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  1. Thích Nhất Hạnh is recognised internationally as one of the most influential figures in the fields of mindfulness, meditation and Zen Buddhism. Having been ordained as a monk in 1949, Nhất Hạnh has since written more than 100 books and has travelled the world, imparting wisdom and sharing his philosophy on life. Over a period of almost 70 years, Nhất Hạnh has built a lasting legacy through his lessons on meditation, self-awareness, understanding, peace, love and non-violent conflict resolution. In this article, we take a closer look at his life, using some of his most famous quotes and most important teachings as reference points. Engaged Buddhism 'Engaged Buddhism' is a term coined by Thích Nhất Hạnh, with its first known usage coming in a book he published in 1967, called Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. As a philosophy, it was heavily influenced by the Buddhism practised and taught by Master Tai Xu, who was influential in helping to reform Chinese Buddhism. While Tai Xu advocated what he referred to as human-life Buddhism, Nhất Hạnh developed this philosophy further. Essentially, the 'Engaged Buddhism' he teaches focuses on using the insight gained through meditation and dharma teachings to ease economic, social and political suffering within society. “When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time. Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on — not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you.” This quote actually originates from an interview with Lion's Roar Magazine and perfectly captures Thích Nhất Hạnh's core belief in 'Engaged Buddhism', which became especially important to him and his spiritual community in the midst of the Vietnam War, during which they aided those that were experiencing the horrors. Nhất Hạnh saw the help they provided as being part of their mindfulness and meditation practice, rather than something separate from it. What this particular quote demonstrates is the belief that meditation can (and should) extend beyond the self, due to the insight and perspective it provides. The Enemies of Man Over the years, Thích Nhất Hạnh has often used his influence and wisdom to stress the importance of recognising the fact that the true 'enemies of man' are ideological, rather than physical. The most famous example of this philosophy being put into words came in the mid 1960s, in a letter written to Martin Luther King. In the letter, Nhất Hạnh wrote that the enemies of monks in Vietnam were not man, but "intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred and discrimination". He also opined that in the civil rights struggle in the US, Martin Luther King's enemies were not specific human beings, but "intolerance, hatred and discrimination". “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.” This quote is an interesting extension of the basic 'Enemies of Man' teaching. Once again, it centres on the idea that we should not see those who do wrong as our enemies, or as people in need to punishment or retribution, but instead as people who can be helped, or who are in need of help. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Nhất Hạnh continued to promote the virtues of non-violence, even in retaliation to violent actions. These words help us to understand the deep-rooted beliefs that made this possible for him. Embracing Science Another key teaching that has come to define Thích Nhất Hạnh's philosophy is his view that traditional Zen Buddhist practices can work in conjunction with science. In particular, he has embraced western psychological research and utilised aspects when teaching Buddhist Psychology at Vạn Hanh Buddhist University and Cornell University. It is only through embracing science in this way that ancient wisdom can play a meaningful role in the modern world. This concept is explored in several of Nhất Hạnh's published works, including the 1992 book, The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion and the 2001 book, Understanding Our Mind. “Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for.” Appearing in his 1987 book entitled Being Peace, this quote emphasises the extent to which Thích Nhất Hạnh discourages dogmatic adherence to any particular set of teachings, because such inflexible attitudes inevitably lead to conflict and, ultimately, suffering, rather than happiness, peace and contentment. Instead, one of Nhất Hạnh's most important philosophies is related to the value of being open to new ideas, being willing to challenge existing ones and being adaptable to new research, evidence and technology. There is, after all, wisdom in letting go of bias and recognising that the concept of 'truth' can be fluid, rather than absolute. Love and Infatuation In more recent years, Thích Nhất Hạnh's teachings have placed an emphasis on the concept of love and on defining precisely what it is. In his 2015 book How to Love, he argues that the ideas of 'love' and 'understanding' are inextricably linked. "Understanding is love's other name," he writes. With this as the starting point, Nhất Hạnh is able to de-construct the difference between love and infatuation. Love, he says, is about understanding another person and their suffering. Infatuation, on the other hand, is a distraction from one's own suffering and understanding is replaced with fantasy, illusion and projecting ideas onto someone. “If our parents didn't love and understand each other, how are we to know what love looks like? The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness.” Finally, this quote, which also appears in Thích Nhất Hạnh's 2015 book How to Love, neatly sums up one of the most significant conclusions he draws, which is that love is something which can be seen and learned. "If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all," Nhất Hạnh writes. As Maria Popova points out, this is in-keeping with what psychologists know about the role of 'positivity resonance' in learning how to love. Once again, this quote shows how Nhất Hạnh's traditional Zen Buddhist philosophy can operate in perfect harmony with modern scientific research and reasoning. Photo by d nelson - arrival, CC BY 2.0 and Duc (pixiduc), CC BY-SA 2.0 and mettabebe - Thich Nhat Hanh at festival in Da Nang, CC BY-SA 2.0 Written by Guest Author We are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  2. “Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Jon Kabat-Zinn (New York, 1944) is widely considered being one of the founders of transforming Eastern religious mindfulness practices into methods for Western secular audiences. Kabat-Zinn is an emeritus Professor of Medicine of the University of Massachusetts, and the creator of the well-known Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) The MBSR program is an eight-week course that incorporates mindfulness, to assist people with stress, pain, anxiety, psychological difficulties, illness, and life issues. MBSR uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness and body scans, and yoga, to help people become more present. Although MBSR is based on spiritual teachings, the program is secular. The benefits of MBSR include: stress reduction; overcoming chronic anxiety; and improvements to the quality of life. MBSR is a method taught by trained instructors, that entails weekly group meetings, a one-day retreat [six-hour mindfulness practice], daily homework [45-60 min. per day], and instruction in three techniques: mindfulness meditation, body scanning, and mindful yoga.  MBSR is based on the fundaments of non-judgmental awareness, non-striving, acceptance, letting go, beginner’s mind, patience, trust, and non-cantering.  Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness.” During the program, participants are invited to focus both on their practice, and on incorporating mindfulness into everyday routines. In doing so, MBSR enhances self-management and coping with the environment, and one’s reaction to it. MBSR also helps against ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.  The MBSR course is offered by medical centres, hospitals, and general health organisations.  “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Background, Education and Career Kabat-Zinn graduated from Haverford College and afterwards went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT. Whilst being a student there, Kabat-Zinn was introduced to meditation by Zen missionary Philip Kapleau. Afterwards, he studied with Thích Nhất Hạnh and Seung Sahn, and at the Insight Meditation Society, founded by Sharon Salzburg, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein.  In 1979, Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. There he adapted Buddhist teachings on mindfulness into the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program, that he later renamed into the eight-week course Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Afterwards, he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. Kabat-Zinn has conducted a vast amount of research on the effect of MBSR on pain, anxiety, brain function, and immune function.  