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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

30 November 2017 Finding A Special Gift For the Caregivers In Your Life

by Jennifer Scott

Pixabay.com

Caregivers have one of the hardest jobs imaginable.  Whether paid or volunteer, they bear an emotionally heavy load.  It only makes sense that they would top a giver’s list during the holiday season, but finding that perfect gift can be cumbersome. This is especially true when the gift carries with it a message of understanding and appreciation for the caregiver’s sacrifice.  Here are a few gift ideas to help you show the caregiver in your life just how much you care for them.

1. Massage Therapy & Bodywork

Making sure caregivers get time to relax and destress is incredibly important, especially when that person doesn’t get paid.  If you want to give your caregiver a chance to decompress during or after the holidays, consider massage and bodywork options. Massage therapy services come in a variety of forms referred to as modalities.  While there is sure to be one that meets the needs of the caregiver in your life, consider their comfort level before purchasing a specific service. One to consider includes Swedish massage, which is the most common type of massage therapy.  Others, like acupressure, reflexology, and deep tissue, are design to address specific needs.

2. Spa Services

If your caregiver isn’t comfortable getting a massage, consider the alternative services available at a spa for pampering they are sure to enjoy.  If you aren’t close enough to the caregiver to know their preferences, getting them a gift certificate that will cover massage but can be used on any service, like facials, manicures and pedicures, or styling, is a great option.  If you are still unsure, consider purchasing a gift card for a national chain like Ulta Beauty, so the caregiver can elect beauty services on their own or purchase their favorite products instead.

3. Subscriptions

Caregivers are often so busy caring for the needs of their charge that they sometimes impose the same dietary restrictions on themselves for the sake of time.  Meal subscriptions like Blue Apron and other delivery services can make preparing wholesome, delicious meals a snap.  If meals aren’t appropriate, consider other types of subscription services, like wine, cosmetics, or magazines.  Really, just about anything your caregiver enjoys is available as a subscription at whatever price point your budget allows, and it will be a gift that will continue to give throughout the year.

4. Adult Activity Books

While massage therapy and spa treatments are obvious ways to help a caregiver relax, they aren’t practical activities for every day. Those spending a significant amount of time monitoring your loved one may enjoy simpler ways to destress and pass the time while your loved one is resting.  Consider things like adult coloring books, activity books, crossword puzzles, and sudoku.  These offer an element of lighthearted fun to the caregiver’s day without a significant time commitment.

While these options are all great ways to show the caregiver you care and can help them relax during the holidays or year to come, they may not work for everyone. Gift giving is a very personal activity for both the giver and receiver. If you find that none of these meet your needs for one reason or another, just remember to stay focused on helping your caregiver relax, and don’t overthink it. Regardless of the gift you ultimately choose, the show of appreciation for the sacrifices they make will shine through to the recipient.

 


Another highly effective and lasting tool one could give to the caregivers in our lives, is the gift of stress-control, healing and rejuvenation. By using scientifically based breathing and meditation exercises, our Éiriú Eolas program offers exactly that. It is available for free on our website, with the option of purchasing it as a gift for your loved ones during this coming holiday season.

11 November 2017 Holiday Stress: Tips for Parents

By Jennifer Scott

The holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year— especially when you have kids. The pressures of event planning and attending, financial strains, workplace pressure, and family drama can all trigger anxiety. Add on those things, but for your kids, and as a parent you have more than enough to handle come December. Once school is let out for the holiday break, it’s almost more than a person can bear.

Of course, you’re more than just a person– you’re a parent. And parents get through the holiday season every year. All it takes is a lot of planning and a little help, and you can make it to the New Year unscathed.

Set Clear Expectations

When it comes to stress management, boundaries are your friends. Sit down and make a list of realistic expectations for what you can and cannot do during the holiday season. Start with work. For example, what days can you come in and what days are you asking off for vacation? Now is as good a time as any to remind supervisors, set project goals, and schedule your out-of-office email responder.

