John Kaweske

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In today’s day and age of interconnectedness, it seems we are always multitasking, forever emailing while talking on the phone, texting while eating, and perusing Facebook while waiting on anything and everything. We’re connected, but we’re distracted. Our mind is always in one place while our body is in another. We are paying more attention to the ten-inch screen in front of us than to the immense world surrounding us—and it’s not even necessarily a conscious decision.

It can be difficult to escape the nearly overwhelming hand of technology. It permeates almost every aspect of our everyday lives. Whereas twenty to thirty years ago the workday ended at the office, it now ends, well—never. We can always see our email and check our phones, so it is always present. It is a perpetual presence in our lives, which is why it’s so important to learn how to take a step back, inhale deeply, and remember where you are. Remember who you are.

That’s why it makes sense that mindfulness is becoming so popular. By practicing “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” we are able to pull our head from the clouds (literally?) and come back down to Earth. Instead of stressing over flustered clients and looming deals, there are a few things you can do to properly cope. I’ve listed them below:

Pause for a moment and actually recognize your thoughts. Acknowledge them.

“What are you thinking about?” It doesn’t have to just be a question from a soon-to-be-angry rom-com girlfriend. Sometimes, we are so entrenched in planning our day or week, or so caught up reflecting on the past, that we neglect the present.

There is no need to judge these thoughts as “good” or “bad.” Just notice them. If you want, pretend your thoughts are clouds floating through the sky—and you are just watching them. There is no need to chase them, just to see them. If you do end up chasing them, that’s okay as well. After all, it’s only natural.

Practice an easy breathing exercise.

A breathing exercise is an excellent way to anchor you to reality. It forces you to concentrate on the moment. For instance, count the time it takes you to inhale, and then make your exhale last slightly longer. Every time you breathe out, you are actually signaling the parasympathetic nervous system (which is what regulates your rest and relaxation response).

In fact, you should also try placing one hand on your heart and one on your stomach. When you inhale, you will feel your stomach inflate, and it will help further your draw your attention to the now.

Practice yoga.

As cliche as I’m sure it sounds, yoga is a fantastic complement to mindfulness and aid to cope with anxiety. By being forced to do something in the here and now,you are coming back into your own body. Moreover, there have actually been studies conducted that persuasively suggest that yoga helps regulate stress response by decreasing physiological arousal (as in lowering blood pressure).

These are just a few of the many mindfulness practices that can help anyone and everyone. The next time you feel the tide of anxiety welling up inside of you, breathe it out. Take a step back— and institute a few of these simple tips to help cope. The change will be noticeable, palpable, and immensely helpful.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely loud and incredibly close. The title of the 2011 Stephen Daldry film depicts our contemporary culture quite well. Sights, sounds, whirling colors, and pungent smells punctuate our presence on this planet on a daily basis. With our exponentially increasing global population, it seems this commotion is unlikely to stop, and rather will increase as time wears on. As a result, or rather, as a possible result, anxiety disorders have emerged in full force, afflicting both mature adults and less experienced, more vulnerable children. In fact, more than one in four adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 are diagnosed with such a mental disorder.  

Recognizing this issue, our well-intentioned doctors and pharmacists prescribe and refill various antidepressant medications to help these anxious children to cope, but the effects of such medicines are often not entirely understood, and at times can even have negative side effects. With this in mind, a team of researchers at The University of Cincinnati set out to discover new options for treatment. What rose to the top of the list? Mindfulness. Exercises like meditation techniques, yoga, and implementing a nonjudgemental outlook on life are all proving to reduce stress in afflicted children to an unprecedented extent.

This is fantastic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is speculated that as many as 80% of children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and 60% of adolescents diagnosed with depression do not receive the treatment they need. However, although the above evidence and research is in its early stages, it does appear that mindfulness can go a long way in alleviating the stress associated with said disorders. Without having to pay for medication, and instead teaching children to practice some form of meditation, adults may be able to solve their children’s problems without any expensive prescriptions.

In order to come to the above conclusion, the team of researchers in question recruited nine participants, each of whom was between nine and sixteen years of age and had been previously diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The conditions were not the exact same; some had a bipolar disorder while others had a social disorder while others had separation anxiety. Over the course of 12 weeks, each subject experienced functional magnetic resonance imaging (aka fMRI) while partaking in traditional mindfulness exercises like meditation or something of the sort.