Kabat-Zinn has trained groups of CEOs, clergy, judges, athletes, and congressional staff in mindfulness. His methods and insights have been used to introduce mindfulness and meditation practices in healthcare, schools, corporations, prisons, and other (work)places.  Kabat-Zinn is retired from his professorship at the University of Massachusetts but is still involved in the centres he founded, and an avid public speaker, writer, and mindful meditation workshop host. Apart from that, he has held numerous fellowships and memberships, including as a board member of the Mind and Life Institute, an organisation that facilitates dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists.  “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Books Kabat-Zinn has written numerous books on mindfulness and MBSR. The first one, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, gives detailed instructions for the practice of MBSR. His second book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, became a best-seller in giving a very down-to-earth introduction to mindfulness.  Afterwards, Kabat-Zinn wrote books like Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life, The mindful way through depression: freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness, Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment - and your life, and Coming through our senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, in which Kabat-Zinn reflects on sentience and awareness.  “Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Online resources The Internet provides a wide range of possibilities to familiarize oneself with Kabat-Zinn’s ideas, the MBSR program, and associated themes. A lot of these materials are a mixture between free and paid-for. Podcasts and Audio On the website soundstrue.com, there are a couple of different podcasts starring Kabat-Zinn and his ideas. Topics included are: The mindfulness Revolution. Resting in Awareness. Creating the Future in this Moment. On the excellent website Audiodharma of the Insight Meditation Center, one can find hundreds of guided meditations, talks, and interviews, with most of the big names in mindfulness and meditation. Kabat-Zinn is also featured, in three talks on mindfulness in education.  On the Mindfulness CD’s website, associated with Kabat-Zinn, you can find three paid-for collections of guided meditations by Kabat-Zinn. You can find a collection of videos starring Kabat-Zinn speaking on different subjects, that link through to YouTube, where you can find many more videos, including guided meditations and full-length lectures.  “Life only unfolds in moments. The healing power of mindfulness lies in living each of those moments as fully as we can, accepting it as it is as we open to what comes next—in the next moment of now.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Jon Kabat-Zinn Videos There are many videos available starring Kabat-Zinn, either in interviews, or in lectures. The Greater Good Science Center based at University of California, Berkeley has an overview of different videos with Kabat-Zinn. Topics included are: mindfulness, MBSR, compassion, and well-being. The GGSC also hosts a free MOOC on edx called "the science of happiness".  The Connection is a documentary film, Internet platform, and blog, with separate videos on the connection between health and the mind. Kabat-Zinn is one of the featured experts that include Andrew Weil, Herbert Benson, and Sara Lazar.  “Meditation is a way of being, not a technique. Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere else. It is about allowing yourself to be exactly where you are and as you are, and the world to be exactly as it is in this moment, as well.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) Talks and Events As mentioned, Kabat-Zinn is still very active as a public speaker, lecturer and event host.  On E-Omega, you can find a schedule with some upcoming workshops on mindfulness and meditation.  On Facebook, you can find a page dedicated to news and updates on Kabat-Zinn, managed by admirers.  Ocasionally he would post something on Twitter as well.  Photo: colourbox.com   Written by Arlo LaibowitzArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  3. Living our lives to the fullest begins with what is already here. Staying engaged and curious can transform even routine activities. Learn how now.Have you ever felt that sometimes we go through our lives instead of living them to the fullest? Today it is common to live surrounded by distractions that make staying engaged hard, forcing us instead to continually move on to the next thing and overlook present experiences. Staying mindful and finding pleasure and fulfilment in everyday things can make a considerable contribution to your overall happiness, so below we have listed seven ways of turning routine tasks into enriching daily activities. Read on if you’re ready to increase your awareness, boost your connection with own emotions, and improve your chances of staying engaged throughout the day.  1. Start-of-the-day Ritual Cultivating enriching daily activities as soon as you start your day is crucial to your levels of engagement and well-being. Instead of waking up and getting on with your day on auto-pilot, why not create a ritual that increases your chances of staying engaged?  As you wake up, do some gentle stretching and notice your body getting ready for a new day. Acknowledge your gratefulness for a good night's rest that allows you to tackle whatever lies ahead. As you wait for your tea and coffee to be ready, take a minute or two to check in with yourself. Pay attention to physical sensations: is your body tense or relaxed? How are your energy levels? Are you hungry or thirsty? Mornings are the perfect time to incorporate other mindful practices such as mindful eating or showering, which are described further down in this article.  2. Mindful Showering Showering is a peaceful way of starting or ending the day, as it allows you to gain an appreciation for your body and to be grateful for having the opportunity to look after yourself. As you stand under the water, do a “body scan” from head to toes and take note of your feelings. The warm water, the aroma of your favourite shower gel, and a gentle massage are treats to the senses that would be a pity to overlook. Taking note of these micro-moments can help you stay anchored in the present and counter the go-go-go mindset. In the shower, it is easier to realise when your mind wanders into the past or future. Realize when you are not in the shower while taking a shower and gently bring the mind back.  Even doing the dishes is another opportunity for being mindful and curious.  3. Gratitude Walks and Walking Meditation Having a busy life doesn't mean you cannot enjoy the benefits of meditation. Simply walking and noticing all those things you have reasons to be grateful for is a way of staying engaged with the most meaningful aspects of your life. For example, you can notice your legs and feet taking you forward, a ray of sunshine helping support life all around you, the different colours of objects or plants bringing variety and making life more interesting.  To practice walking meditation, find a space where you can walk undisturbed and start walking while focusing on each movement. Lifting a foot, putting it in front of the other, placing your feet on the ground, noticing how your body weight shifts as you walk, listening to your breathing, etc. This can help slow down your mind and sharpen your self-awareness.  As if that wasn't enough, walking itself is a beneficial physical activity that can help maintain a healthy weight and decrease stress. Moreover, some scientific studies have found that walking can strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. And as you probably know, a healthy body feeds a healthy mind, and vice versa!  4. Mindful Driving The daily commute can be a source of frustration and other negative emotions, but using mindful techniques can turn this routine into one of those enriching daily activities that increase your awareness.  Before you start the engine, take a few moments to breathe deeply and state your intention to drive mindfully. You should also ensure your car is a distraction-free environment and something like a “cocoon” that protects you from the noise outside, so put your phone on silent and don’t switch the radio on. While driving, there will be situations that cause anger or anxiety, but all you need to do is acknowledge your feelings - remember that you have a choice not to let those negative emotions take over. Drive paying attention to your surroundings, try to see the streets as if it was the first time you were driving along them, and take every interruption (traffic lights, traffic jams, etc.) as a chance to check in with your sensory perceptions.  5. Mindful Eating We all have to eat, but our busy schedules often make us rush through our meals leading to all sorts of ailments, from poor digestion to weight gain.  