Expectations are not just for your professional life. Set boundaries as far as holiday planning goes. Do you have time to holiday shop for all of your family members, or can you delegate some of that responsibility to your spouse or partner? You may have time to plan one party for work colleagues, but you don’t have to host a gift exchange for every group and club you are in. Your time is one of your most valuable assets, so budget it wisely during this stressful time.

Hire Help When Needed

With all the extra responsibilities the holidays throw our way, sometimes we need an extra hand with all the chores we normally do. For instance, if you need to spend every spare moment shuffling kids to parties and attending recitals, you hardly have the time (or energy!) to clean up around the house once you are home.

Hiring a housekeeper or maid service can take that one thing off your list so you can have that extra time for yourself– up to five hours! It doesn’t even have to take a huge bite out of your budget. HomeAdvisor estimates the average price to clean a house’s interior is $118 to $240. Your home may be crazy busy, but there’s no reason it can’t be crazy busy and clean.

Get Moving!

Exercising is a great way to relieve stress. When your body feels well, your mind performs better. Physical activity also releases endorphins– neurotransmitters that elevate your mood and provide relaxation. Exercise has also been called “meditation in motion.” Practicing mindfulness during stress-filled periods can help prevent mental exhaustion and burnout. Taking time each day to exercise also provides structure in your schedule, which can help us feel grounded during times of stress.

To help your entire family get through the season, exercise together. Take the dog for a walk around a nearby park. Or, play a quick game of your favorite sport. Parents.com has several great ideas for exercising as a family. Get moving to help reduce stress as well as promote bonding.

***

The holidays are stressful on their own, but for parents they can be downright crazy. However, you can get through this time of year with a lot planning and a little help. Before the season even begins, set boundaries regarding what you can and cannot do. Don’t let your plate get too full to handle. Acquiring help to take over chores around the house can help free up time you need to focus on other holiday responsibilities– or just to relax! Finally, don’t forget to take time out for your physical health and exercise. Doing it as a family can keep the household calmer while also providing opportunities to bond.

28 September 2013 20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today

September 11, 2013
by Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D.
Psychology Today

New research shows meditation boosts your health, happiness, and success!

I started meditating soon after 9/11. I was living in Manhattan, an already chaotic place, at an extremely chaotic time. I realized I had no control over my external environment. But the one place I did have a say over was my mind, through meditation. When I started meditating, I did not realize it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my PhD research at Stanford to studying the impact of meditation. I saw people from diverse backgrounds from college students to combat veterans benefit. In the last 10 years, hundreds of studies have been released. Here are 20 scientifically-validated reasons you might want to get on the bandwagon today:

It Boosts Your HEALTH

1 – Increases immune function (See here and here)

2 – Decreases Pain (see here)

3 – Decreases Inflammation at the Cellular Level (See here and here and here)

It Boosts Your HAPPINESS

4 – Increases Positive Emotion (here and here)

5 – Decreases Depression (see here)

6 – Decreases Anxiety (see here and here and here)

7 – Decreases Stress (see here and  here)

It Boosts Your SOCIAL LIFE

Think meditation is a solitary activity? It may be (unless you meditate in a group which many do!) but it actually increases your sense of connection to others:

8 – Increases social connection & emotional intelligence (see here and – by yours truly – here)

9 – Makes you more compassionate (see here and here and here)

10 – Makes you feel less lonely (see here)

It Boosts Your Self-Control

11 – Improves your ability to regulate your emotions (see here) (Ever flown off the handle or not been able to quiet your mind? Here’s the key)

12 – Improves your ability to introspect (see here & for why this is crucial see this post)

It Changes Your BRAIN (for the better)

13 – Increases grey matter (see here)

14 – Increases volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions & self-control (see here and here)

15 – Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention (see here)

It Improves Your Productivity (yup, by doing nothing)

16 – Increases your focus & attention (see here and here and here and here)

17 – Improves your ability to multitask (see here and here)

18 – Improves your memory (see here)

19 – Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box (see research by J. Schooler)

20. It Makes You WISE(R)

It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don’t have to be slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy,jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn’t have to run you. Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself. Think about it, you shower every day and clean your body, but have you ever showered your mind? As a consequence, you’ll feel more clear and see thing with greater perspective. “The quality of our life depends on the quality of our mind,” writes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. We can’t control what happens on the outside but we do have a say over the quality of our mind. No matter what’s going on, if your mind is ok, everything is ok. Right now.

