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Monthly Archives: April 2020

12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation

An excerpt from 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation by Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD.

The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits.

Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.

You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.

People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.
This article reviews 12 health benefits of meditation.

1

Reduces Stress

Many styles of meditation can help reduce stress. Meditation can also reduce symptoms in people with stress-triggered medical conditions.

2

Controls Anxiety

Habitual meditation helps reduce anxiety and anxiety-related mental health issues like social anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

3

Promotes Emotional Health

Some forms of meditation can improve depression and create a more positive outlook on life. Research shows that maintaining an ongoing habit of meditation may help you maintain these benefits long term.

4

Enhances Self-Awareness

Self-inquiry and related styles of meditation can help you "know yourself." This can be a starting point for making other positive changes.

5

Lengthens Attention Span

Several types of meditation may build your ability to redirect and maintain attention. As little as four days of meditation may have an effect.

6

May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss

The improved focus you can gain through regular meditation may increase memory and mental clarity. These benefits can help fight age-related memory loss and dementia.

7

Can Generate Kindness

Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, is a practice of developing positive feelings, first toward yourself and then toward others. Metta increases positivity, empathy and compassionate behavior toward others.

8

May Help Fight Addictions

Meditation develops mental discipline and willpower and can help you avoid triggers for unwanted impulses. This can help you recover from addiction, lose weight and redirect other unwanted habits.

9

Improves Sleep

A variety of meditation techniques can help you relax and control the "runaway" thoughts that can interfere with sleep. This can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep quality.

10

Helps Control Pain

Meditation can diminish the perception of pain in the brain. This may help treat chronic pain when used as a supplement to medical care or physical therapy.

11

Can Decrease Blood Pressure

Blood pressure decreases not only during meditation, but also over time in individuals who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and arteries, helping prevent heart disease.

12

You Can Meditate Anywhere

If you're interested in incorporating meditation into your routine, try a few different styles and consider guided exercises to get started with one that suits you.

Full Article:


12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation


 BY Written by Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD


Thorpe, Matthew. “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation.” Healthline, 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section2.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this article because it highlights so many ways that mindfulness effects not only your physical health, but your social and mental health as well. 

How to Incorporate the 5 Elements into Meditation Practice

An excerpt from How to Incorporate the 5 Elements into Meditation Practice by Rachelle Williams

Ayurveda recognizes five great elements, or pancha mahabhutas, representing the most important foundational aspects of nature and matter: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These natural elements are considered the building blocks of all material existence. Ayurveda also observes these same five elements within the human body and mind—as it exists in nature, it also exists within you. Everything in life is created with varying proportions of these five natural elements.


Here are a few of the qualities of each element:

1.

Space or akasha, is the subtlest of the elements. It is expansive, empty, and has no resistance. It is the source of all matter and houses the space within which it exists. It allows for growth and change to take place. It is the space between your cells, your breath, and your thoughts. 

2.

Air or vayu, is movable, changeable, light, dry, mobile, and dynamic. It represents the capacity for motion and gives flight to ideas or goals. Externally, it is seen as wind; internally, it is the movement of breath, circulation, and nerve impulses. 

3.

Fire or tejas, is hot, light, intense, powerful, and transformative. Externally, we see it as the sun or fire; internally, it drives digestion and cognitive processes. 

4.

Water or jala, is smooth, flowing, cool, and movable, and can be solid. It transports, connects, and provides protection and nourishment. Both your body and the planet are roughly 70 percent water.

5.

Earth orprithvi, is heavy, solid, stable, constant, and rigid. It represents all solid matter and the structure of the universe. Earth gives form to the human body and to all of creation.

Take a moment to observe and you will begin to notice these qualities all around you. The more you shift your attention and explore the elements, the more you will be able to understand and relate to the entire universe. The best way to start connecting with the five elements is to meditate on their natures.

Full Article:


How to Incorporate the 5 Elements into Meditation Practice


 BY Rachelle Williams


Williams, Rachelle. “How to Incorporate the 5 Elements into Meditation Practice.” The Chopra Center, 17 Oct. 2019, chopra.com/articles/how-to-incorporate-the-5-elements-into-meditation-practice.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

I enjoy this article because it offers another perspective on awareness and on practicing meditation. It is also a practical invitation to contemplate the interconnectedness of all things.

Behavioral Effects of Stress

Ryan Scott Patton of Khan Academy walks us through the behavioral effects of stress in his Processing the Environment Series.