To avoid this, practice mindful eating by engaging all your senses in a conscious exercise of appreciation.  Try the raisin mindful eating exercise Grab a raisin and hold it in your hands, imagining you’ve never seen one before. Use all your 5 senses to examine it. Look at its every detail: colors, structure, shiny or dull, can you see through? Touch it with closed eyes. Try to hear if it makes a sound if you squeeze it. Smell it. See if it smells differently depending on which nostril you use. Chew it slowly noticing its texture and flavour. Take note of the feelings and thoughts it generates. This technique is a mindfulness-based stress reduction MBSR exercise aimed at improving your ability to focus on present experiences, increase attention levels, and boost enjoyment.  6. Mindful Appreciation Staying engaged in the present and savouring everything life has to offer is hard when our appreciation is weak. To fix this, find four or five things (or people) that make your life easier or better. These could be small details like having drinking water flow as you open the tap or having a blanket to keep you warm and cosy when it gets cold. Make a mental note of those things, or even better, write them down while you ask yourself: What benefits does this bring to my life? What is special or unique about this thing / person? How would life be without them? How did they come to be? Stopping to think about this will improve your appreciation for simple (and not-so-simple) everyday things and give you more reasons to feel blessed. 7. Staying Engaged With (Or Despite) Technology Technology can be a constant source of distractions and interfere with mindful practices, so it’s important to set boundaries and know when and how to use it. Mindfulness-, meditation- and well-being-apps and podcasts with uplifting content show that technology and gadgets can be beneficial, but making mindful use of technology is also a matter of changing your habits.  For example, instead of reaching for your smartphone to take a picture of your food as soon as a plate is put in front of you, take some time to look at the food. Observe how it is presented, think about how it satisfies you, and about how much work has been put into making it reach your table. Likewise, instead of rushing to check your inbox every time a mail notification pops up on your screen, take a deep breath, pause, check in with yourself, and decide if it's worth responding now or later.  Like all other positive emotions, everyday engagement has to be cultivated. Trying to incorporate mindfulness into daily tasks will bring you a collection of memorable thoughts and moments that enrich your life and make it more pleasurable. And ultimately, these enriching daily activities will allow you to live your life and not just go through it.     Modelphotos: colourbox.com  Written by Dee MarquesA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in Nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
  4. As we age, some of us may find that life can become more stressful rather than easier, making knowledge of how to achieve stress relief vitally important. As retirement grows nearer, we look forward to the changes that this will bring, starting by planning to do the many things that we never had time for during our busy working lives. However, according to Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health:  If we are not careful, retirement can bring about many health problems rather than contentment, and that we should look upon it as a ‘process rather than an event’. Planning your retirement Some of us have planned carefully for retirement and should remain financially secure, while others will suddenly face a drop in income. This can limit what we can achieve. According to research carried out by Dr George E. Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, they discovered that there are several ways in which retired seniors, even those of 80 years and above, can remain happy and healthy, with a rewarding lifestyle that does not require a high level of income. These include: Make new friends - when retiring from work, you will leave many of your friends behind, but by building a new social network of like-minded, similarly, aged people will prove to be good for both your physical and mental health Join clubs - there are so many to choose from, including sports such as golf, swimming and tennis, ballroom dancing, walking and bridge. They will not only get you out of the house but also provide the opportunity to make new friends Keep your mind and body active - take up painting or gardening, perhaps learn a new hobby, something that you have always wanted to do. Learn a new language or take a study course, and maybe, get a dog who will not only be a great companion but will also get you out walking and meeting people All these suggestions are not only enjoyable but also provide excellent stress relief tips which will keep body and soul together, while also having fun. Make the most of every moment because, as this quote from Ausonius says: "Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years”.  Every day is precious, and stress relief can be found in something as simple as writing things down or talking to a friend. Stress and how it affects our health A handy fact sheet produced by the APA Office on Ageing and Committee on Ageing suggests that, if we are not careful, stress can affect us very badly during our senior years. They say that one of the simplest ways to remain healthy is to eat nourishing food, helping us to maintain a reasonable weight, and to take regular exercise. They explain stress as being caused by our bodies responding to danger, so releasing hormones into the bloodstream, which will then speed up the heart and increase the pulse rate; it is known as the ‘stress response’. They go on to explain that research has shown that too much stress will impair our immune system, so decreasing our ability to fight off disease and mental health problems. They offer several stress relief tips, as follows: Stay positive - avoid negative talk such as, “I’m too old”, or, “I can't-do it anymore”. This type of talk will not help, and, while you may feel that doing nothing is your solution, this will certainly not provide stress relief. Thinking about what you can do instead is one of many great stress relief tips Stay focused - never feel helpless because, no matter how difficult something might seem, there is always a solution. Each problem is a test or a challenge, that will keep your mind active as you consider your options. This, in turn, will provide stress relief, as nothing is insurmountable Meditation - relaxation techniques and especially MBSR (meditation based stress reduction) have been developed to deal with stress based on techniques that have been around for centuries. According to Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, just 10 minutes a day can help to control stress, reduce anxiety and contribute to improving cardiovascular health, which in consequence will also provide stress relief. She goes on to say that meditative techniques were first pioneered in America, during the 1970’s, by Harvard physician Herbert Benson. It has since gained acceptance worldwide, by both doctors and therapists, to be a valuable complementary therapy for symptom relief of many different illnesses. Dr Stöppler states that “No matter how the relaxation state is achieved, the physical and emotional consequences of stress can be reduced through regular practice”. Stress relief, in this form, can also lead to happiness and inner peace. For a first glance at stress relieving meditation practices try "Mindfulness daily" - an easy to follow course developed by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. Understanding retirement Every one of us will see retirement differently; how we use all this extra time that we suddenly have on our hands depends very much on individual circumstances, according to Harvard Health Publications. They go on to explain that, if your job has been tiring, boring or unrewarding, then retirement will come as a great relief. Whereas, those of us that have thoroughly enjoyed our work and thrived on the structured lifestyle will see retirement in an entirely different way; this in itself may require important stress relief tips. A couple who are happily married, or in a long-standing relationship, are far more likely to enjoy their retirement than someone whose home life is anything but stable and may already be stressed. Healthy retirees will be looking forward to an active and rewarding time, whereas, those who are in bad health will not have this option. Whichever category you fit into, still keep as active as possible and keep your mind and body busy.  