Afterwards, each adolescent reported decreased levels of stress. Although this is not entirely conclusive, it is certainly indicative of the potential benefits mindfulness has to offer children as well as adults. Additionally, the researchers found that there was increased neural activity in the cingulate (the section of the brain that is known to help process cognitive and emotion information). Just as well, there was a surge of activity in the insula, which helps to monitor how the body feels from a psychological standpoint.

It would seem that while mindfulness may not outright cure such disorders, it could potentially go a long way in helping children and struggling adolescents to cope with the overwhelming world around them. Finally, science is catching up with the practice.

While the benefits of meditation are numerous, well-known, and widespread, there is still an incredible reluctance across society to partake. Personally, I think this is largely due to several pervasive myths that unfortunately but effectively modify general belief regarding meditation. In light of these misconceptions, I have elected to put together a list of the most prominent myths so that I can debunk them with evidence, examples, and substantiation.

You must sit cross-legged.

Ridiculous but widely held as a seeming tenet of meditation, sitting cross-legged is not, in fact, required for meditation. An abundance of Hollywood films misrepresenting oriental culture is likely the culprit for this discouraging perception, and by no means should sitting cross-legged continue to be upheld as a dogma of meditation. You need to be comfortable, and if sitting criss-cross apple sauce is comfortable for you, then do so; but if not, then don’t!

You could be lying down, sitting in a chair, standing, or even walking and meditating at the same time.

You must have a blank mind.

While, yes, this may be the ultimate goal, it is not, in the slightest, expected for newcomers to meditation. To achieve a perfectly blank mental slate takes time, effort, and practice. It is not something where you can just close your eyes and miraculously be taken away to a place of pure tranquility. That’s unrealistic, to say the least.

Actually, a fantastic place to start for beginners is to participate in what’s called guided meditation. As the name might imply, you have a mental ‘guide’ who keeps you and your potentially easily-distracted mind from getting off track. In fact, you don’t even necessarily need a guide in-person. If you want, it could just be a recording.

Just so you have an idea, guided meditation generally involves a lot of visualization exercises like full body relaxation. One such exercise is referred to as “earth breathing,” which is essentially when you imagine your body is sinking into the ground beneath you. Ideally, ‘Earth breathing’ is supposed to induce a grounded body sensation and lightness of mind feeling.

You can only meditate alone.

Absolutely not. While it’s certainly an option, and favored by many at that, that in no way means it’s the only way to find some peace of mind, especially if you’re just starting out and are slightly unsure of how to proceed. By joining a meditation group, you are providing yourself with the resources and knowledge of people who have been successfully meditating for many, many years. There is no reason to not take advantage, regardless of what some silly notion about meditation may claim.

While these are only three, there is a whole slew of false beliefs out there about meditation just waiting to be disproved. You can see some more here.

New Study Finds Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce Chronic Pain

If you’re someone that suffers from chronic pain, there may be a highly effective, medication-free option you haven’t explored yet: mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) was founded back in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and recent studies have been demonstrating just how effective MBSR can be.

In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 342 patients who suffer from chronic low-back pain were divided into two groups. One group was treated with MBSR and the other was treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT patients focused on using strategies that incorporated thought and behavior modification, while MBSR used yoga and mindfulness meditation. All patients participated in weekly workshops for a total of eight weeks before continuing to practice the pain relieving strategies back home.

After all patients used their respective strategies for one year, MBSR proved to be more helpful. The CBT group results capped after 26 weeks, while the MBSR group results capped after 52 weeks.

Mindfulness is thought to be so effective on chronic pain for a number of reasons. First, mindfulness helps bring a different perspective to pain. Instead of having perpetual negative thoughts and anxiety over discomfort, mindfulness meditation allows people to study their pain with curiosity and without judgement.

It also brings a more realistic awareness to the situation, so for example, someone who may think they suffer from pain all day, may realize through mindful meditation that he or she actually feels pain only in certain circumstances, positions, or a predictable number of times a day. Being more aware of the highs and lows of pain can help people manage it.