Ryan Patton is a medical student at Emory University School of Medicine. Before medical school, he graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BS in Nursing and spent several years working as an RN in a medical/surgical intensive care unit. He also taught critical care clinical rotations for the U of A's nursing program. He is passionate about healthcare and education, and is thrilled to blend the two at Khan Academy.

About Khan Academy: Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We've also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

Patton, Ryan Scott. Behavioral Effects of Stress | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy. Youtube, Khan Academy, 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOWDKfDjmnk&feature=youtu.be.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this video because it is important to see how our behaviors are affected by our stress. When we notice them, we can take control of them and come back to a logical state of mind. 

Day 1: Connect with Your Natural Awareness

An excerpt from Take a 3-Day Mindfulness Journey: 6 Practices for Spring by Barry Boyce, Sharon Salzburg, and Mark Bertin

Like any good spring cleaning, let’s get right down to the basics of mindfulness and meditation. One of the most foundational aspects of mindfulness is the ability to calm and focus the mind using your breath. By bringing your attention back to the breath each time you feel your mind wander during meditation, you can strengthen your brain’s natural ability to focus over time. Cultivate greater attention with these short meditation practices.

In the Morning • Tune In to Your Natural Awareness
(5 minutes)

In mindfulness practice, you might often hear the term “natural awareness.” By natural awareness, we mean the awareness that simply comes with being a human being. It’s free from judging and characterizing—it’s just noticing and sensing the world.

1.

Settle into your seat. Begin by taking a seat, or if necessary, standing. The important thing is to feel where your body is touching the seat and touching the ground.

2.

Scan the body. Sense where your bottom is touching the seat. Sit up straight or stand straight but not stiff. Make sure your feet are completely touching the ground, connecting you to the earth. Your eyes are open, so take in the surroundings of where you are. Lower your gaze slightly.

3.

Connect with the breath. Pay light attention to your breath as it goes out. Breathe in naturally.

4.

Follow the out-breath. At the end of each out-breath, let there be a gap while the in-breath is happening. And in that gap you have natural awareness: It’s there already, you don’t have to create it. So, follow the breath out, and take a moment to rest in your natural awareness before the in-breath. As thoughts arise, treat them as you would anything else you encounter: Notice them, and use that noticing to bring you back to the out-breath and ride it out.

In the evening  • Tune In to Your Meta-Awareness
(5 minutes)

The moment of noticing a thought is a very powerful moment. It’s really where the meditation occurs. That’s because there’s a spark of insight at that point, what in technical terms is called meta-awareness: You’re aware of your thought process, not just caught up in it. Now at that moment, there are lots of possibilities.

You can touch that thought and gently bounce back to attention on the breath and your body. But you might also say “Oh damn, there I go thinking again, I just can’t get away from this.”

One of the wonderful things about meditation is the fact that it allows for such a monumental amount of failure. Failure is just fine. So, if you’re sitting in meditation for 10 minutes and you don’t notice your thought until the bell rings at the end, that’s what that session was about. You learn from it. There will be another one. No big deal.

1.

First, feel your bottom on the seat, and your feet on the floor or the ground, flat, touching the earth. Your eyes can be open or closed, head tilted slightly down. Your shoulders are relaxed, your hands are resting on your thighs, and your upper arms are parallel to your torso. Just take a moment to feel that posture.

2.

Now we’re going to use the breath as an anchor for our attention. We don’t concern ourselves with trying to adjust the rate of the breath, we just come with whatever breath we have.

3.

Notice that your mind is like a waterfall of thoughts.As we try to pay attention to the breath coming in and out, our mind is filled with thoughts. And in mindfulness practice, just notice the thought. Touch it, and go back to the breath.

4.

Let your thoughts go. No matter what’s been going on during the session, you don’t need to evaluate it, just let it go. Open your eyes, and enjoy what’s coming next.

Full Article:


Take a 3-Day Mindfulness Journey: 6 Practices for Spring


 BY BARRY BOYCE, SHARON SALZBERG, AND MARK BERTIN


Boyce, Barry, et al. “Take a 3-Day Mindfulness Journey: 6 Practices for Spring.” Mindful, 1 Apr. 2020, www.mindful.org/take-a-3-day-mindfulness-journey-6-practices-for-spring/.

Director of Strategic Communications

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[nekiesha]

During this uncertain time, I’ve tried to remain mentally balanced by intentionally focusing my mind on things that make me feel hopeful. Spring has always filled me with a sense of renewal, so I choose this article because these practices seem like the perfect way for me to integrate more awareness to this new season.

