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.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing will host a retreat to learn how to better deal with the unique stresses of being a health care professional. Join licensed psychologist Katherine Hammond Holtz in exploring the many benefits of mindfulness:
Improved self-control and objectivity
Enhanced flexibility and equanimity
Increased concentration and mental clarity
Strengthened abilities to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion
The retreat will be held on Friday, April 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Boiler Room. Registration & Breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. The program will include a take-home mindfulness personal practice package with audio recordings of guided meditations from the retreat, a practice booklet, and a reference list of evidence-based research on mindfulness meditation in the field of nursing.
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.
Mindfulness 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.
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 Thinkis 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: Chill – Instead 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.
In this contemplative talk presented back in 2012 at UCDavis, Dr. Clifford Saron from the Center for Mind and Brain examines the physiological effects of meditation. Through his findings he describes the concrete benefits of inward and present minded thinking.
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.
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.”
When athletes learn how to be more aware of their bodies they may also change the workings of their brains and become more resilient to stress, according to a new study of the effects of mindfulness meditation on brain function in serious athletes.
The study, which was published recently in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, had its unusual origins in a balk at the starting gate by one of the top riders for the U.S. Men’s National BMX team. Watching, his baffled coach wondered how he could help his riders to better handle the anxiety and psychological rigors of competition. So he approached scientists affiliated with the department of psychiatry and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of California, San Diego, near where the team trains, and asked if they might be interested in working with and studying his seven-man team.
How do you choose from the hundreds of mindfulness apps out there? There are over 500 mindfulness apps available, but some are better than others.
A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research sorted through hundreds of mindfulness mobile apps and ranked 23 of them. Now it’ll be a little bit easier to find one that works for you.
Mindfulness based programs in person have been found to be effective for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the structured 8-week course Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
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.