It Keeps You Real

Once you get to know your mind, you start to own your stuff and become more authentic, maybe even humble. You realize the stories and soap operas your mind puts you through and you gain some perspective on them. You realize most of us are caught up in a mind-drama and become more compassionate towards others.

 

29 June 2013 It’s very easy to deal with your anxiety using your vagus nerve

By Bill A. Walker
June 21, 2013
Ezinearticles.com

 

Diaphragmatic/Belly Breathing

How often do you have to deal with anxiety in your everyday life?

If you find yourself worrying too much or getting caught into non-stopping irrational thoughts or even feeling nausea, chest pain and heart palpitations then this article is for you.

You are about to learn a simple yet very effective technique to deal with anxiety naturally by stimulating your vagus nerve. This powerful technique can be used to relieve stress and anxiety anywhere and anytime; at home, when commuting and of course at those horrible work meetings.

Did you know that the FDA approved a surgically implanted device that is successfully treating depression by periodically stimulating the vagus nerve?
But hopefully you won’t need surgery. You can enjoy the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation by adopting some simple breathing techniques.

So what is that vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is the most important element of the parasympathetic nervous system (the one that calms you down by controlling your relaxation response).

It originates from the brainstem and it is “wandering” all the way down, into the belly, spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal chords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones (like Acetylcholine, Prolactin, Vasopressin, Oxytocin), influencing digestion, metabolism and of course the relaxation response.

Vagus nerve acts as the mind-body connection, and it is the cabling behind your heart’s emotions and gut instincts. The key to manage your mind state and your anxiety levels lies on being able to activate the calming nervous pathways of your parasympathetic system.

You cannot control this part of the nervous system on demand, but you can indirectly stimulate your vagus nerve by:

 

  • Immersing your face in cold water (diving reflex)
  • Attempting to exhale against a closed airway (Valsalva maneuver).
  • This can be done by keeping the mouth closed and pinching the nose while trying to breathe out. This greatly increases pressures inside the chest cavity stimulating the vagus nerve and increasing vagal tone
  • Singing
  • And of course, diaphragmatic breathing techniques

 

Strengthening this living nervous system can pay great dividends, and the best tool to achieve that is by training your breath.

Breathe with your diaphragm

Now it’s time to put this concept into practice. The first thing you need to do is breathe using your diaphragm (abdominal breathing). This is the foundation of proper breathing and anxiety relief.

The diaphragm is your primary breathing muscle. It is belled shaped and when you inhale it patterns out (or should flatten out), acting as piston and creating vacuum on you thoracic cavity, so your lungs can expand and air gets in.

On the other side it creates pressure, pushing the viscera down and out, expanding your belly. That’s why good breathing practice is described as abdominal breathing or belly breathing.

Breathe with the glottis partially closed

Glottis is at the back of your tongue and it is closed when you are holding your breath. Here we want have it partially closed. It is that feeling you have in your throat while you exhale and make a “Hhhhh” sound in order to clean your glasses, but without actually making the sound.

It also resembles the way you breathe when you are in the verge of sleep and you are about to snore a little bit.

By controlling the glottis you are:

 

  • Controlling the air flow, both during inhale and during exhale
  • Stimulating your vagus nerve.

 

Try it right now

Now it’s time to put all this theory into action by practicing this 7 – 11 diaphragmatic breathing technique.

 

  • Inhale diaphragmatically through your nose, with your glottis partially closed, like almost making a “Hhhhh” sound for a count of 7
  • Hold your breath for a moment
  • Exhale through your nose (or you mouth), with your glottis partially closed, like almost making a “Hhhhh” sound for a count of 11

 

This is one breath cycle; go for 6 – 12 cycles and observe the results.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you practice the more effective this technique will be.

Eventually, when your newly acquired breathing skill is established and abdominal breathing becomes a habit, you’ll find your body constantly operating at a much lower stress level.