Another way mindfulness might help with chronic pain is by helping us manage goals and expectations. When we expect pain to go away with a certain practice, exercise, or medication, and it doesn’t, our brain naturally becomes alarmed and frustrated. We start to think things like “nothing ever works,” “this pain is the worst,” “it’ll never go away.” This kind of attitude actually amplifies our subjective view of our pain. This is why mindfulness, which allows us to bring more objective observation to our pain, can be so effective in reducing our own perceptions of chronic pain.

Now that you have a better understanding of how mindful mediation can help you deal with chronic pain, give the following mindful-based strategies a try for yourself:

Body scan – A body scan is an essential part of the MBSR practice. In a seated position with closed eyes, slowly run through every part of your body in your own mind, paying attention to each different part, starting from your feet and moving up to the top of your head. As you check in with each body part, notice the sensations that are present in each part. This will allow you to better understand where your body feels unbalanced. It will also help you keep your pain in perspective: “this is what my pain feels like right now. It may not always feel this way.”

Focus on the breath – We often get so preoccupied with physical or even emotional pain that we neglect to give our minds and bodies a break from the experience. In a seated position with closed eyes, breath in until you fill up every part of your lungs from bottom to top. Hold for 5 seconds, and then breath out slowly until you have completely emptied your lunge. Do this 5 times, moving slowing and paying attention to each moment of the breath. This exercise will not only calm the body and mind, but it will help you escape the ruminating thoughts you may be suffering from about your pain.

Distractions – Distractions come in most handy when your pain is high, especially when breathing exercises aren’t working. Sometimes we need something more engaging that we can completely throw our minds into. Ideally your distraction of choice should get you into a “flow state” that allows you to forget about your own awareness entirely. Read a book, write a story, compose a song, etc. Do activities that require full attention of your thoughts and even make your forget about time itself as you’re doing them. Sometimes the best way to manage your pain is simply by getting your mind off of it.

There’s no medication that will eliminate chronic pain forever, so we need alternative ways to manage pain using our own minds and resources. Chronic pain can easily start to feel like it’s running our lives. Mindfulness meditation can help us re-capture control of our lives.

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career and life, please visit his main website.

5 Meditation Methods for People Who Hate Sitting Still

When most people think of meditation, they conjure up an image of a serene looking person sitting cross legged with their eyes closed in some kind of beautiful beachfront scenery. While this kind of meditation is great, it’s not the only way to meditate.

In fact, you can meditate without sitting or closing your eyes at all. When people hear this, they are often intrigued. Most people have heard of the mental and physical health benefits of meditation by now (including preventing disease, reducing stress, and treating depression), but many people still hesitate to try it simply because the idea of sitting still with nothing to do but look at the inside of their eyelids for even a few minutes seems entirely unappealing.

Luckily, you don’t have to learn to like sitting still in order to practice and reap the benefits of meditation. You just need to find an alternative form of practice.

Here are five alternative methods of meditation you should try.

Qigong

The word Qigong is made up of two Chinese words: Qi (pronounced “chee”) means life force or the energy that flows through all things in the universe. Gong (pronounced “gung”) means accomplishment or skill that is cultivated through steady practice. Together, Qigong means cultivating energy.

Qigong is an integration of physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions practiced for health maintenance, healing, and increasing vitality. The focus on intention and breath gives the the practice it’s meditative quality.

The practices can actually be classified as martial, medical, and/or spiritual in nature. But regardless of your intentions, Qigong has many health benefits for all. The gentle, rhythmic movements reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. Practicing this ancient art form has been shown to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, and digestive functions, not to mention giving you all the health benefits that come along with regular meditation.

Yoga

Yoga requires a focused mind that utilizes breath, body awareness, and a total commitment to the moment to perform. This rhythmic synchronization between movement and breath gives this practice a meditative aspect, and it also helps you work up quite a sweat!

Not only will yoga give you the benefits of meditation, it will also increase flexibility, strength, stamina, and balance. When you incorporate meditation into exercise, your whole self wins.

Walking Meditation

Whether you’re taking a walk around the block or climbing to the top of a trail, walking can be a form of meditation, as long as you remember to stay in the moment.

