Train Your Brain: Mindfulness Meditation for Anxiety, Depression, ADD & PTSD
By now, everyone knows that mindfulness meditation is good for you—but what’s still surprising scientists is just how quickly it works. Ten minutes of meditation won’t make you a better mutlitasker—there’s no such thing, as psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman explains—but it will make you more adept at switching tasks and returning to a deep level of concentration more quickly after a distraction. Every time you practice meditation, you’re strengthening the neural circuitry for focus and training your brain away from mind-wandering. Beyond the need to concentrate for work, pleasure, or to overcome negative emotion, mindfulness meditation can also help to manage disorders like PTSD, anxiety, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This last one particularly has shown incredible results, and Goleman cites one exercise a teacher in a rough neighborhood of New York City practices routinely with their class of seven-year-old kids, over half of which have special needs like ADD and autism. That daily
Watch an H+H presentation, Mindful Schools which shows one organization integrates mindfulness into education. Mindful Schools is a non-profit organization that offers professional training, in-class instruction, and other resources to support mindfulness in education. Mindful Schools’ Adult Courses have taught thousands of educators, social workers, psychologists, parents, and other adults how to use mindfulness effectively with children, impacting many tens of thousands of children each year.
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness” refers to the intentional cultivation of moment-by-moment non-judgmental attention and awareness (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Formal mindfulness practices provide a form of mental training in which a person directs his or her attention and awareness to an object or anchor, like the breath, bodily sensations, external sounds, or arising thoughts and emotions. The training involves noticing whatever arises with an open, kind, and curious attitude so as to cultivate a clearer awareness of moment-to-moment experience (Meiklejohn et. al., 2012). Cultivating a mindful quality of attention is believed to increase a person’s ability to respond skillfully to present experience, reducing stress-related physical, mental, and emotional reactions (Weare, 2013).
Mindfulness and Learning
Pre-K-12 educators are increasingly interested in the potential of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) to promote more effective teaching and learning (Meiklejohn et al., 2012). A growing body of research from the fields of neuroscience, developmental psychology, public health, medicine, and education points to the promising effects of mindfulness practices on cognitive, behavioral, health-related, and socio-emotional capacities essential to pro-social behavior and academic success (e.g., Davidson et al., 2011; Greenberg & Harris, 2012; Sibinga & Kemper, 2010; Meiklejohn et al., 2012). Mindfulness offers a promising means for cultivating both students’ and teachers’ attentional capacities, reducing stress, and promoting empathy and social relationships – all important aspects of learning systems. A growing body of evidence in adults shows that mindfulness practices can rewire brain circuitry and heighten activation in brain regions responsible for regulating attention, empathy, and other pro-social emotions (Davidson et al, 2012). Although there are not yet have extensive data on the effects of these practices on children’s brain functioning, preliminary evidence suggests that mindfulness practices strengthen students’ capacity to self-regulate attention (Meiklejohn et al, 2012).
Studies of school-based mindfulness instruction for students do suggest the potential for benefit. To date, only a few randomized controlled trials of school-based mindfulness instruction for students have been published, but they show promising results related to improvements in the important domains of executive function (Flook et al, 2010), as well as improvements in psychological symptoms and coping (Mendelson et al, 2010; Sibinga et al, 2013). These positive findings and the expansion of school-based mindfulness programs emphasize the crucial role of thoughtful, multi-disciplinary research and evaluation.
Recent evidence indicates that teaching mindfulness practices to teachers can help promote more optimal learning environments. Several randomized control trials of various mindfulness-based teacher professional development programs have found promising impacts on teachers’ psychological symptoms, burnout, and well-being, as well as improvements in classroom organization, affective attentional bias, and self-compassion (Flook et al., 2013; Jennings et. al., 2013). These results suggest that mindfulness-based programs show promise for promoting teacher well-being and capacities to create and sustain both supportive relationships with students and classroom climates conducive to student engagement and learning (Roeser et. al., 2012).
The evidence base in this innovative area is still in early stages of development. The Johns Hopkins University is presenting a Symposium on Mindfulness and Learning which will will synthesize current knowledge and pave the way for future research and practice.
Watch an H+H presentation, which shows one organization integrates mindfulness into education. Mindful Schools is a non-profit organization that offers professional training, in-class instruction, and other resources to support mindfulness in education. Mindful Schools’ Adult Courses have taught thousands of educators, social workers, psychologists, parents, and other adults how to use mindfulness effectively with children, impacting many tens of thousands of children each year.
How getting in touch with wood, fire, earth, metal, and water can improve your health.
The history of medicine has given us some incredible treatments – and some very wacky ones. While most of the zanier contributions to medical history have gone the way of the horse-drawn buggy (no one today would down a bottle of the dubious 19th-century elixir “Microbe Killer” that was all the rage until it began killing more than just microbes), some of the most ancient ideas about health remain relevant today.