You will also notice (or sometimes you will not even notice it) how your breath responses to stressful situations; your body will be conditioned to automatically control your breath and by this, your stress and anxiety.

Summary

One of the keys to deal with anxiety is to learn how to stimulate your vagus nerve through proper breathing. The vagus nerve acts as the mind-body connection and controls your relaxation response. You can stimulate your vagus nerve by practicing diaphragmatic breathing with the glottis partially closed. Use your dead time to practice this technique consistently, turn it to a habit and you’ll be amazed by the results.

Bill Walker is an article writer and key founder of the AntiAnxietyWaves project. AntiAnxietyWaves offers information, guidance and techniques to deal with anxiety while involved into dead time activities (e.g. commuting time, waiting time etc). Help yourself to deal with anxiety by downloading this (free) pdf guide along with some unique anti-anxiety relaxation recordings at antianxietywaves.com/deal-with-anxiety

P.S.
Don’t procrastinate with your anxiety, please take action now; if you don’t take even a small step to deal with anxiety today, you probably won’t do it tomorrow.

 

15 June 2013 Activating the Vagus Nerve

by Angela Savitri Petersen
Rising Life Media
25 October 2012
WHAT IS THE VAGUS NERVE?
The 10th of the cranial nerves, it is often called the “Nerve of compassion” because when it’s active, it helps create the “warm-fuzzies” that we feel in our chest when we get a hug or are moved by something…

The vagus nerve is a bundle of nerves that originates in the top of the spinal cord. It activates different organs throughout the body (such as the heart, lungs, liver and digestive organs). When active, it is likely to produce that feeling of warm expansion in the chest—for example, when we are moved by someone’s goodness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music.

Neuroscientist Stephen W. Porges of the University of Illinois at Chicago long ago argued that the vagus nerve is [the nerve of compassion] (of course, it serves many other functions as well). Several reasons justify this claim. The vagus nerve is thought to stimulate certain muscles in the vocal chamber, enabling communication. It reduces heart rate. Very new science suggests that it may be closely connected to receptor networks for oxytocin, a neurotransmitter involved in trust and maternal bonding.

Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has found that children with high-baseline vagus nerve activity are more cooperative and likely to give. This area of study is the beginning of a fascinating new argument about altruism: that a branch of our nervous system evolved to support such behavior.

STRESS & THE VAGUS NERVE

Your body’s levels of stress hormones are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) [3]. The ANS has two components that balance each other, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS turns up your nervous system. It helps us handle what we perceive to be emergencies and is in charge of the flight-or-fight response.

The PNS turns down the nervous system and helps us to be calm. It promotes relaxation, rest, sleep, and drowsiness by slowing our heart rate, slowing our breathing, constricts the pupils of our eyes, increases the production of saliva in our mouth, and so forth.

The vagus nerve is the nerve that comes from the brain and controls the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your relaxation response. And this nervous system uses the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. If your brain cannot communicate with your diaphragm via the release of acetylcholine from the vagus nerve (for example, impaired by botulinum toxin), then you will stop breathing and die[6].

Acetylcholine is responsible for learning and memory. It is also calming and relaxing, which is used by vagus nerve to send messages of peace and relaxation throughout your body. New research has found that acetylcholine is a major brake on inflammation in the body [4]. In other words, stimulating your vagus nerve sends acetylcholine throughout your body, not only relaxing you but also turning down the fires of inflammation which is related to the negative effects from stress[1].

Exciting new research has also linked the vagus nerve to improved neurogenesis, increased BDNF output (brain-derived neurotrophic factor is like super fertilizer for your brain cells) and repair of brain tissue, and to actual regeneration throughout the body.

HEALTH, LONGEVITY & AGING

As you get older, your immune system produces more inflammatory molecules, and your nervous system turns on the stress response, promoting system breakdown and aging.

That’s not just talk. It’s backed by scientific studies.

For example, Kevin Tracey, the director of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, discovered how the brain controls the immune system through a direct nerve-based connection.

He describes this as the inflammatory reflex (i). Simply put, it is the way the immune system responds to the mind.