Seeking Help For Stress Relief One of the biggest stress relief tips offered by the fact sheet produced by the APA, is to seek help before everything gets on top of you. We tend to avoid the word psychologist, but they are often the best people to help with stress relief. There are three therapeutic ways that can help seniors to start to enjoy life: Cognitive behavioural therapy - this will explore and help to discover the underlying reasons for stress and contributes to change negative thoughts into positive ones Supportive therapy - often a non-judgemental ear can help to justify why feelings of anxiety exist and to offer stress relief tips to introduce a more positive way of thinking Relaxation training - related to meditation, it also includes education about stress and tension and how to achieve muscle relaxation What you can do to help yourself Dr Dossett, recommends talking to loved ones or close friends, as well as visiting your doctor. Talking about problems that are stressing you can sometimes lead to a solution, but, healthwise, as Dr Dossett explains, your doctor will be able to check your blood pressure and recommend a healthy lifestyle change, particularly with diet; anti-depressants are also an option for the severely distressed. He also states that one of the best stress relief tips is to focus on triggering exactly the opposite of the stress response - the relaxation response - through, as previously mentioned, MBSR, meditation or tai chi, yoga and deep breathing exercises. All of these will lower oxygen consumption and the heart and breathing rate, so reducing blood pressure and stress hormones, helping to maintain a much more positive outlook on life.  As American actress Valerie Bertinelli so aptly said:  Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There's going to be stress in life, but it's your choice whether you let it affect you or not.    Modelphotos by colourbox.com  Written by Marilyn Coates-LowerI am a free spirit who wakes up with a smile every morning. My life has been an adventure and, although now officially retired, I continue to work as a writer and proofreader. I live in a stunning part of Brittany, France together with my horse and cat, enjoying views of the woods that surround my house and across the valley to the village. By way of my experiences, I hope to inspire people, through my writing, to become more positive, happy and forward thinking.
  5. After Apple coined and popularized the phrase "There's an app for that," and it became a bit of a running joke and an "if only" solution to all of our mobile technological woes, it's become more relevant than ever. We rely on our smartphones and on apps for almost everything: music, dating, exercising, health, transport, learning a language, finding the love of our life and tuning a guitar. But what are some of the best happiness apps?  The more smartphone-reliant happiness seekers among us want apps to help us become happier. The best happiness apps on the market are, first and foremost, free (at least for a trial run). Many also use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a basis for their concept. According to the NHS, this is a talking therapy aimed at changing thinking patterns and behaviours and is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. While applications are indeed very different than an hour of talk therapy with a counsellor, the way that apps can work within the realm of CBT is to try to modify your thinking patterns and by helping you to change patterns of behaviour through repetition.  Who uses these, anyway? There are various reasons why self-care mobile apps can be a positive addition to your life and push you a little bit closer towards your quest to happiness. They're more common than you think, and people already tend to use the iPhone, an extension of themselves, as a way to learn more about and to be more in tune with their mind: according to Nature, about 29% of “disease-specific mobile health apps” are focused on mental health. For example, two common mental health related apps for more dire circumstances are the PTSD Coach app or FOCUS for users with schizophrenia. While these two don't illustrate why the average happy hunter uses happiness apps, they have some of the same benefits.  Can an app really make you happier? First, the best happiness apps are helpful for those with a busier schedule, always available and ready to help. After all, you never know when you’ll need help - and, ideally, if you can use the same smartphone that you’re always looking at to make you just a bit more happy, structured, and grateful, there’s always an upside. The app also interacts positively with the user. Just like getting constant notifications or updates on social media might be stressful, receiving reminders to do a task or maybe an affirmation right when you need it could help you feel a lot better.  While not all the apps are free, many beat the cost of going to see a mental health professional, and, what’s more, the stigma of going to see a specialist unfortunately still exists for many.  In a nutshell,  You can practice them everywhere; If you use them as much as you use your smartphone, you'll use them regularly; It can remind you to be happier if you forget; Many of them are cost effective if not free. Still, an app can be a good first step in the right direction. Of course, it's important to remember that happiness and health apps are an excellent way to keep working towards better mental health at the forefront of your everyday life and can consolidate healthy habits, but even the best happiness apps by no means replace visiting a mental health professional, or even just simple human contact. Think of these happy apps like vitamins - supplements are great, but they can never replace the real thing.  The Best Happiness Apps: Happify Founded in New York City in 2012, Happify acts as a gratitude journal that you can share online. It comes in both website and app form, and it has various “scientifically validated tracks” that are suggested to you after you take a short quiz detailing your life. If not, you can also choose from options such as “Conquer Your Negative Thoughts,” “Get to Know Yourself Better,” and “Raise Happy, Resilient Teens” - how many are available to you depends on if you bought it for $11.99 a month or downloaded the free version. Each track has a theme and is divided into parts (usually 4). These are then divided into activities, ranging from guided meditations to reflective writing assignments, to games: one such game is a negativity bias game called Uplift, where the user selects positive words from a collection of rising balloons for points.  For the more socially minded of you, there's a community page with inspirational comments from other users. You can add your own too to brighten someone else’s day since it’s proven to make you feel happier. There are 58 “core activities” to begin with, with different variations, adding up to 1,200 various activities total. These activities were designed with the help of a professor of psychology at Hiram College Acacia Park, and they range from asking you to write down what you’re looking forward to in general, or looking forward to doing for a friend. Each of the 58 activities has a “Why it works” icon next to it, to explain you more about the science behind the fun games. Every two weeks, your phone gives you a happiness check-in, so it can continue on its quest to  “Overcome stress and negative thoughts" and "build resilience.” The reception for this simply happy app has been overall positive: indeed, users say that it changed their outlook, “especially when it comes to stressful experiences” adding that it reframes their "negative thoughts.”  Users also reported feeling more motivated and productive, indicating that it helps you to solidify positive, helpful habits that are the framework for a more confident and happy life. What’s more, users have reported that it gives them perspective, acting as a “digital scrapbook.”  Why you should use Happify:  It helps you build resilience for stressful experiences; It changes the way you have negative thoughts; It helps you build happy, healthy habits tied to positive thinking; Since even reflecting on happy memories releases chemicals that make you happy, you can boost your well-being by making a digital scrapbook to remind you of sunnier pastures when you feel blue. Happy Habits An Android app for Google Play, Happy Habits is unfortunately not yet available for us iPhone users. Happy Habits describes itself as relying heavily on the principles of CBT, and that it works by helping to "create the conditions for happiness in [the user's] life.” It starts out by giving its users a 119-item test to assess their happiness based on 14 factors; then, they administer results and suggestions, through games and through soothing audios to talk you through your quest for happiness.  Some of the things it features are Emotion Training Audios for help with managing emotions so that you can be more aware and cultivate a more positive attitude, best used when you feel overwhelmed by anger, sadness, or stress. Then, if you're feeling particularly anxious, you can also use the Relaxation Audios to unwind and to learn deep relaxation, something which is always an excellent way to relax and to benefit from life more. Or, for those of you who like to find out more about the concept and the history of the pursuit of happiness, there's their Choosing Happiness Audio to delve into the idea of and search for well-being. For those of you who like to cross things off of a list and who are conscious of their self-care, Happy Habits also features a Customisable Happy to Do list.  