How mindfulness meditation prevents depression and cuts chronic pain distress

Brown University scientists have shed light on why does training in mindfulness meditation help patients manage chronic pain and depression. In a newly published neurophysiological review, the scientists have proposed that mindfulness practitioners gain enhanced control over sensory cortical alpha rhythms that help regulate how the brain processes and filters sensations, including pain, and memories such as depressive cognitions.

Meditation at Breakthrough Retreats

The proposal, based on published experimental results and a validated computer simulation of neural networks, derives its mechanistic framework from the intimate connection in mindfulness between mind and body, since standardized mindfulness meditation training begins with a highly localized focus on body and breath sensations.

This repeated localized sensory focus, the scientists said, enhances control over localized alpha rhythms in the primary somatosensory cortex where sensations from different body are “mapped” by the brain.

In effect, what the researchers propose is that by learning to control their focus on the present somatic moment, mindfulness meditators develop a more sensitive “volume knob” for controlling spatially specific, localized sensory cortical alpha rhythms. Efficient modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in turn enables optimal filtering of sensory information.

Meditators learn not only to control what specific body sensations they pay attention to, but also how to regulate attention so that it does not become biased toward negative physical sensations such as chronic pain. The localized attentional control of somatosensory alpha rhythms becomes generalized to better regulate bias toward internally focused negative thoughts, as in depression.

“We think we’re the first group to propose an underlying neurophysiological mechanism that directly links the actual practice of mindful awareness of breath and body sensations to the kinds of cognitive and emotional benefits that mindfulness confers,” said lead author Catherine Kerr, assistant professor (research) of family medicine at the Alpert Medical School and director of translational neuroscience for the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown.

Original Article 

 

How to Eliminate Stress & Anxiety from Your Life

It seems like you hear it all the time from nearly every one you know – “I’m SO stressed out!”  Pressures abound in this world today.  Those pressures cause stress and anxiety, and often we are ill-equipped to deal with those stressors that trigger anxiety and other feelings that can make us sick.  Literally, sick.

stress anxiety free ebookThe statistics are staggering.  One in every eight Americans age 18-54 suffers from an anxiety disorder. This totals over 19 million people!  Research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health has shown that anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem among American women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse by men.

 

Women suffer from anxiety and stress almost twiceas much as men. Anxiety disorders are the most commonmental illness in America, surpassing even depression in numbers. Anxiety is the most common mental health issue facing adults over 65 years of age. Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. $46.6 billion annually. Anxiety sufferers see an average of fivedoctors before being successfully diagnosed.

Unfortunately, stress and anxiety go hand in hand.  In fact, one of the major symptoms of stress is anxiety.  And stress accounts for 80 percent of all illnesses either directly or indirectly.

In fact, stress is more dangerous than we thought. You’ve probably heard that it can raise your blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of a stroke in the distant future, but recently a health insurance brochure claimed that 90 percent of visits to a primary care physician were stress-related disorders.

Health Psychology magazine reports that chronic stress can interfere with the normal function of the body’s immune system. And studies have proven that stressed individuals have an increased vulnerability to catching an illness and are more susceptible to allergic, autoimmune, or cardiovascular diseases.

Doctors agree that during chronic stress, the functions of the body that are nonessential to survival, such as the digestive and immune systems, shut down. “This is why people get sick,” he says. “There are also many occurrences of psychosomatic illness, an illness with an emotional or psychological side to it.”

Furthermore, stress often prompts people to respond in unhealthy ways such as smoking, drinking alcohol, eating poorly, or becoming physically inactive. This damages the body in addition to the wear and tear of the stress itself.

 

Find out more with our FREE Ebook from here.

Depression in Men ‘regularly ignored’

Men are twice as likely as women to have their depression written off as nothing more than feeling a little low, according to a study of our attitudes to mental health.

man depression

Society’s assumption that men are “tough” means both sexes are less likely to recognise telltale signs of depression in them, according to University of Westminster researcher.

And while one might think that men would be better at spotting symptoms in their brethren, the opposite is actually true. They are even more blind to emotional distress in other men than women are.

Researchers reached their conclusions after asking more than 1,200 people to gauge if two fictional characters were suffering from a mental health problem.

Half were asked to assess the state of a character called ‘Jack’ and half a character called ‘Kate’.

They were read a paragraph about these characters – but the only difference between them was their gender.

It started: “For the past two weeks, Kate / Jack has been feeling really down. S/he wakes up in the morning with a flat, heavy feeling that sticks with her / him all day.”

Fifty-seven per cent thought that ‘Kate’ was suffering from a mental health problem, while only 52 per cent thought that ‘Jack’ was.
And while 10 per cent were positive ‘Kate’ was not suffering from a mental health problem, twice as many (21 per cent) thought that of ‘Jack’.

The remainder were unsure.

Men and women were equally likely to think that ‘Kate’ was suffering from depression.

But men were almost twice as likely as women to think that ‘Jack’ did not have a mental disorder.

Dr Viren Swami, who wrote the article, published in the journal PLoS One, said: “In our society men are led to believe that they don’t suffer from depression.”

Dominant views of masculinity “stress toughness and strength”, he explained.

“Men tend to deny having depression in the first place. They tend to think their feelings are just part of daily life.”

This meant it was “quite possible” that they dismissed the possibility of depression in other men, he said.