Let me explain.

You immune system is controlled by a nerve call the vagus nerve.

But this isn’t just any nerve.

It is the most important nerve coming from the brain and travels to all the major organs.

And you can activate this nerve — through relaxation, meditation, and other ancient practices, such as the Mayan system of Light Language, combined with Vagus Nerve Activation Techniques given recently by the Group & Steve Rother, the Vagus Nerve can be activated and worked with energetically through geometry, frequency, color, and light.

What’s the benefit of that?

Well, by activating the vagus nerve, you can control your immune cells, reduce inflammation, and even prevent disease and aging!

It’s true. By creating positive brain states — as meditation masters have done for centuries — you can switch on the vagus nerve and control inflammation.

You can actually control your gene function by this method. Activate the vagus nerve, and you can switch on the genes that help control inflammation. Inflammation is one of the central factors of disease and aging.

CELLULAR REGENERATION

Even more fascinating was the discovery that our bodies can regenerate at any age.

Diane Krause, MD, PhD, from Yale University discovered that our own innate adult stem cells (cells that can turn into any cell in the body from our bone marrow) could be transformed into liver, bowel, lung, and skin cells. (ii)

This is a phenomenal breakthrough.

Here’s why.

It means that we have the power to create new cells and renew our own organs and tissues at any age.

And how are these stem cells controlled?

You guessed it: the vagus nerve.

For example, Theise et al. [5] have found that stems cells are directly connected to the vagus nerve. Activating the vagus nerve can stimulate stem cells to produce new cells and repair and rebuild your own organs.

So relaxation — a state of calm, peace, and stillness – can activate the vagus nerve.

And the vagus nerve, in turn, activates your stem cells to regenerate and renew your tissues and organs.

RELAXATION & MEDITATION

Scientists have even shown how meditation makes the brain bigger and better.

They’ve mapped out the brain function of “professionalmeditators” by bringing Tibetan lamas trained in concentration and mental control into the laboratory.

The result? They found higher levels of gamma brain waves and thicker brain cortexes (the areas associated with higher brain function) in meditators. (iii)

Relaxation can have other powerful effects on our biology.

In biology, being a complex system that can adapt to its environment and that is resilient and flexible is critical to health.

The same is true for us.

The more complex and resilient we are, the healthier we are.

Take, for example, our heartbeat.

Its complexity is called heart rate variability (HRV) or beat-to-beat variability. The more complex your HRV, the healthier you are. The least complex heart rate is the worst — a flat line.

So what does this have to do with relaxation?

The HRV is also controlled by the vagus nerve.

As you can see, turning on the relaxation response and activating that vagus nerve is critical to health.

Activating the Vagus Nerve Will:

* Reduce inflammation

* Help regenerate your organs and cells by activating stem cells

* Increase your heart rate variability

* Thicken your brain (which normally shrinks with aging).

* Boost immune function

* Modulate your nervous system

* Reduce depression and stress

* Enhance performance

* Improve your quality of life

Not bad for just learning to chill out!

COMPASSION & DNA

Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, who discovered telomeres, explained that, ultimately, they become so short that the end of our DNA unravels and we can no longer replicate our cells, so they die.

Remarkably, mental stress produces a more rapid shortening of the telomeres — and leads to faster aging.

What’s even more remarkable?

In a study of caregivers of sick patients, the health of the caregivers’ telomeres was determined by their attitude!

It sounds impossible, but it’s true.

The caregivers who felt the care to be a burden had shorter telomeres, while those who saw their work as an opportunity to be compassionate had no shortening. (iv)

The Dalai Lama said that the seat of compassion is actually biological and — necessary for survival.

Perhaps the development of compassion and wisdom in coping with unfavorable life conditions is the true key to longevity.

It just may be that working to understand our true nature through the cultivation of our minds and hearts with positive practices like meditation or similar techniques is critical to health and longevity.

The ways we can change our bodies through changing our minds is not longer a theory.

There is a new scientific language to understand how the qualities of the mind control the body through effects on the vagus nerve, immune cells, stem cells, telomeres, DNA, and more.