This reminds you to exercise, go outside, take a breath or drink some water. Like most of the best happy apps, it's game-ified, which means it turns the pursuit of happiness into a game rather than a tedious chore, with its point feature that helps you to keep track of your progress. For extra motivation (nothing like seeing how much you've been succeeding to achieve even more), it has a graph feature that then helps you to zoom out to see your progress. Users who like to write and keep track of their thoughts will be happy to know that the app has a Happiness Journal for writing personal affirmations for yourself and recording positive events to look back on later. Those of you who like to read can learn more about the science behind the app with articles on happiness and CBT. Its design is a little retro, but it uses positive colours like yellow and orange, and it’s customisable - for example, users can put their favourite picture of Hawaii, a snapshot of a beloved pet, or a family photo as their background.  Why you should use Happy Habits:  It's based on CBT, a method that has been proven to help depression and anxiety; It has a large variety of calming audios for you to listen to in the car, on the bus, or at home; It heklps you keep track of your self care list in a non-stressful way; It gives you a gratitude scrapbook to look back on when you need to cheer up and remember why you should be happy. Happier Happier is an app on a mission: to make sure you appreciate life to the fullest. This app was developed Nataly Kogan, a TEDtalk speaker who emigrated from Russia when she was young and had to go through hard times, escaping oppression in the Soviet Union while her family got on their feet in the Detroit projects. Allegedly, she vowed to find happiness, first looking towards success and wealth to achieve it. Quite understandably, this did not lead her where she wanted, so she turned towards her father's work - science - to see what next steps she could take.  She explains that what she found was that happiness lies in the small moments in life, and that you can be happier by just appreciating them more. In her own words, she wants to inspire you to say “I'm happier now because” by developing a “gratitude habit.”  In practice, the app works by helping you to be "more present and positive throughout the day," working like a life appreciation platform, or even a personal life coach. Each day it prompts you to write what you are most grateful for, be it the sun shining on your back, a moment spent with a loved one, making every stoplight on the street, or getting your favourite ice cream - you can even add pictures! These are moments that you might not notice if not for Happier, with which you can "create, collect and share those tiny positive moments." Ways you can use it are to lift your mood, take a meditation break, or enjoy the moments that make your day happier.  It's portable and can be used on Apple watch as well, acting as your gratitude journal. It also offers “bite-sized, expert-led courses,” to teach you more about the practice and science of happiness on which the app is based, breaching subjects like strength, calmness, and gratitude. What's more, it works as a sort of happiness social media platform, where you can connect to those around you (if you want, since sharing publicly is entirely optional) and get inspired by their gratitude posts. There's something very zen about Happier, an app which urges you to think of happiness, not like a feeling, but more like a muscle to be trained and on which you can rely on your day-to-day life.  Why you should use Happier:  Instead of selling you an unattainable happiness, it works to help you appreciate what you already have; To keep a picture, easily updatable scrapbook on what you're most grateful for; It helps you learn more about the science behind positive psychology; It works around a very old, uncomplicated, and trusted way to increase your well-being. The Bottom Line: Of course, using these apps along won't be enough to change your life. Spending too much time on your phone - even on happiness apps - won't give you time to find moments to be grateful for or to put what you learn on these apps into practice. Still, there is science to back up the claims behind these programs. For example, a meta-analysis of 51 “positive-interventions” like mindfulness activities, gratitude writing, and goal-setting found them to “significantly enhance well-being and decrease depressive symptoms.” More specifically, one of the main ideas behind the majority of these apps, counting your blessings, has been proven to make you happier.  We invite you to try out what we think are the best happiness apps to see what works best for you, and what pushes you to do the little things that will make your life better.   Written by Rae BathgateRae Bathgate is an American journalist based in Barcelona, where she enjoys sunlight, yoga, and bookbinding.
  6. Jack Kornfield is a writer, teacher and one of the leading proponents of Buddhism in the West. He has been teaching meditation across the globe for over forty years and, throughout this time, his work has played an instrumental part in helping to introduce the useful lessons and concepts of mindfulness to a Western audience.  Jack Kornfield: an introduction Mindfulness – it is a word that we hear more and more frequently in our day to day lives. Perhaps it should come as no surprise: the modern world is one which seems to travel at a break-neck speed. A place where information, entertainment, and work are all present, 24 hours a day; shaping our thoughts, emotions and living environments.  The human mind needs its “down time”, too. We all require moments of rest to reflect on the day's events and to make sense of the world. A few hours' sleep each night is not the same as realising true peace of mind. And that, perhaps, is why mindful living has become such an attractive concept for so many people in recent years.  But where did this concept of “mindfulness” originate? For those who have only recently discovered the mindful approach to everyday life, it is often surprising to learn that mindfulness is not a recent creation at all. In fact, its roots and origins stretch back many centuries into the past.  [su_quote cite="Jack Kornfield"] With mindfulness, we are learning to observe in a new way, with balance and a powerful disidentification. [/su_quote] Perhaps what has been a more recent phenomenon has been the dissemination of mindful thinking across the planet – enabling new adherents to discover this ancient philosophy for the very first time. And, in achieving this, few teachers have been quite as instrumental as Jack Kornfield.  Jack Kornfield: Learning and teaching Jack's path to the mindful existence has been a lifelong journey of learning and sharing his knowledge. His studies have taken him around the world, and he has studied directly under the tutelage of some of the leading minds of Buddhist thought in the twentieth century and the present day.  Jack's story began fairly typically. Born, one of the twins, to Jewish parents in 1945, Jack developed a deep fascination for the cultures of the Far East early on in life. Seeking to broaden his understanding, Jack enrolled at the prestigious Dartmouth College, New Hampshire; graduating in Asian Studies in 1967.  [su_quote cite="Jack Kornfield"] Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften. Open to whatever you experience without fighting. [/su_quote] After university, Jack joined the United States Peace Corps and was soon assigned to work with a tropical medicines team in the Mekong River Valley – aiding the Public Health Service of Thailand. Working for some time in the northeastern Isan region of the country, Jack was able to use this time with the Peace Corps to visit many of the world's oldest Buddhist forest monasteries.  It was here that Jack took his first steps on what would become a lifelong journey of learning and understanding Buddhist mindfulness.  Getting to know Thailand, the Forest Tradition Traditional Thai yantra used by the Kammatthana tradition  The Kammaṭṭhāna Forest tradition of northeastern Thailand is a unique process within Buddhist understanding. It is one which emphasises the balance between thought and action; teaching Buddhism as a process of training the mind to improve one's experiences of everyday life. To the adherents of the Kammaṭṭhāna process, thought precedes all existence.  That Jack Kornfield would find himself working in the Isan region of Thailand is therefore incredibly fortuitous. The introduction of mindful thought into the West can be traced back directly to this time, and Jack's chance encounters with the teachers of the forest tradition. Indeed, as we look back it 's hard to contemplate a way that these lessons could have arrived in the West, had Jack not visited the forest monasteries and become inspired by the teachings of Ajahn Chah at this time.  