Can practicing mindfulness increase our emotional resilience and help us deal with stress and anxiety? More and more research supports this approach on how to reduce anxiety.
Mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” (Google)
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor of the Harvard Heart Letter, cautions that “much of the evidence to support meditation’s effectiveness in promoting mental or physical health isn’t quite up to snuff.
“Why? First, many studies don’t include a good control treatment to compare with meditation.
“Second, the people most likely to volunteer for a meditation study are often already sold on meditation’s benefits and so are more likely to report positive effects.”
But, she adds, “when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies.
“Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.”
Text and photo from article: Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress, by Julie Corliss, Harvard Health Blog, updated January 15, 2016.
More research on mindfulness
An article notes that Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, “was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them in brain scans.”
She talks about a study with “people who’d never meditated before, and [we] put one group through an eight-week mindfulness- based stress reduction program.
“In the group that learned meditation, we found thickening in four regions:
“1. The primary difference, we found in the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self relevance.
“2. The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.
“3. The temporo parietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.
“4. An area of the brain stem called the Pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.
“The amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
“The change in the amygdala was also correlated to a reduction in stress levels.”
From Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain By Brigid Schulte, The Washington Post May 26, 2015.
Beliefs about the self
“Dispositional mindfulness may encourage greater clarity with respect to beliefs about the self, which in turn may be associated with greater psychological well-being.”
From article: “Clarity of mind: Structural equation modeling of associations between dispositional mindfulness, self-concept clarity and psychological well-being” by Adam W. Hanley, PhD, Eric L. Garland, PhD – on the site of Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, November 17, 2016.
Acting to deal with anxiety
Emma Stone experienced her first panic attack at 8 years old and spent two years in therapy.
She says, “I was just kind of immobilized by [anxiety].
“I didn’t want to go to my friends’ houses or hang out with anybody, and nobody really understood.”
She found that improv comedy, starting at age 11, gave her “a sense of purpose. I wanted to make people laugh.
“Comedy was my sport. It taught me how to roll with the punches.”
From my post Intuition, authenticity, anxiety and creativity.
Present-moment awareness is one of the key elements of mindfulness
Stone has talked about therapy being helpful, but says acting is what really helped manage her anxiety: “There’s something about the immediacy of acting.
“You can’t afford to think about a million other things. You have to think about the task at hand. Acting forces me to sort of be like a Zen master: What is happening right in this moment?”
From Emma Stone Had Some Pretty Awful Panic Attacks As a Kid By Melissa Dahl.
Programs on how to reduce anxiety
video: Meditation and the mind – Is it the new caffeine?
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Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation comments:
I want to share with you why I think you should meditate, not caffeinate – just kidding, I’m not going to tell you what to do.
But I did get invited to the Google headquarters here in New York City to give a talk on why meditation is the new caffeine.
I love that meditation and caffeine are even being used in the same sentence, because it means that meditation has officially been rebranded as a productivity tool.
Think about the reason why most of us drink caffeine – because we’re exhausted, we’re looking for energy, we really have to focus in and execute on a task quickly.
So here’s why I think meditation actually is the new caffeine: when you meditate, you’re giving your body rest that is five times deeper than sleep – this is not an insignificant point; when you’re meditating you’re de-exciting your nervous system, slowing down your metabolic rate in a way that not only releases stress from your nervous system but also makes you more awake on the other side.
You’re going to have more computing power, more energy to accomplish your tasks.
Elisha Goldstein, PhD on mindfulness to get control of anxious thinking :
“With things like depression or anxiety oftentimes people have certain styles of thinking, like catastrophizing, which is this idea that we are always expecting disasters, something terrible is going to happen from some little event that happens.
“We really blow it up and magnify it and this tends to amplify our anxiety.
“But people can become more aware of their habitual style of thinking.
“Not judge it as good or bad, but just almost with a sense of curiosity, almost like they are noticing it for the very first time and say, “Oh, catastrophizing is happening right now.”
“As soon as they notice that, they step outside of it. It’s no longer controlling them.. they can in essence learn to again control their mind instead of their mind controlling them so that they can make a choice what they want to do at that moment.”
From transcript of ShrinkRapRadio audio podcast interview.
Testimonials about the audio program by Elisha Goldstein, PhD :
Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
“I feel that the CDs are an excellent, timely resource for clients struggling with mental health issues. They are concise, relevant, and easy to listen to. I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients.” ~ A. Kraisosky, M.D., Psychiatrist
“My clients find it very effective and love it!” ~ B. Novak, Psy.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist
“I wanted to express my delight with Dr. Goldstein’s CD. I have listened to many mindfulness and relaxation tapes in the past twenty years, but this one really made an impression on me.
“Dr. Goldstein’s voice and message goes beyond the run of the mill “relaxation” tapes and takes one to a place of sublime mindfulness dealing with many different type of situations, being mental, physical or both.
“I highly recommend trying this CD. May his voice and message reach out and touch you as it did for me.” ~ J. Nassif, Age 62
CD or MP3 Contents:
Track 1 – What is Mindfulness? (5:55)
Track 2 – Mindfulness, Stress, Anxiety, and Depression (14:57)
Track 3 – The Four Ways (7:20)
Track 4 – “Taste” of Mindfulness (5:05)
Track 5 – Meditation for the Body (16:58)
Track 6 – Meditation for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression (24:35)
Track 7 – Keeping the Practice Going (4:07)
Another MP3 program of his:
Mindful Solutions For Success And Stress Reduction At Work
Professional Review from Brett Thomas, Director of Research and Development, Stagen:
“Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., has synthesized age-old mindfulness practices with cutting-edge attention management principles to create a practical and accessible guide that professionals can use to reduce stress and increase productivity at work.
“This is a CD that will benefit anyone who wants to learn how to enhance their business or is simply looking for new ways to improve their performance at work.”
Also see article by Dr. Goldstein: One Approach to Apply Immediately When Stress is Affecting Your Professional and Personal Life!
From article: Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think
by Rebecca Beris
“When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into ‘a conscious workspace,’ said Moran and colleagues.
“When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things.
“During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.
“The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.
“As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”
Article on The Creative Mind site:
Meditation for Emotional Health and Creativity
This article includes quotes by authors, researchers, and by well-known people including Anderson Cooper, Kerry Washington, Emma Watson, Moby and others.
Dr. Daniel Amen: “We thought meditation would actually lower brain function; it doesn’t – it activates the most thoughtful part of the brain which is the prefrontal cortex.”
Dr. Gary Small: “We see remarkable increases in neural activity as a result of meditation, You only have to do it 6 or 10 minutes a day and you see those changes.”
“Too often when people meditate, they actually have no idea how they’re doing. There’s no feedback.
“The beautiful thing about the HeartMath program is it gives you immediate ongoing feedback to know how you’re doing.”
Read more in article HeartMath Tools for Emotional Balance.
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