Remember, your body has all the resources and infinitely adaptable systems to self-regulate, repair, regenerate, and thrive.

You simply have to learn how to work with your body, rather than against it. Then you can have a healthy, thriving life – and live out your full lifespan, which can be as high as 120+ years!

LOVE

But here’s something even cooler – the research that Dacher Ketlner, director of the Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley is doing shows that stimulating that vagus nerve is not only good for you – it’s good for the planet!

“Our research and that of other scientists suggest that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of caretaking and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism – compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.”

There you go. Do it for love.

 

references:

https://sites.google.com/site/stanleyguansite/health/health-tips/breathe-deeply-to-activate-vagus-nerve

http://tkcollier.wordpress.com/2006/10/05/how-the-dalai-lama-can-help-you-live-to-120/

http://www.subtleyoga.com/220/11

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=forget-survival-of-the-fittest

 

 

6 June 2013 The Science Behind How Meditation Reduces Anxiety

By  Lee Rannals
June 4, 2013
redOrbit.com

Activate your anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are areas of the brain involved with executive-level function, with meditation

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have identified the brain functions involved in how meditation reduces anxiety.

The team wrote in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience about how they studied 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety. They said these individuals had no previous meditation experience or anxiety disorders.

The participants took four 20-minute classes to learn a technique known as mindfulness meditation. In this form of meditation, people are taught to focus on breath and body sensations and to non-judgmentally evaluate distracting thoughts and emotions.

“Although we’ve known that meditation can reduce anxiety, we hadn’t identified the specific brain mechanisms involved in relieving anxiety in healthy individuals,” said Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. “In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief.”

The researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent in the participants.

“This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety,” Zeidan said.

Fadel and colleagues were also able to reveal that meditation-related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are areas of the brain involved with executive-level function.

“Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings,” Zeidan said. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.”

He said the results of this neuroimaging experiment complement that body of knowledge by showing the brain mechanisms associated with meditation-related anxiety relief in healthy people.

Scientists wrote in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in November 2012 about how meditation has lasting emotional benefits. They found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program could have measurable effects on how the brain functions, even when someone is not actively meditating. The team used two forms of meditation training and saw some differences in the response of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain known to be important for emotion.

24 June 2012 Meditation ‘can help improve sleep’

June 22, 2012
Private Healthcare UK

Meditation helps you reach deep, rejuvenating levels of sleep

People who suffer with sleep disorders have been told that meditation could help them reduce the effects of their insomnia.

Jillian Lavender, director and co-founder of the London Meditation Centre, said that the relaxation technique brings about a “very deep level of rest” which reduces metabolic rate.

She explained that this can subsequently improve the amount of sleep that a person gets and reduce their susceptibility to stress and anxiety.

Russell Brand recently told the Sun that meditation was helping him cope with the pressures of divorce and Ms Lavender said that while it is a “primarily a mental technique” it can also induce a host of health benefits.

“Studies on meditation have shown to reduce blood pressure, lower insulin resistance and decrease dependency on smoking (and other recreational drugs),” added the expert.

According to Counselling Direct, sleep disorders affect 29 per cent of adults with mental distress in the UK.

2 June 2012 What You Need to Know About the Vagus Nerve

By Barry John Johnson
May 31, 2012

Pipe breathing from the Éiriú Eolas programs, is designed to stimulate the vagus nerve effectively.

The vagus is one of the larger more important nerves in the human body. One key role that it plays is as the “reset” button to counteract when our alarm system has been set off resulting in the infamous fight, flight or freeze response as some type of threat has been perceived. The vagus nerve basically tells the body and brain: “It is safe now. The threat is gone. All bodily functions can return to normal now.”