The fifth century BC Greek physician Hippocrates, for instance, declared that a person’s health was dependent on the balance of four bodily fluids that corresponded to the natural elements of air, water, fire and earth. By paying attention to this balance, he argued, we could improve our health.
The same elemental idea – along with a fifth component (ether) – is echoed in the ancient Indian healing traditions of yoga, Ayurvedic medicine and vastu (the Indian equivalent of Chinese feng shui). And for thousands of years, Chinese philosophy has held that good health is a result of five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – being in harmony. In addition to their role in qigong and internal martial arts, the five elements help determine the design principles of feng shui and the underlying structure of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbal remedies.
While paying attention to the elements might sound like another bit of quackery at first, it has proven to be a remarkably constructive way to think about how our bodies work. Getting in touch with the elements can help us find better balance – in our bodies and our lives – and help us feel more connected to the natural world. Read More
5 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Meditation & How to Get Started
First, what is meditation?
The American Meditation Society describes it as “a simple and effortless process where you connect with the silence and peace within yourself”.
Basically it is a type practice that involves turning the mind and attention inward
Now let’s look at what the research has to say about the benefits of meditation.
#1 Meditation Reduces Psychological Stress, Depression and Anxiety
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University looked at 47 trials with 3515 participants and found that 2-6 months of meditation programs reduced the anxiety, depression and stress of participants.
#2 Meditation Reduces Physical Pain
A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that meditation is better than placebo for reducing pain:
75 healthy volunteers were randomly assigned 4 days of either: (1) mindfulness meditation, (2) placebo conditioning, (3) sham mindfulness meditation, or (4) book-listening control intervention.
The researchers “inflicted” pain on the volunteers in the form of thermal stimuli. Although all 4 groups experienced pain reduction, the group that underwent mindfulness meditation experienced significantly reduced pain intensity.
#3 Meditation Can Slow Alzheimer’s Disease
A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease randomly selected 60 older adults with subjective cognitive decline to beginner meditation for three months.
At 3 months, meditation significantly enhanced both subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance.
#4 Meditation Improves Working Memory
This has been shown in a study of 198 middle school children, who were randomly assigned either mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga, or were a control group.
A special computer program assessed the participants’ working memory before and after the intervention, and showed that the mindfulness meditation group had significantly greater improvement in working memory compared to the other groups.
#5 Meditation Boosts Immune System
A review of 20 randomized controlled trials examined the effect of mindfulness meditation on different biomarkers of the immune system that affect inflammation, immunity, and biological cell aging.
The researchers found that meditation was associated with decreased levels of proinflammatory proteins, increased immune cell count and increased activity of the enzyme telomerase, which is an enzyme that helps slow or reverse cell aging.
#6 Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure
A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association declares that based on the available evidence from the published literature, Transcendental Meditation technique lowers blood pressure and may be considered in clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure.
Ok, let’s go through some common questions you may have about meditation:
#1. I’m an atheist and/or not spiritual, can I still meditate?
Anyone can meditate. Meditation is not about religion or spirituality. It’s a technique or practice of training the mind, where you focus on a single thought, image, object, or feeling.
#2. How can I make the time to meditate in my busy schedule?
Meditation can be practiced anywhere and anytime.
You can meditate for 2 minutes a day if that’s all the time you have. No particular posture is required, as long as you’re comfortable.
#3. How often do I need to meditate?
The secret to gaining the benefits is to practice it regularly. You would need to meditate everyday in order to get into the habit and rip the benefits. But remember, all you need to start with is few minutes a day.
#4. How do I start?
Either find a local teacher in your area or Download an app like Calm or Headspace to your phone.
Researchers at Jefferson’s Maternal Addiction Treatment Education & Research (MATER) program found significant improvement in the quality of parenting among mothers who participated in a trauma-informed, mindfulness-based parenting intervention while also in medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Results of the study, the first to scientifically test a mindfulness-based parenting intervention with this population, were published July 27 in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
“Our results validate a powerful intervention when it is needed most,” said senior author Diane Abatemarco, Ph.D., MSW, principal investigator, Director of MATER and Associate Professor of OB/GYN and Pediatrics in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. “By improving parenting through mindfulness, we may be able to change the intergenerational trajectory of trauma and improve children’s and families’ lives.”
A total of 160 women participated in a 12-week mindful parenting intervention at Jefferson’s Family Center, an outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment center that cares for women who are pregnant, parenting or working toward reuniting with their child. The mindfulness-based program included mother/baby education and practice, education on the impact of trauma, and mindfulness meditation. Themes included non-judgment, full attention and compassion. Read More