Another study from Malaysia found men tend to cite specific reasons for feeling low, such as not having a girlfriend or having an unfulfilling job, rather than admitting to depression.

 

Original article.

Align Your Life – The Chakras

So much has been written about chakras, but very few know the importance and benefits of balancing them. So what exactly is chakra? Chakras are believed to be centres of the body from which a person can collect energy.

chakras

The meaning of the word ‘chakra’ is ‘wheel of light’ or ‘spinning wheel of energy’ in Sanskrit. They are connected to major organs or glands that govern other body parts. They have been part of many wellbeing practices for centuries.

All of your senses, perceptions, possible states of awareness, everything that you experience, can be divided into seven categories. Each category can be associated with a particular chakra. Thus, the chakras represent not only particular parts of your physical body, but also parts of your consciousness. Within our physical body, resides an energy body which houses the seven chakras.

Chakras

These seven centres of energy are vertically aligned in the centre of the body close to the spine. Chakras function like valves that regulate the flow of energy through our energy system.

A proper balance in the Chakras is essential for our good health. If there is any blockage or imbalance in the chakras it can result in ill health. Each chakra has a specific location, radiates a particular colour, is connected to a specific body part, and governs one area of life.

  • The first one is known as Root Chakra. It is situated at the base of the spine and is red in colour.
  • The second one is the Sacral Chakra. It’s situated in the lower abdomen, below the belly button and is orange in colour.
  • The Third one is the Naval Chakra and is yellow in colour.
  • The fourth power centre is the Heart Chakra and is located at the centre of the chest. It is green in colour.
  • The fifth chakra is Throat Chakra and is situated in the centre of the neck. It is blue in colour.
  • The sixth one is the Third Eye Chakra – located at the centre of the forehead between your eyebrows and is Indigo in colour.
  • The seventh one is the Crown Chakra, which is situated just above the head, and is violet.

So how do we go about balancing these chakras and experience peace and good health? There are many ways to balance them, from visualisations and meditations to simply wearing colours that correspond to a specific chakra. Any and all of these may be valid and effective ways to balance them, but practicing yoga is also extremely effective in balancing the chakras.

Chakras

Today, most people are forced to handle a lot of stress. Therefore it is important to do everything one can, to maintain a sense of harmony and inner calm. Healthy chakras keep the body young and vital. It helps to maintain a state of balance at all times, and when you feel out of sorts, re-energise yourself or seek help. A healthy diet, regular exercise and quiet alone time are all essential ingredients for a happy life. If you are able to practice the above you will be a great asset, not only to yourself, but also to your loved ones. Be happy, and radiate positivity by keeping your chakras balanced.

 

Original Article by: Shivani Adalja

Counsellor offers Spiritual Solution

We recently posted this article on our Facebook page and got a really good responce from it, so thought we’d share it on our blog.

The Use of music helps clients tell their stories.

THROUGH all of Ruta Yawney’s life, music has been her anchor and way of finding peace.

After working for many years as a music therapist, she decided to go back to school to receive a masters in counselling psychology.

“Now I combine the verbal psychotherapy with the music,” she says. “It’s a very powerful combination.”

Registered clinical counsellor Ruta Yawney conducts a guided imagery and music session with a client. Photograph by: photo Robert Semeniuk, for North Shore News.
Registered clinical counsellor Ruta Yawney conducts a guided imagery and music session with a client. Photograph by: photo Robert Semeniuk, for North Shore News.

A Bowen Island resident, Yawney, 49, has been working as a registered clinical counsellor in private practice in West Vancouver since fall 2011. She offers counselling and provides psychotherapy to teenagers and adults who are experiencing anxiety and stress from life transitions, including addiction, eating disorders, chronic illness, grief and loss, trauma and depression.

“I’ve even had retired people that are having a hard time transitioning into retirement,” she says. “They experience a lack of purpose in their life and a lack of meaning.”

Whenever possible, Yawney employs the method of guided imagery and music.

“It’s one of the tools in my tool box, but it’s not the only tool that I use in my counselling practice,” she says. “It’s just wherever I can, I still use the music.”

Guided imagery and music, created by Helen Bonny, is a self-exploration and helps bring people to their “heart’s centre,” explains Yawney.

“When they experience the music, they actually have access to the unconscious part of themselves,” she says. “When they are in that space, it facilitates insight for them. What happens is, they get out of their heads, they get into their hearts and they start feeling more creative about themselves. They can see the potential of them creating a new way of being.”

A session begins with a talk followed by a relaxation exercise. The music (from the Western classical tradition) is turned on and it’s combined with a psychotherapy discussion. The goal is for clients to have a visceral experience and access their imagination. “It helps them tell their stories,” says Yawney.

After the session, clients are encouraged to draw something representative of what just occurred.

“You have the felt experience and then you have the visual,” she says.

Clients also receive a transcript of what they said when the music was playing. Each session lasts for approximately an hour and 15 minutes.

It’s an honour to witness clients telling their stories through music, says Yawney, adding she has found the approach to have yielded positive results for many. “I have addicts that are in remission because they have gone far enough to self-transform themselves because of the insights they gained from telling their stories,” she says.

Yawney also conducts group work and is planning to launch a local bereavement through guided imagery and music group in the coming weeks. Those interested in finding out more, can contact her at ruta@rutayawney. com or 604-928-0883. Info: www.rutayawney.com.

emcphee@nsnews.com

 

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