Mindfulness is the mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Instead of letting your mind wander aimlessly as you traverse the world, focus each moment on the individual step you’re taking, breath you’re inhaling or exhaling, or the weight of your body. As you notice thoughts and feelings beginning to distract you from the moment, calmly acknowledge and accepting them and return your attention back to the moment you’re in.

Walking is great for your cardiovascular system, and incorporating mindfulness into your walk will help you reap those extra benefits.

Mindful eating

Most people don’t think of lunch time as an opportunity for meditation or mindfulness, but it is! In fact, every meal can be a practice in meditation if you want it to be.

Next time you sit down for a meal or snack, take your time to savor every bite of your meal. Explore every texture, taste, and sensation you feel as you eat. As with walking, don’t let thoughts and feelings about things you need to do later in the day or something that happened in the past distract you. Acknowledge any intruding thoughts, and simply return your attention to your food.

You’ll finish your meal feeling not only full, but more mentally refreshed, clear, and focused.

Being In Nature

There have been a ton of studies as of late about the benefits being in nature has on our minds and mental health. In fact, just 5 minutes in nature is enough for you to start feeling those benefits.

Instead of having lunch at your desk (again), spend your lunch outdoors in a nearby park. On the weekend, take a stroll along the beach or through the hills. You’ll feel more relaxed, improve your mood, and even your self-esteem.

Conclusion

Everyone is different, and that means it’s okay if the kind of meditation your friend likes to do doesn’t work for you. Anyone can benefit from meditation, but you’re way more likely to stick to the practice if you find an activity you like that incorporates it. Try out a few of these for you and see what works.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other activities you’ve found ways to incorporate mindfulness into!

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career and life, please visit his main website.

How to Incorporate More Mindfulness Into Your Work Day

We know that mindfulness helps decrease stress, increase focus, and fuel productivity, so what better place to utilize such a helpful tool than in the work place?

While you may not want to sit cross-legged in the middle of your cubicle letting out long “oooommmmm” sounds for 20 minutes every day, there are easier (and less eye-turning) ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day. Here are 5 simple ways to be more mindful as you work.

Practice the one-minute meditation.

Everyone, no matter what your job, can find 1 minutes each day for themselves. Next time you take a break to do something less mindful (like checking your text messages, personal email, or making a quick call), consider instead giving that minute entirely to yourself. Find a quiet place, relax, and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, the sensations going through your body in that very moment, how each limb feels to be resting or supporting one another. As you notice different sensations in each part of yourself, consciously calm the area you’re focusing on. When you feel like you’ve reconnected with your body and the present moment, open your eyes. You’ll be amazed at how just a few seconds of internal focus can make the rest of your day more manageable and fulfilling.

Be present in every personal interaction.

It’s easy to answer your coworkers question without even looking up from your computer or fill your water cup without engaging in the small talk going on around you. Instead of brushing by the people around, engage fully in every in-person interaction you come across. This doesn’t mean you have to sit and have an existential, heart-to-heart with every person who asks if you have a stapler at your desk. It just means that when they do, you engage in the action completely. Separate yourself from what you were previously doing. Acknowledge the person fully, and say “you’re welcome” with a smile and eye contact when they thank you. By giving your full attention to the people you’re speaking to, you will foster better interpersonal relationships, better understand what those around you need and how you can help, and you’ll have the opportunity to get back into the present moment if you lost track of it working at your desk the past few hours.

Stop rushing through your lunch break.

First of all, stop eating at your desk. It’s sad, unnecessary, and you should never do it again (okay, maybe not never.) Second, find a calm place to eat, and savor each bite of food from beginning to end. Not only is eating quickly bad for digestion, but sitting at your desk from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave is bad for your health and stress levels. Worried that you’ll look less dedicated or miss something crucial while you’re away from your desk? Be the person to spark this change in your office. Invite the people around you to join you for lunch in the break room or cafeteria. You’ll help everyone feel more refreshed and focused, which is good for the whole team.

walk better.

When you’re walking to a meeting or to take a bathroom break, don’t multitask on your phone. Don’t rush. Don’t go over your meeting prep notes one last time. Don’t do anything but focus on the exact steps you are taking in that very moment. Haven’t had a reason to stand up from your desk in an hour or two? Take a lap around the office just because. Chances are no one is going to question where you’re walking, and if they do, you can say you’re stretching you’re legs. We often see walking to and from things as a hassle or something stopping us from those few extra moments of productivity. Stop it. Walking is good for you. We should all be enjoying every moment of movement we get in our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Walk mindfully by focusing on the sensation of the ground beneath your feet and the cadence of your breath. Greet other around the office as you go and engage in their responses to you. You’ll feel more energized and refreshed each time you walk.