The mechanisms probably worked great in the Neanderthal days when a saber tooth tiger might be looming on the horizon or outside the cave. What we may have now with an epidemic of high anxiety is a malfunctioning, overly-sensitive alarm system just like the car down the block that seems to blare at the slightest vibration.
Threats now setting off our alarm systems include possible job performance issues, paying bills, fears of romantic rejection, or even fears that people might see through our outer persona. Meanwhile, our calming system, the vagus nerve, may be underactive, almost having forgotten how to function. What can result is a worst case scenario where the alarm system (anxiety) is always on. The scary part is that we can get used to that while it wreaks havoc upon our bodies.
There is hope, however, in our good friend the vagus nerve. While we have to work on our alarm system not always going off, we can also work on stimulating our vagus nerve so that our body can remember how its calming system is supposed to work.
The most effective, natural method for stimulating the vagus nerve is deep, belly breath breathing that you typically associate with yoga and meditation. And think about it, air is the very first thing we need for survival, before water and food. Additionally, in yoga class you are turning your alarm systems off, often closing your eyes, trusting your instructor and letting yourself be vulnerable. Your valiant instructor will handle any saber tooth tiger that attempts to enter this safe, nurturing domain while you stimulate this precious nerve.
So when you are in yoga class or otherwise practicing these wise and slow breathing methods, you are working to re-balance what for many in our modern culture is an out-of-whack system. For those suffering from high anxiety, a conscious effort to implement this re-balancing act is imperative.
Research on the vagus nerve continues. It will likely hold key information on the mind-body connection. The nerve is bi-directional, meaning it sends messages from the brain to the body and vice versa. However, 80% of its capacity is directed towards channeling information from the body to the brain. It’s how the body talks to the brain.
Also note that the vagus nerve is the “vagabond” nerve that wanders around and surrounds our heart and core area. It is heart-centered and noted as the nerve of intuition and the nerve of compassion. When we feel safe, without threat or anxiety, these abilities and inclinations are free to expand. Not such a bad thing. Viva…or uh, long live the vagus nerve!

 

22 April 2012 Diaphragmatic breathing benefits

April 20, 2012
Current Physical Therapy

Breathing is something most of us don’t usually think about. If we’re still alive and breathing, we must be doing it right, right? Wrong.

Let’s start with the disadvantages of rapid, upper chest breathing. Things I see in my physical therapy practice every day. Like neck pain, low back pain, anxiety, poor sleep, cold hands and feet. And headaches. Especially headaches. In all my years of practice, I have never, not once, met someone suffering from headaches who breathed well. (Most of my clients with headaches have a similar story: headaches for years, poor sleep, cold hands and feet, tight neck muscles–all related to upper chest breathing).

Let’s get to the good news…

What are the advantages of breathing well, that is, slow, diaphragmatic breathing? There are SO many advantages that I can’t even begin to  list– much less describe– them all here. Let’s start with three important ways breathing well is related to feeling well, as in, less pain.

Diaphragmatic breathing promotes the relaxation response. One of the the ways it does this is by activating the vagus nerve (which lies close to the diaphragm, so when we breathe deeply and the diaphragm moves up and down, the vagus nerve is stimulated). 75% of the parasympathetic (rest and repair) nervous systems’s fibers come from the vagus nerve, so the vagus nerve is a VERY big player in the relaxation response. So much so, that slow, deep breathing is one of the most efficient, non-medication ways we have of going from the state of “fight or flight” (where most of us tend to hang out) to the much more healthy “rest and repair.” When our bodies are in a relaxed state our brains are considerably less likely to perceive input as threatening, and so pain signals are significantly turned down. Research has shown that decreasing anxiety can decrease a pain level of 7/10 to 3/10. Definitely significant.

Diaphragmatic breathing also improves oxygenation. Of course it does. Seems obvious. But did you know that the lower parts of our lungs are about 7 times more productive in oxygen transport than the higher parts? So when we breathe using our diaphragms (and thus the lower lobes), we get much more oxygen to all of our cells, including the cells in our hands and feet (they’re warmer–a nice fringe benefit), and our nerve cells (less pain). And all healthy cells need oxygen. Only pathogens (unhealthy cells) don’t.

