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Posts Tagged ‘wellness’

17 January 2011 Higher Self-Esteem Leads to Better Health

Australian scientists have concluded that the higher a person’s self-esteem, the better his health, – The Psychological Science wrote.

The experts came to such conclusion after an experiment in which they tried various ways to influence the participants’ self-esteem: either raising it with praise and compliments, or – on the contrary – reducing it with criticism and negative evaluations. For example, the authors told the volunteers that they look good and bad, and then within two weeks of monitoring the volunteers were asked to evaluate their own feelings and wellbeing.

At the same time, the scientists monitored the participants’ tone of the so-called vagus nerve – the human brain that is responsible for the parasympathetic nervous system (which in turn influences the cardiovascular system). If the vagus nerve is in a reduced tone, the parasympathetic NS cannot soothe the heart during stress and depression, which can lead to serious cardiovascular disease.

The studies showed that the higher the participants’ self-esteem, the higher was the tone of their vagus nerve, which enabled people to cope with negative feelings while maintaining a good health.

“High self-esteem helps us to feel safe at a time when we are confronted with social upheaval”, – the researchers noted.

From: http://fi8ness.blogspot.com/2011/01/higher-self-esteem-leads-to-better.html

5 January 2011 EE Presentation in Cyprus on January 7th!

Start the New Year with the resolution to heal, rejuvenate and release yourself from stress, so you can continue your way through life with more awareness and with Grace. This time, we present the revolutionary Eiriu Eolas program in Cyprus, in an English presentation. Make sure to book your place! Contact: irini@eiriu-eolas.org

Looking forward to meeting you all on Friday, at the University of Nicosia, amphitheater Unesco, at 6 pm!

9 December 2010 Meditation Increases Attention and Changes the Brain

Posted by Martin Bohn, on Nov 30, 2010 in suite101.com
A 2007 study by neuroscientist Richard Davidson suggests that meditation improves attention and may even help with attention deficit disorder.
Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has conducted several studies on the effects of meditation on the brain. Being a regular meditator himself, Davidson is also a long time friend of the Dalai Lama. In this study, he was allowed to examine the brains of several Tibetan monks with a very long meditation practice and compare it to people without previous meditation experience.

The Study

In collaboration with colleagues Brefczynski-Lewis and Lutz, Davidson conducted a study that compared meditation novices to long time meditators. Both groups were asked to meditate while undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) of the brain. The meditation used was a practice where one focuses intently on a stimulus and then repeatedly goes back to the object of meditation whenever the mind has wandered.

Meditation as Seen on the MRI Scan

The MRI scans revealed an increased activity in the brain regions used for paying attention and making decisions. Thus, meditation seems to train the corresponding regions and functions of the brain. It was also found that the areas of the brain connected with attention and decision-making (such as the prefrontal cortex) were more activated in long-term meditators than in the meditation novices.

Most fascinatingly, however, an altogether different picture emerged when looking only at the most experienced meditators with at least 40,000 hours of experience (equivalent to meditating five hours per day for 22 years). In that group, the same areas of the brain only showed an increased activity at the beginning of the meditation. After that, the brain activity went back to baseline. The conclusion drawn by Davidson is that these persons were able to concentrate effortlessly, something that has often been described in classic texts on mediation.

Immune to Distraction

Another distinct feature of the study was examining the reaction to distractive noises. While meditating inside the MRI, the subjects of the study were periodically blasted with disturbing noises. Among the group of experienced meditators, these noises had much less effect on the brain areas involved in emotion and decision-making. And the most experienced meditators, with over 40,000 hours of meditation experience, were hardly affected at all. “They do hear the sound” Davidson pointed out, “we can detect that in the auditory cortex, but they don’t have the emotional reaction.”

Meditation or Lifestyle?

Although he doesn’t completely rule out that these results may have something to do with the differences of lifestyle between the Buddhist monks and the ordinary American people observed in the study, Davidson doesn’t think so. Pointing out the correlation between the length of meditation practice and the amount of changes in the brain, Davidson assumes that the changes were indeed caused by meditation (rather than lifestyle factors such as isolation, eating habits or religious faith).

The Brain Can Be Changed

Another evidence for the neurological benefits of meditation comes from another study by Davidson. It shows that the ability to detect a brief visual signal that most people cannot detect is significantly improved in people who were trained in meditation over the course of three months. This study can be regarded as further evidence of the so called neuroplasticity of the brain – the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.

While psychologists have long tended to consider an adult’s capacity to pay attention as relatively fixed, these findings suggest that attention can be trained in a similar way as other abilities. Just as regular workouts improve cardiovascular health, so the systematic practice of meditation can train and improve attention.