Mindfulness has it’s limitations. Figure out the root of your stress.

Today’s workplace is often a fast-paced, output-oriented battleground that pushes us to and past our mental limits. Mindfulness can help you manage your stress, but working 50+ hours every week, being part of a toxic team, or being held to unrealistic expectations will lead to exhaustion, poor morale, and depleted productivity. Managing your emotional response to stress is only part of taking care of yourself. It’s also important to manage the causes of your stress as well. Take time to figure out the underlying factors that are causing your stress and possible solutions to fix them. Then enact those solutions. If you come across an inherent problem that can’t be fixed, it might be time to move onto a new job. Your wellness is the most important consideration, and no promotion, salary increase, or level of power is worth sacrificing your happiness every day for. Hopefully bringing more mindfulness into your life will help you tell the difference between the things you can and cannot control.

Your positivity and engagement around the office will not only make you more happy and engaged, but it will most likely be appreciated by everyone who interacts with you. Never be afraid to be the change you want to see, in your workplace or otherwise.

John Kaweske has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for nearly two decades. For more information about his life and experience, please visit John Kaweske’s main website.

New Study Says Mindfulness Meditation Can Significantly Reduce Pain

It seems like these days meditation researchers are constantly finding new benefits of mindfulness meditation. And today is no different!

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has found that mindfulness meditation is able to significantly reduce pain not only more effectively than a placebo, but using different neural mechanisms.

Previously, we had known that mindfulness meditation is capable of reducing pain in experimental and clinical settings, but the significance of this affect was yet to be determined.

To figure out exactly how effective mindfulness meditation is at pain reduction, Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and his team of researchers looked to both measure and differentiate it’s effects from the pain-relieving mechanisms associated with a placebo (e.g., conditioning, psychosocial context, beliefs). Placebo comparisons are the most common means of evaluation the efficacy of behavior interventions, so it is imperative to use when determining whether we can soundly support meditation-based pain relief programs as a meaningful solution.

Researchers began with 75 healthy volunteers who were randomly assigned one of the following groups:

(1) mindfulness meditation,

(2) placebo conditioning,

(3) sham mindfulness meditation, or

(4) book-listening control intervention.

The placebo conditioning group received placebo cream they were told reduces pain over time (but was in fact petroleum jelly.) For four days, they were instructed to rub it on the back of their leg.

The sham mindfulness meditation group was taught a kind of “fake” mindfulness meditation: they were told to breathe deeply for 20 minutes but were given no instructions on how to do it mindfully.

The control group had to listen to 20 minutes of a pretty boring book on tape: The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne.

The group who received the real mindfulness meditation intervention were instructed to sit for 20 minutes with straight posture, closed eyes, and specific instructions about where to focus one’s attention and how to let thoughts and emotions pass without judgment.

To measure experiences of pain and the neural mechanisms being activated, participants were places in an MRI machine where researchers used a small thermal probe to elevate a small area of skin to 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers also asked participants to rate the intensity of the pain, as well as their emotional response to the pain. They performed this test both before and after the various interventions.

It’s important to note that all of the cognitive manipulations that were tested (i.e., mindfulness meditation, placebo conditioning, sham mindfulness meditation) significantly weakened pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings when compared to the control group.

However, mindfulness meditation was found to reduce pain intensity and pain unpleasantness ratings significantly more than placebo analgesia. Mindfulness meditation also reduced pain intensity and pain unpleasantness ratings more than sham mindfulness meditation.

The placebo cream reduced the sensation of pain by an average of 11% and emotional unpleasantness of pain by 13%. For the sham mindfulness group, the averages were 9% and 24% respectively. But for mindfulness meditation, the sensation of pain was reduced by a whopping 27% and emotional response reduced by 44%. To put those numbers into a different context, past research has found that the opioid morphine reduces physical pain by 22%.

Also, while all forms of intervention reduced pain, mindfulness-related interventions actually engaged different parts of the brain than the others.