The Venerable Ajahn Chah The venerable Ajahn Chah was instrumental not only in setting Jack Kornfield on his path to mindfulness but also in helping to introduce the thoughts and concepts of Kammaṭṭhāna to the wider world. A thinker who had himself led an incredible life, Ajahn Chah spent much of his adult life walking across Thailand, living only in woodland and caves as he learned the strict methods of the Forest Tradition. Having eventually established a settled monastery of his own in Ubon Ratchathani Province, Ajahn Chah became an influential mentor to a new generation of Buddhist thinkers.  Jack Kornfield would spend much time with the venerable Ajahn Chah during this period and, under his tutelage, learned the fundamental lessons that he would later develop into Buddhist mindfulness. During his time in Asia, Jack would also meet and study with the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma, and Dipa Ma from India. Together, these three mentors would provide Jack with a broad understanding of meditation, Buddhist tradition, and the Vipassana movement.  Insight Meditation Society From this point, Jack understood the beneficial effect that these lessons could bring to modern Western societies. On his return to the United States, Jack immediately dedicated his time to establishing a centre for the teaching of Vipassana meditation in the west. In 1975 Jack founded the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) with two of his colleagues: Sharon Salzberg, and Joseph Goldstein.  The first retreat centre opened its doors in Barre, Massachusetts in February 1976. The cultural significance of that first Insight Meditation Society is such that it is widely regarded as being one of the very first organisations to pioneer the study of the Vipassanā tradition in the Western hemisphere.  Writing, education and academic teaching It could be said that, on founding that first Insight Meditation Society centre, Jack discovered his true calling in life – that of a teacher. Through his work with the society, Jack developed his approach to teaching the lessons of Vipassanā.  By 1974, Jack had already become a founding faculty member of the Naropa Buddhist University in Boulder, Colorado. This was just the first of many positions Jack has held as an instructor and tutor in Vipassanā techniques. These lessons have taken Jack to countless countries around the globe, sharing his knowledge and communicating his insightful views in a way that connects with audiences of all backgrounds. Jack Kornfield is today considered one of the pre-eminent teachers of mindful thought: his approach is both scientific and spiritual, and always seeks to ground matters of universal significance into a context of the everyday. He holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Saybrook University and has led International Buddhist Teacher meetings with the Dalai Lama.  Today, Jack lives at the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California, which he founded, and where he teaches meditation and mindfulness. A passionate advocate for individual freedoms as well as spiritual well-being, Jack is a keen activist and has pioneered the use of social media and podcasting to share his vision of what a more mindful society can look like.  Jack's books have sold more than one million copies worldwide, and have been translated into twenty languages.  Many guided meditations and mindfulness trainings - for example with Tara Brach are available online.  Model Photo: colourbox.com Photo of Jack Kornfield: Marcy Harbut under CC2.0 License  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  7. The Internet, and especially YouTube, is packed with videos on how to meditate. But where do you start when you are a beginner to meditation? What different approaches do these meditation videos have? And are these videos really good and helpful to start or further develop your practice?  “Meditation is not just sitting in a lotus pose singing kumbaya.” “The scariest thing you can do, is to force your mind to sit still.” “Om means oneness. Om means completeness. Om means peace.” How to meditate There are many introduction videos, or “Meditation 101” videos to be found. One of the most accessible ones is How to meditate on the watchwellcast YouTube channel. This channel was part of a now-defunct website, and consists of videos that give instructions on how to do 100 different wellness exercises in 100 days. Noteworthy topics covered in these other videos include how to be grateful, how to do yoga, how to stop procrastinating, how to apologize, and how to sleep better.  This video on how to meditate is a playful and no-nonsense animation It comes with a pleasant, but slightly quirky female voice-over, made for absolute beginners to meditation. It explains what meditation does - creating focus to the mind and training the brain - and goes over some of the scientifically backed benefits of meditation: a better mood, less physical pain, more blood flow to the brain, and lower blood pressure.  The main emphasis and core of the video is a step-by-step guided introductory meditation, of counting the breath. Although not mentioned in the video itself, this form of meditation is the basis of vipassana, or insight mediation. Within the span of 100 seconds, this how to meditate video will guide you in doing your first meditation. And according to the video, by doing this form of meditation for 10 minutes every day, you will start reaping the benefits of it. If not, you can try another form or technique.  For an absolute beginner, this video is really all you need to get yourself started with meditation. It gives you some easy and compelling reasons to do so, and explains simple and clear enough what technique to use. After doing this form of meditation for a while, or when you are already more versed in meditation techniques, you will probably need deeper material. Either by developing vipasanna further, or moving on to other forms.  The no bullshit guide to meditation A more in-depth and longer introductory video on how to meditate is How to meditate - the no bullshit guide to meditation by Leo Gura of Actualised.org. His popular YouTube channel deals with many different meditation, self-improvement, and self-actualization topics.  In this video, Leo talks on-camera at length, without any cutaways or animations, about his own journey in his practice, and about the benefits of meditation for creating happiness in the present moment. Leo focuses more on the brain health benefits of meditation, ranging from increased productivity and creativity, to the melting of the ego, and the holy grail of meditation: attaining enlightenment.  Clear instructions how to perform the basic breath meditation Leo then goes on to briefly mention different techniques of meditation, before further elaborating on a mindfulness of the breath meditation as well. He gives clear instructions how to perform this basic meditation. Ranging from setting a timer for your practice, how and where to sit, to how to deal with the inevitable thoughts that will come up as you try to keep focused on your breath. Leo also stresses the importance of creating a daily habit of your practice. He emphasizing that some of the benefits of mediation will come only months or years after you have started. He mentions the importance of having a clear goal and vision on why to meditate as well, for what it can do for your life. And by sharing his personal reasons, he encourages us to formulate similar goals and vision to our own practice.  This video is targeted to basically the same people as the first video: beginners that want to start with meditation. The biggest difference between the videos is the amount of time that Leo spends in explaining the scientific background, his own journey, and the process of meditation.  If you prefer this more in-depth approach, and being challenged more about your motivations to meditate, then this video could be a good place to start. Easy mantra meditation For people that already have a meditation practice of vipasanna, including mindfulness of the breath, and are looking for a different technique to add to their practice, or that don’t see themselves focusing on the breath as a basis for meditation, Easy mantra meditation by the Yoga Vidya organization could be a good start. Yoga Vidya is a leading non-profit yoga seminar provider that facilitates retreat centers and city centers in northern Europe.  Easy-to-follow steps to get you started with Om mantra meditation In this video, a male voice-over and a female practitioner on screen demonstrate and explain the basic and easy-to-follow steps to get you started with Om mantra meditation. The difference between this form of meditation and a breath meditation lies mostly in the focus that we create in our minds, either on the mantra or on the breath. The result is the same: that we observe the sensations and thoughts that arise in non-judgmental awareness. A nice addition in this practice is the emphasis on positive affirmations at the end of the meditation that the video guides you through.  