Meditation and Hyperactivity

With a view towards a growing prevalence in hyperactivity disorder among children, Davidson regards meditation or methods derived from meditation as possible tools for dealing with hyperactivity. He stresses, however, that it is not more than a possibility as yet.

Source

Brain scans show meditation changes minds, increases attention.” Online article on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s website.

Related Articles and Links

You might also be interested in the following articles on how meditation increases the size of the brain and on how meditation changes the brain. Furthermore, you can read about a related neuroscientific study by Antoine Lutz, called “Can meditation sharpen our attention?” (University of Wisconsin and Madison’s website).

30 November 2010 New Meditation Research: Putting the ‘Om’ in ‘Chromosome’

By Way Herbert, posted: November 18, 2010in the Huffington Post

The Shambhala Mountain Center sits nestled among the remote lakes and pastures of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, where for four decades it has offered instruction and retreat to serious students of meditation and yoga. Starting in February 2007, it became a scientific laboratory as well. The center began hosting the Shamatha Project, one of the most rigorous scientific examinations of meditation’s effects ever undertaken. The Project is now beginning to yield its insights, and from early reports it appears that this ancient practice delivers benefits that go all the way down to the chromosomal level.

Many claims have been made over many years about the effects of meditation on health and well-being, but rarely have these claims been put to the test. Under the direction of Clifford Saron, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Davis, the Shamatha Project enrolled 60 experienced meditators in a three-month study. Half were randomly selected to receive intensive training and practice in meditation over the spring months of 2007, including two group training sessions and five or more hours of individual practice every day. Those who were wait-listed for the actual retreat served as controls — an essential part of the rigorous experimental design that distinguishes the Project from previous meditation studies.

At three points in the three-month study — before, halfway through, and at the end — Saron and his many colleagues took a battery of behavioral and physiological measurements of both the meditators and the controls, who ranged from 21 to 70 years old. They have been crunching the data and analyzing the results, which are now emerging in peer-reviewed journals.

For example: Those who intensely practiced meditation got better at visual perception, and as a result their attention improved. UC Davis psychological scientist Katherine Maclean (now at Johns Hopkins) had all the volunteers perform a difficult visual discrimination task on a computer screen — watching a parade of identical lines go by and spotting the slightly shorter lines that appeared occasionally. This 30-minute task is not only visually demanding; it’s incredibly boring as well. But as reported recently in the journal Psychological Science, the meditators’ increased visual acuity also freed up their limited cognitive firepower for vigilance; and their sharpened attention led to improved performance on the task. This improvement lasted for five months after the retreat was over.

That may not be all that surprising, since focus and attention are what meditation is all about. Less expected is the recent finding that intense meditation may also have anti-aging effects. Tonya Jacobs, a scientist at UC Davis’s Center for Mind and Brain, has just reported (on-line in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology) that meditators show improved psychological well-being, and that these improvements lead to biochemical changes associated with resistance to aging at the cellular level. Specifically, an analysis of meditators’ white blood cells showed a 30 percent increase in an enzyme called telomerase, a chemical essential to the long-term health of the body’s chromosomes and cells.

The scientists emphasize that meditation does not lead directly to cellular health and longevity. Instead, the practice appears to give people an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life, which in turn leads to an increased sense of control over their lives and to less negative emotion. This cascade of emotional and psychological changes is what regulates the levels of telomerase, the anti-aging enzyme.

Positivity appears to be the link between meditative practice and a variety of health benefits. In a study scheduled for publication in the journal Emotion, UC Davis psychological scientist Baljinder Sahdra is reporting that meditation leads to a decrease in impulsive reactions — another health improvement linked to psychological positivity. Impulsivity has been tied to an array of health problems, including addictions and other risky behavior.

It’s well known that stress — and distress — lead to poor health, including a decline of telomerase and its healing properties. What hasn’t been known — and what these studies are beginning to document — is the exact order of psychological and physiological events in this chain and, what’s more, that this chain of events can be reversed.

26 November 2010 Meditation: The Key to Resilience in Caregiving

By Sharon Salzberg, Posted: November 19, 2010 in the Huffington Post

As I look forward to co-leading this retreat, People Who Care for People: Tools for Resiliency at the Garrison Institute, I find myself reflecting on caregivers I know. Some practice caregiving professionally, as nurses, first responders, chaplains, non-profit attorneys; others in their personal lives, as parents, children, siblings, friends. As difficult and pressured as caring for others can be, as tiring and overwhelming as it often becomes, many express a very powerful happiness at being able to serve.