How Mindfulness Can Help During COVID-19

An article from Child Mind Institute by Rae Jacobson.

With schools closed and many parents working from home without childcare for the foreseeable future, it’s hard not to start spiraling. Responsibilities seem endless, the situation dire, and it seems like time to yourself has become a thing of the past…

Take a deep breath. Literally. Feel a little better?

These are trying times, but incorporating mindful practices into your daily routine can help calm anxiety and build healthy coping skills. Here are some tips from our clinicians on making mindfulness work for you and your family.

It doesn’t have to be complicated


Being mindful is what it sounds like. Taking time to focus on the present, being intentional and thoughtful about where you are and how you are feeling. Trying to center your thoughts and be in the moment. Sounds simple, but it takes work, especially now when concerns about what the future holds feel so pressing. Mindful activities can help. “Mindfulness isn’t complicated,” says Jill Emanuele, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. Here are some simple activities she recommends:


  • Squeeze Muscles: Starting at your toes, pick one muscle and squeeze it tight. Count to five. Release, and notice how your body changes. Repeat exercise moving up your body.
  • Belly Breathing: Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Slowly breathe in from your stomach (expand like a balloon) and slowly breathe out (deflate).
  • Mindful Meal: Pay attention to the smell, taste and look of your food. No multitasking.
  • Meditation: Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. Pick something to focus on, like your breath. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Blowing Bubbles: Notice their shapes, textures and colors.
  • Coloring: Color something. Focus on the colors and designs.
  • Listening to Music: Focus on the whole song, or listen specifically to the voice or an instrument.


Make time for mindfulness


Right now much of the personal time that used to be part of our daily routines — commutes, time alone at home, going to the store — is not available. This means it’s extra important to be intentional about creating space to recharge. Deciding to set time aside each day to practice mindful activities is a great place to start, says Dr. Emanuele. “The morning, before everyone is awake, can be a great time to really ground yourself.” Morning mindfulness can help set the tone for the day. “Do deep breathing, meditate, exercise, whatever mindfulness activity works for you,” she recommends. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be elaborate: “You can try mindful eating or mindful drinking with a cup of coffee. Sit there and just be in the moment. That’s mindfulness. Taking five minutes to do that before the day begins is even more important now because this is not our typical routine and we’re going to feel very, very out of sorts.”


Limit multi-tasking


Right now it can feel like trying to do ten things at once is the only way anything will get done. For example, trying to fold laundry, make dinner and watch your child all while on a work call.


But, explains Joanna Stern, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, multitasking rarely works, and can actually increase stress.

 

“Multitasking is a myth,” says Dr. Stern. Instead, she suggests achievable goals for the day, trying to focus on one thing at a time. For example, scheduling work calls during naptime, allowing kids to have a little extra screen time while you make dinner, or asking older children to help fold the laundry while you finish cleaning up.


Practice mindfulness as a family


Mindfulness, explains David Anderson, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, is “Anything that helps everyone take a moment to slow down, stay present, and come together.” Designating time to practice mindful activities as a family will help everyone feel less anxious. It could be a daily family yoga session, or a quiet walk in the woods as a group, taking time to focus on the way the air feels, the sound of the birds and the smell of the trees. Another good family mindfulness idea is asking everyone to mention one good thing they heard or saw that day over dinner.


Make peace with uncertainty


This situation is one of extreme uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen, how long it will last or what things will be like when it’s over. One thing we do know, however, is that worrying about it won’t change the outcome. Learning how to tolerate the uncertainty is a huge part of building healthy coping skills for ourselves, which we then want to model for our children. “Right now it’s very easy to let your brain spin out with the frightening possibilities,” warns Dr. Anderson. “Practicing mindfulness helps bring us back to the present, and away from the brink.”

Full Article:


How Mindfulness Can Help During COVID-19


 BY Rae Jacobson


Jacobson, Rae. “How Mindfulness Can Help During COVID-19.” Child Mind Institute, 2020, childmind.org/article/how-mindfulness-can-help-during-covid-19/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Emily]

I chose this article because these are trying times for everyone. Life is nothing like what we're used to and everyone processes it differently. Children look to the adults in their lives for stability, and with teachers learning a new system themselves it can be difficult to get into a normal routine. It is important to take time to regulate your own being, because although we don't have control over the world around us, we can find solace knowing we have some control over ourselves. 

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