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 

 

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.

Improve Your Relationship, Say Thank You.

It seems like the simplest thing to say, so how can it make such a difference? That’s the thing, it’s so simple that we forget, but saying thank you really can improve your relationship.

Happy Couple

A study conducted by Amie Gordon, of the University of California, Berkeley showed that it can improve a couple’s relationship and even prevent them breaking up.

“Feeling appreciated by your partner influences how you act in your relationship, and how much you want to stay in that relationship.”

The study included 50 undergraduates who had been in relationships for around 15 months and had them fill out questionnaires each night for a week.

The questionnaires included questions about how appreciated each participant felt by their partner and how appreciated they had been towards their partner that day.

Nine months later the participants were given another survey, which detailed questions about their relationship.

It was found that if a participant had been appreciated by their partner one day, the next day they were more appreciative towards their partner.

“Instead of just waiting for the other person to make you feel good, you can jumpstart that cycle and take it into your own hands by focusing on what’s good in your relationship.”

The participants who were more appreciated and appreciative of their partners were also less likely to have broken up nine months later.

“What goes wrong in a lot of relationships is if you start to take your partner for granted. You get used to having them in your life and forget why you chose to be with them.

The punch line is really that being appreciative of your partner is beneficial in helping you want to maintain your relationship.

When you are appreciative and you notice the value in your partner, it helps you realize what you have and makes you want to hold on to it.  You have something good and you think, ‘I want to keep it.’ You are more responsive, you tend to their needs, and you are more thoughtful.”

Its two words, simple to say and could save your relationship!

Original Article by Cara Mason.

Text Messages Boost Happiness

We all love to receive a Text Message right? People enjoy boost in happiness every time they receive text from friend or family member, an academic study has shown and Breakthrough Retreats reflects on why.

We have found an excellent article “that explains it all”. New research shows that both sending and receiving text messages can improve your mood if you are feeling stressed or lonely.

Text messaging may be blamed for contributing to illiteracy (u = You, ur = Your, You’re) but the study indicates there are clear mental health benefits.

Psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, found people suffering from depression reported feeling more connected and cared for when they receive text messages.

One patient told study author Professor Adrian Aguilera:

“When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved.”

Now researchers believe that everyone – not just people diagnosed with depression – experiences an up-lift in their mood when they receive or respond to a text message from a friend or family member.

We at Breakthrough Retreats ensure that we keep in contact with clients before, during and after their retreat and often via text messaging. It has proved a very valuable and versatile communication tool – And now we know why!

The research that we have been reading about began in 2010 when Prof Aguilera developed a customised “short message service (SMS)” programme in which his patients were sent Text Messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.

The results have been published in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Prof Aguilera said:

“We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities.”

Of the 2,277 adult mobile phone users surveyed, the most active senders and receivers of text messages were on low incomes and did not complete secondary school.

Prof Aguilera came up with the texting idea when he realised that many of his patients had difficulty applying the skills they learned in therapy to their daily lives, possibly because of the many stresses they routinely faced.

They could not afford laptops, electronic tablets or smart phones, but most had a basic cellular phone and a prepaid monthly plan.

“The people I wanted to impact directly didn’t have as much access to computers and the Internet,”

Prof Aguilera said.

“So I thought about using mobile phones to send text messages to remind them to practice the skills covered in therapy sessions.”

The feedback from patients offers new insight into the human need for regular contact or check-ins for mental health professionals, even if only through automated technology,

Prof Aguilera said. While the text-messaging sessions are designed to last only a certain number of weeks, about 75 percent of the patients requested that they continue receiving the messages. When the program stopped for a week due to technical problems, some really noticed the difference. ”

So there you have it. It you want to make someone’s day, then send them a Text Message – Who will be your chosen person? Let us know!

Original Article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobile-phones/9197600/Text-messages-boost-happiness.html