An important element in how we keep going is being able to touch that happiness, broadening our perspective beyond what we see just in front of us, reminding us of our deepest motivation and what we care about most. In a challenging environment, facing our own or others’ suffering, we need to draw on inner resources.

Whether you care for a young child, an aging parent, a difficult-to-understand teenager, a client at work with no clear resolution to their problems in sight, any skillful relationship of caregiving relies on balance — the balance between opening one’s heart endlessly and accepting the limits of what one can do. The balance between compassion and equanimity. Compassion is the trembling or the quivering of the heart in response to suffering. Equanimity is a spacious stillness that can accept things as they are. The balance of compassion and equanimity allows us to profoundly care, and yet not get overwhelmed and unable to cope because of that caring.

I have been involved for several years in a program run by the Garrison Institute, bringing the tools of meditation and yoga to domestic violence shelter workers, and then to shelter supervisors and directors. These people are very much on the front lines of suffering, dealing daily with their clients’ issues of betrayal, heartbreak, fear, anger, humiliation. They might be survivors of trauma themselves. They might receive very little institutional support. They inevitably rely on inner resiliency to sustain their work over the long term.

Our premise has been that fostering greater balance of heart and mind is a key to that resiliency, and that one valuable avenue to cultivating this balance is meditation practice. Meditation helps us see our own difficult mind states — such as anger or fear or a sense of helplessness — with compassion instead of self-judgment. It also provides a refuge during life’s storms by helping us connect compassionately with others, no matter the circumstances.

Especially in times of uncertainty or pain, meditation broadens our perspective and deepens our courage. The spaciousness of mind and greater ease of heart that naturally arise through balanced awareness and compassion are fundamental components of a resilient spirit. They bring us an unusual kind of happiness, one not determined by the conditions we find ourselves in, not defined by the amount of “success” or “failure” we saw in our efforts today. Meditation helps us return, again and again, to this unique happiness.

24 November 2010 Meditation linked to happiness and positive behavior

Friday, November 19, 2010 by: Carolanne Wright, in Natural News

A study at the University of Wisconsin confirms meditation can alter the structure of the brain, fostering a brighter outlook and increased empathy. Since positive thinking and emotions affect health, meditation can contribute to overall wellness.

Richard Davidson, a trained psychologist who has practiced meditation for decades, believes meditation can strengthen brain circuits connected with happiness and positive attitude in a similar way we strengthen muscles with exercise. Davidson and his colleagues have produced scientific evidence that this form of mental exercise permanently changes the brain for the better.

Using MRI technology, contemplative neuroscientists were able to view the area of the brain, the left-sided anterior region, believed to be associated with positive thoughts. The researchers documented increased activity in this region of novice meditators who participated in an eight week mindfulness meditation course.

Davidson’s team discovered that the practice of compassion meditation also stimulates the limbic system (the brain’s emotional network) while increasing positive emotions. Expert meditators with more than 10,000 hours of practice showed the greatest activity in the limbic systems and appeared to have permanently altered their brains to generate positive thoughts. Even outside of meditation, committed meditators permanently changed the way their brains operated.

Positive emotions and optimism are good for your health as well. Evidence shows that optimists take proactive steps to ensure wellness whereas a pessimist tends to engage in health-damaging behaviors. Research further validates that individuals with a positive outlook have less hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory tract infections. Positive emotions also increase immunity and resistance to colds and flu, while reducing cortisol, incidence of stroke, and inflammation. As an added bonus, optimism increases longevity.

According to Health and Wellness by Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty:

Advances in identifying the biological mechanisms of mind-body communication confirm that the mind can affect health in powerful ways. Joy, creativity, and contentment lead to a state of harmony, which we experience as bodily health and subjective well-being.

Nerve cells in the brain’s thought and feeling centers connect to other nerve cells in the brain and body, to hormone-producing tissues and organs and to immune cells. In this way, mental activity is able to influence many of the body’s physiological processes.

Meditation isn’t just for monks anymore. Use this powerful tool to strengthen a favorable mind-body connection that supports health and watch the mind become illuminated with positive outlook.

Sources for this Article:

“Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing”, Barbara L. Fredrickson, University of Michigan, Marcial F. Losada Universidade Catolica de Brasilia, October 2005, American Psychologist, 677-686

“The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions”, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, Volume 359, September 2004, 1367-1378

“Optimism”, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 30, Issue 7, November 2010, 879-889, Positive Clinical Psychology

Health and Wellness
, Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2007

“The Health Benefits of Writing About Intensely Positive Experiences”. Chad M. Burton and Laura A. King, Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 38, Issue 2, April 2004, 150-163

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