As a first start in mantra meditation, this video is a great start. If you want to dive deeper in mantra meditations, then there are more mantra-based meditation videos to be found on this channel. And if the way of instruction of the video appeals to you, then as an added benefit it could open up your practice to include yoga, to be found in other videos on this organization’s channel.  Transcendental Meditation Technique (Don't Pay $1000+) Speaking of mantra meditations: one of the popular but enigmatic examples of this type of meditation is Transcendental Meditation® (TM for short). Based on Vedic traditions, this method was developed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. TM has been made famous by practitioners as diverse as The Beatles, Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, and Russell Brand. What exactly it consists of, seems to be something that you have to pay for in personalized training sessions by authorized teachers.  If you want to catch a glimpse what this type of meditation can do for you, then the short video Transcendental Meditation Technique (Don't Pay $1000+) might be right for you. A free introduction to the basics of TM In this video, a male voice-over takes us through the steps of this form of meditation. It has a static picture of a meditating man on screen as the only visual element. The transcript of the video is listed directly below the video. It might be just as insightful as looking at the video itself. Especially since both video and transcript explain how to choose your mantra. It also explains the steps of the practice, that take much longer than just watching the video. The main essence of transcendental meditation, getting to the “no-thought zone”. How to recognize it, stay in it, or reconnect to it. They are all addressed. It is this same “no-thought zone” that Deepak Chopra calls the field of pure potentially, or pure consciousness.  The video itself is not the best out there. But for people that are attracted to TM, having a free introduction in working with this mantra technique might be all they ever need. Instead of having to pay the high fees. And other videos that also explain the technique for free will show up in your suggested videos on YouTube.  10-Minute Guided Meditation for Self-Compassion For people that want to explore another technique, based on metta, or loving-kindness meditation, the video 10-Minute Guided Meditation for Self-Compassion is a nice place to start. This video is published by Sonima, a wellness brand that empowers people to live healthy, balanced, and happy lives. Self-compassion meditation as a technique has been made famous by the American researcher Kristin Neff, who in her turn drew inspiration from the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.  This is technically not a how to meditate video, but a guided meditation. It is narrated by Jamie Zimmerman, a doctor and practitioner of “meditation medicine” that tragically died in an accident two years ago. There is no visual instruction on how to sit or go through the practice. This guided visualisation meditation, with imagery of nature, people, and wildlife, presumes that you have sat before. That you are already versed in mindfulness of the breath meditation. It takes you through steps in visualizing children at different ages. Projecting your memory of yourself at these different ages. It invites you to use the same words of affirmation that are used in metta meditation, to send wishes of well-being: happiness, love, peace, a live free from suffering and living to the fullest.  If you have never practiced metta meditation and self-compassion meditation before, this video can be a great starter. Especially if you meditate a lot within the vipassana tradition, it can be a real eye-opener on how loving-kindness and self-compassion can further deepen your practice. Sonima states that the video is especially suitable for people that are working on making life changes or personal improvements.  10 Reasons You Should NEVER Meditate Still not convinced that you should dive into meditation yourself? Then you might want to watch 10 Reasons You Should NEVER Meditate .  This playful and funny video made by psychologist, life coach, and author Ralph Smart, gives you ten great reasons why you should (not) meditate. Ralph discusses on-camera some of the benefits of meditation. It ranges from how meditation changes the brain and the way we eat, to how meditation makes you let go of judgment and makes you stop ruminating and blaming yourself. He does all of this in a very mindful, light-hearted and insightful way.  Although not a how-to video itself, this video is a great starter if you first need to convince yourself. Or to be convinced, that delving into meditation is something for you. The promise of meditation, that Ralph stresses as well, is that it makes you live fully in the present moment. Makes you more confident. And, that ultimately, it makes you happier. Now isn’t that something you would NEVER want for yourself?  In researching this article, I watched numerous other videos that are interesting. They are ranging from techniques how to start with zazen meditation, to videos exploring the research and background of popular meditation practices. The videos above are definitely not the end-all-and-be-all to start with meditation. So if you have other videos to recommend, please share them in the comments below.    Modelpicture: Colourbox.com  Written by Arlo LaibowitzArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  8. Many people believe that mindfulness can make us happier. But is there any evidence to back this up? And how does mindful living improve our well-being, our sense of self, our happiness? New research sheds light on some of these fascinating questions.  Does mindfulness really make us happier? If you've been working on living a mindful life, you may instinctively want to answer yes. Perhaps you've reduced the stress in your life, or at least improved your ability to handle it. You may have focused your effort on the things that really matter to you. Or maybe you just feel a greater sense of confidence and comfort in yourself.  But although many of us can feel the benefits in our lives, there isn't a lot of scientific evidence so far to back up these ideas. That's starting to change. New studies shed light not only on whether mindfulness affects psychological well-being but also how.  Two recent studies from researchers in Australia and the United States have examined the ways in which mindfulness affects individuals' sense of self and behaviour. Both provide fascinating insights into the ways in which mindful living can affect fundamental parts of our identity.  Mindfulness and sense of self A 2016 study carried out by researchers at the University of Utah investigated the "self-concept clarity" of university students. Self-concept clarity, or SCC for short, is the extent to which an individual has a clear definition of their own beliefs and traits which remain consistent over time. Individuals with high self-concept clarity have a strong sense of self, a clear image of who they are. This view isn't necessarily accurate, of course - SCC isn't the same thing as self-knowledge - but it's stable.  There is an association with high SCC, positive relationships, high self-esteem and a greater sense of independence. Not much is known about where exactly it comes from. However, this study suggests that the connection is with intentional and non-judgmental awareness. In other words - mindfulness.  The study revealed that more mindful participants had greater self-concept-clarity, and that both mindful living and strong sense of self were correlated with psychological well-being. In fact, the relation between a mindful disposition and well-being through self-concept clarity was higher than the correlation between mindfulness and well-being alone.  The authors of the study conclude that mindful individuals may improve their well-being in several ways. These individuals avoid conflicting self-images, which can lead to distress. They may more frequently identify behaviour that will improve their psychological well-being and sense of self-esteem.  Mindfulness and authenticity A second study, conducted by researchers at the National University of Australia and Catholic University of Australia in 2016, shows some results that reveal further information about the connection between mindful living and values-based actions. According to the study, values-based action - action and behaviour consistent with an individual's values and beliefs - are an important part of the relationship between a mindful disposition and psychological well-being. Individuals who were more mindful tended to act more consistently with their own values and therefore to be happier. In fact, the researchers found that the connection between mindfulness and well-being through values-based action was much stronger than the direct link. Mindful individuals saw an increase in well-being primarily when they showed authenticity in action.  