Mindfulness-meditation was associated with greater activation the brains orbitofrontal, subgenual anterior cingulate, and anterior insular cortex. These are the higher-order brain regions associated with attention control and enhanced cognitive control. They also exhibited a deactivation of the thalamus, which is a structure that allows pain to enter into the brain.

In contrast, the placebo group experienced activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and deactivation of sensory processing regions.

The sham mindfulness group was not correlated with significant neural activity, but rather by greater reductions in respiration rate.

This study is the first to demonstrate that mindfulness-related pain relief is mechanistically distinct from the placebo effect. For researchers, this confirms the existence of multiple, cognitively driven mechanisms responsible for pain modulation. The presence of unique mechanisms may create greater acceptance in the medical community of meditation as an adjunct pain therapy.

The biggest question to answer now is: who will benefit most from this form of pain intervention? It is yet to be tested if this method works better or worse for certain groups or types of pain, and further studies are sure to follow that will help us figure out how we can best use these finding to alleviate people’s pain in the real world.

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career and life, please visit his main website.

Mindfulness Meditation Found Effective in Treatment of Sleep Disorders

There’s nothing like a good nights sleep. But for many, this simple joy doesn’t come so easily. In fact, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year and an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems.

Unfortunately, sleep disturbances are most prevalent among older adults and have been found to often go untreated due to limited treatment options and a lack of community-accessible programs.

The National Sleep Foundation first and foremost recommends what they call proper “sleep hygiene.” The NSF has found that good sleep hygiene routine helps to promote healthy sleep and daytime alertness, and adherence can prevent the development of sleep problems and disorders.

A proper sleep hygiene routine entails things like maintaining a regular wake and sleep pattern seven days a week, spending an appropriate amount of time in bed, avoiding naps, limiting stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime, and more. These simple changes in daytime/bedtime routines can vastly improve sleep quality for many. But for some, these recommendations just aren’t enough.

In a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information earlier this year, researchers discovered there may be a better intervention method out there.

Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles set out to determine the efficacy of mindfulness meditation to promote sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep disturbances.

Participants in the study had a mean age of 66.3 years and a history of moderate sleep disturbances. Two parallel groups received a randomized 6-week intervention (2 hours per week) with assigned homework, receiving either a standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs) intervention or a sleep hygiene education (SHE) intervention. Then they measured between-group differences in moderate sleep disturbance, as well as insomnia symptoms, depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

Participants in the MAPs group showed significant improvement relative to those in the SHE group.

While many elements of SHE training are effective and still worth practicing, mindfulness meditation is now thought to be especially helpful for insomnia sufferers.

Community-accessible MAPs intervention could consequently be an effective and cost efficient way to help the millions of people who suffer from sleep disturbance each year, greatly effecting their quality of life.

Practiced regularly, mindfulness meditation allows people to calm overactive thoughts, feelings, and emotions and promote a greater sense of overall well-being. It should be no surprise that this practice creates the ideal conditions for deep, quality rest without the use of medication, alcohol or drugs. Secondary benefits includes lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, and decreased risk of disease and illness.

Like any new skill, learning to practice mindfulness meditation takes time and practice. Start small, and don’t get discouraged if it’s tougher than you anticipated. Once you start reaping the emotional and physical benefits, you’ll see it’s worth the effort.

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career and life, please visit his main website.

Can Mindfulness Meditation Create False Memories?

Mindfulness meditation involves clearing out negative thoughts, focusing on breathing and relaxation, and ultimately relieving stress and anxiety. But new research from the journal Psychological Science poses an important question: does all that mind-clearing also affect your memory?

The journal focuses on a recent study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of California-San Diego. Researches three different experiments that tested people’s abilities to correctly remember real and imagined situations. In all three experiments, those who practiced mindfulness meditation were more likely to recall things that hadn’t actually happened.

The first experiment split participants into two groups. One group performed 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation, purposefully eliminating distracting thoughts and focusing on their breathing. The other group was told to just think freely and allow themselves to be distracted by whatever thoughts came to mind. Then all participants analyzed a list of words related to “trash” that didn’t include the word “trash” itself (think “garbage” or “rubbish”). When they were prompted on what they’d seen, 39% of participants who had meditated claimed that they’d seen the actual word “trash” on the list. For comparison, only 20% of the free-thinking group made the same mistake.