Lastly, diaphragmatic breathing stimulates lymphatic drainage. Our lymphatic system has been compared to a sewage system (yuck!). It removes toxins, wastes and abnormal cells. The lymphatic system doesn’t have any pumps, so it relies on muscle contraction and deep breathing to keep it moving. Using our diaphragms to breathe stimulates the cleansing of lymph nodes, increasing lymphatic drainage. This increases the rate of toxin elimination (including the byproducts of inflammation, which cause pain) by as much as 15 times!

8 February 2012 Benefits of Meditation: Some May Surprise You

Most physicians within the field of traditional medicine not only cite the health benefits of meditation, they actually prescribe it for many of their patients.  Most of us are aware that practicing medication can improve our health by doing things like lower our blood pressure.  Meditation can even strengthen our immune system and help the body fight off infection and disease.  However, there are many other, often overlooked benefits of practicing meditation that you may not be aware of – or need to be reminded of.

Meditation can help you lose weight

At the time this was written one out of every three adults in the United States is obese.  Most people don’t understand the difference between being overweight and being obese.  If you are overweight, it means you weigh more than an average range relative to your height.  If you are obese, it means that you have excessive body fat.  More important is the fact that obesity is significantly more dangerous to your health then being overweight.

benefits of meditation

It comes as no surprise that the cause of obesity – eating more than we should – but the reason why many of us eat more than we should is where meditation comes into play.  A large majority of obesity is caused by something called “emotional eating.”  Emotional eating is a response to high levels of anxiety, stress, or other mood related states such as sadness, even boredom.

The practice of meditation promotes reduces levels  of anxiety and stress, and can also improve our mood.  All of which reduces the risk of emotional eating as well as promoting weight loss.

Mediation can make you younger

While this may sound like some crazy claim you’d hear on a late night informercial, there is scientific evidence that meditation can reverse biological age.  Biological age is the term used to describe how old someone is physiologically.  It is based on how well major body systems are working.  Research studies on those who have been practicing meditation regularly for more than 5 years indicates that, on average, these meditators are 12 years younger physiologically than their actual chronological age.

Meditation can relieve insomnia

Research estimates that there are 70 million Americans who suffer from insomnia.  Add to that number those who have occasional difficulty getting and staying asleep, and we can see why the pharmaceutical companies are making billions off of sleeping pills both by prescription and over the counter.  However, sleeping pills can have detrimental side effects, some of which represent serious risks to your health and well-being.

Practicing meditation at bedtime can be an extremely effective and natural sleeping aid – and the side effects are all positive.  Bedtime mediation not only promotes getting to sleep more quickly as well as staying asleep, but has been shown in medical studies to create improvement of sleep in 100% of those in the study and 91% of those who continued to meditate regularly after the study reported that they were able to significantly reduce or eliminate their reliance on sleeping pills. benefits of meditation

Meditation helps you remember things

There are many ways to improve your memory and scientists have now included meditation among them.  One study involved having people meditate for 40 days.  The results were astounding.  After the study the people who participated in the study were tested along with a group who had not participated.  Researchers were impressed by statistics that showed those who had participated by meditating for 40 days did four times better on memory tests than those who did not.

Meditation frees the creative mind

Creativity is one of the most profound characteristics of being human.  Unfortunately, in a world filled with distractions and almost constant stressors, for many of us creativity is stymied.  Those who practice meditation benefit by quieting their agitated and anxious mind.  Additionally, science suggests that mediation assists in the promotion of what you might call a “free exchange of ideas” between our “creative” right brain and our “rational” left brain.  Furthermore, the practice of meditation improves our ability to focus.  All of these things encourage creative thinking and new ideas.

Meditation can increase your intelligence

At one time it was felt that a person’s level of intelligence was fixed at birth.  In other words, you were stuck with whatever amount of intelligence you happened to be born with.  Research now indicates that our brains our much more “plastic” than previously thought, meaning that it is possible to improve IQs.  There are various methods shown to improve IQ, and researchers include meditation into this mix.  Evidence for this includes measuring muscle mass.  Meditation has been shown to increase the muscle mass of the cortex of the brain, what is commonly referred to as “grey matter.”  It has been shown that practicing meditation can contribute as much as 20 points to an individuals IQ.

For more, read the original at Quantum Jumping.

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