a crisis. Now, an elaborate new forthcoming study looks at how the brains of meditators respond to pain, to be published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Dr. Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, has studied mindfulness for 15 years and has observed improved health outcomes as a result. “But what if this is all just a placebo?” he wondered. “What if people are reporting improvements in health and reductions in pain just because of meditation’s reputation as a health-promoting practice?” He wanted to find out, so he designed a trials that included a placebo group.

Zeidan recruited 75 healthy, pain-free people and scanned their brains using an MRI while they experienced painful heat with a 120-degree thermal probe. Then, the researchers sorted them into four groups and gave them four days of training. Everyone thought they were getting the real intervention, but most of them were getting a sham treatment.

“I want to be restrained about the efficacy of mindfulness, and the way to be restrained about it is by making it harder and harder to demonstrate its effectiveness,” Zeidan says.

Red the full article.

Exploring the promise of mindfulness as medicine

Laura Buchholz
JAMA. 2015;314(13):1327-1329. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.7023.

From the JAMA NetworkMindfulness and Medicine

Mindfulness practices as we know them today are rooted in 2500-year-old Buddhist meditation practices and are often described as “…paying attention to the present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is” (http://marc.ucla.edu/). Herbert Benson, MD, founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, is often credited with bringing mindfulness into the realm of Western medicine. His 1975 book The Relaxation Response outlined techniques to combat the harmful effects of stress with relaxation methods similar to meditation.

These practices didn’t stay lodged in the 1970s like a macramé plant holder, however. Several structured mindfulness programs have since been developed and are being implemented in clinical practice. One of these is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, MPH, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (http://1.usa.gov/1KZm8DF).

Another is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a blend of MBSR and cognitive-behavioral therapy established by Zindel Segal, PhD, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Toronto, along with colleagues Mark Williams, PhD, and John Teasdale, PhD (http://1.usa.gov/1e0vpOo).

According to Gregory Lewis Fricchione, MD, director of the Benson-Henry Institute, “…mindfulness and other meditative techniques can provide adjunctive benefits for health and that includes mental health.”

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