The next experiment had all participants skip the thinking period and simply observe and recall a word list. Then after this initial test, everyone split into two groups again, practiced their 15 minutes of respective thinking types, and completed another test. This time the meditative group made more mistakes than they had in the initial test. This, researchers say, suggests that the practice quickly and negatively affected their performance.

The third experiment presented a mixed list to the two groups. Some words had been listed to all participants earlier in the day and some were only topically related but had never been mentioned. Although the groups were similar in remembering the previously-listed words, once again the meditative group claimed to remember more words that they had not actually seen.

What does this mean for mindfulness meditation? It’s a relief to say that it doesn’t seem to affect your real memories whatsoever, as shown in the final experiment. But the research team warns that false memories are fair game and may become more common: “…the same aspects of mindfulness that create countless benefits can also have the unintended negative consequence of increasing false-memory susceptibility,” they write in a report.

Mindfulness meditation can be immensely beneficial, and has been linked to everything from treating depression to improving your sleeping habits. But because it’s so effective at helping you clear your mind of negative thoughts and aim all your energies at senses instead, it’s not surprising that it could also affect certain cognitive processes. It’s worth mentioning that these experiments were also short-term, so we’ll have to wait and see for more in-depth research to be released.

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career in renewable energy, please visit his main website.

Mindfulness Could Be the Key to Helping Smokers Quit

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve self-control in test subjects, and new research is now focusing on how this ancient approach to non-judgmental focus on the present moment could in fact help people facing addiction, specifically cigarette smokers.

Recent neuroimaging studies have shown that smokers tend to exhibit less activity in the brain regions associated with self-control. This has led scientists to wonder if targeting these neurobiological circuits could be the key to treating addiction.

According to a new review published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, researchers have found that behavioral training such as mindfulness meditation can increase the function of control networks and therefore could be a promising approach for the treatment of addiction, even among those without intention to quit. That’s right, the desire to quit smoking might not even be necessary to reduce cigarette cravings through mindfulness training.

“We are starting to work through how drugs affect areas of the brain that normally enable us to self-regulate, to create goals and to be able to achieve them, and how those changes influence the behavior of the person addicted,” said senior study author Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

One of the key studies in the review was conducted by Texas Tech University and University of Oregon researchers in order to demonstrate the specific impact of the mindfulness approach. Researchers recruited 60 undergraduate students (27 existing smokers and 33 self-reported nonsmokers) to participate in a mindfulness and relaxation training program. Participants were divided into two groups so half received mindfulness meditation training and half received plain relaxation technique training.

For two weeks students participated in their assigned groups, divided into 30-minute sessions, for a total of five hours of training. They received brain scans before and at the end of the study period. They also filled out self-report questionnaires, and received objective measurements of carbon monoxide in their lungs.

Although many of the students reported not seeing any difference in their smoking habits, for those in the mindfulness meditation group, the objective measure of carbon dioxide percentage in their lungs showed a 60 percent reduction in smoking over 2 weeks after the study. The students in the mindfulness group were changing their smoking behavior without even being aware of it.

“When we showed the data to a participant who said they had smoked 20 cigarettes, this person checked their pocket immediately and was shocked to find 10 left,” said lead study author Dr. Yi-Yuan Tang, a professor of psychological sciences at Texas Tech.

“We then measured intention to see if it correlated with smoking changes and found there was no correlation,” he said. “But if you improve the self-control network in the brain and moderate stress-reactivity, then it’s possible to reduce smoking.”

More research needs to be done in order to determine how often mindfulness therapy should be practiced, how long the benefits last, and whether some individuals might benefit more than others. Researchers are also curious as to whether mindfulness training has the same impact on other forms of addiction, such as over-eating or drinking.

“Even though one therapy works on something, you cannot say this therapy is better than others,” Tang said. “We can only get a full picture through systematic research and practice but I think this is a field with a lot of promise and that we should be open minded.”

John Kaweske, Colorado resident, has been meditating for years. He finds that the practice helps him with his focus and ability to lead his entrepreneurial ventures. To learn more about his career in renewable energy, please visit his main website.

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