Psychological well-being Both studies suggest a correlation between mindful individuals and psychological well-being. It's worth taking a moment to examine the concept in a little more detail. Psychological well-being (abbreviated PWB) basically reflects what we would think of as happiness: an individual's level of satisfaction with various aspects of their life. It's not a simple concept, though. Well-being breaks down into two further categories: hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Hedonic well-being focuses on experiencing pleasure and avoiding pain. When we're comfortable, well-fed and enjoying ourselves, our sense of hedonic well-being is high. Eudaimonic well-being bases itself more on the happiness that comes from self-actualisation. Our sense of eudaimonic well-being is high when we feel that what we are doing is worthwhile and that we can fulfill our potential. Authenticity of action is vital to this sense of well-being.  Relating authenticity and self-image Both studies may show some of the connection between a mindful disposition and well-being. In the University of Utah study, mindful individuals did not suffer from some of the distress that can come from a confused or contradictory sense of self. They had clearer ideas of who they were. This may have allowed them to select actions and relationships that satisfied their values. In the Australian study, well-being came from authenticity:  Individuals who acted on their values tended to be happier. But of course, the two are inseparable. A strong sense of self is vital to values-based action since people with lower self-concept clarity may not even really be sure of their own values.  Putting it into practice Of course, these are just two studies, and as always further research must happen.  The evidence so far suggests that authenticity may be one of the most important connections between mindful living and well-being. Maintaining a mindful disposition can make us more aware of ourselves and our values, which is vital. But these values won't contribute as much to our well-being unless we put them into action. By identifying what our core beliefs are - what's really important to us - we can identify the actions that we need to carry out to put those beliefs into practice.  Hopefully, putting our core beliefs into practice makes the world a better place. But it's also an important part of building our sense of well-being. When we act with authenticity -- when we're true to our own sense of self -- we develop the habits that contribute to our own happiness.  Images licensed by Ingram Image  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  9. In mindfulness daily, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach are presenting a 40-day introduction for mindfulness and meditation. You can access the daily lessons via an app or online.  About mindfulness daily The lessons are mostly around 10 minutes and they are either taught by Jack or Tara. An explanation about today's subject is followed by a guided meditation to dig deeper into the subject. It is wrapped up with a daily practice to try throughout the day. Hence I would recommend finding some space to incorporate your mindfulness daily practice during the start of your day.  Once you've completed a lesson you can access the following one the next day. This creates a nice pace and you can't rush trough the course. You are given the time to explore each lesson throughout your day. You can always revisit the lessons you've already done. The lessons are divided into four main topics:  Mindfulness Basics Emotional Intelligence Resilience, Healing and Inner Freedom Mindful Living With the latest update of the mindfulness daily app (and I assume the online program as well) each lesson does now also have a name. This makes it much easier to revisit your most influential lessons when you feel like you need them. With this, you can tailor your sittings to your daily needs once you've finished the course by starting out with a subject you'd like to focus on. Which means the app keeps being your little helper even after having finished the course.  The course has a great structure that guides you through all relevant areas of mindfulness without being boring or too demanding. It's suitable for beginners as a first introduction to mindfulness, but also if you are experienced you will find this course helpful and structured and you are likely to discover new aspects of mindfulness for yourself.  Going through 40 aspects in 40 lessons you'll most likely encounter some that seem to be an easy ride and some that touch you on a deeper level. So this is also a great way to explore where to focus on more in your future practice.  Distributed by Sounds True Mindfulness daily is distributed by Sounds True. Which is an independent multimedia publishing company focusing on spiritual traditions, arts and humanities. It was $38 when I bought it - so each lesson comes down to less that $1. Also because with the app or the online access to mindfulness daily you also get access to the free Sounds True content. Or actually the other way around. The app/ website is from Sounds True and you can access the mindfulness daily content there. Sounds True provides you with a fair share of free bonus material. Even the regular newsletters come with free content. So their marketing is actually a win-win deal, they remind you to spend your money with them and give you something nice for free. Fair enough if you ask me.  Their Sounds True library app is a similar deal. It provides you with easy access to meditations, music, mindfulness daily and whatever else you'll buy there in the future. It also tracks the time you've been meditating with the app, offers a meditation timer with different bells and a journal for your experiences. This keeps me from not deleting the app from my phone and even using it on a daily basis. Well done, Sounds True. Looks like you are keeping a happy customer.  My personal experience with mindfulness daily Due to the briefness of each lesson, it's easily incorporated into your morning routine. At least for me, it was easy to sit down for 10 minutes each morning and I didn't skip or postpone a single day. Most of the time I'd even revisit a lesson in the evening again to wrap up my day.  I started with meditation many years ago, but it wasn't until about two years ago that I developed my personal daily routine. Having a structured program is very helpful for me to keep up a daily practice. Even better if it helps me revisit and expand my knowledge and practice. So the structured daily lessons were up my alley to start with. I also realized how I got a bit slack after the course had finished. But I started using single lessons matching my needs that day as an intro to my daily practice.  Furthermore, I admit being a bit of a Tara Brach fangirl. She has a lot of free content out there that I listen to regularly. Normally it's harder for me to concentrate on a subject if I'm just listening and I prefer reading about it. In her case, it's the other way around. I had some troubles reading her book True Refugee. Listening to her talks on the other hand, is a great experience as the way she explains things really resonates with me. So that's one of the main reasons I chose this course.  If you are unsure about whether or not you like Tara Brach's or Jack Kornfields style just check out the free content they provide. Some of it you can also get on Sounds True - for free.     Model photo: colourbox.com  Written by Tine SteissTine is an artist, meditator, media engineer and student of happiness. If she is not traveling she's working on turning her rooftop terrace into an urban garden paradise. Find out more about her on: Instagram Facebook
  10. Vajra Yoga & Meditation – Working From the Inside Out Most yoga practices involve breathing and movement. Some are body-based and focus little on the mind or proper breathing and movement. My first experience with yoga was this kind... Instructors showed off, others in class competed to see who could get into the more difficult pose. This level of competition and showboating didn’t center me, relax me, or bring me any sort of joy.  It took years for me to discover that not all yoga was like the showy gym classes I’d taken. In fact, some instructors and practitioners take their methods to new levels by making the practice their own. Unique...  There are many reasons to make a practice your own. Whether it’s body limitations, personal desire, or simply following your intuition. One woman, Jill Satterfield, created a method called Vajra Yoga & Meditation. In Vajra, she combines mindfulness, meditation, compassion, Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and yoga asana (or pose/position of the body).  Jill Satterfield walks a different path. Her journey of discovering her own process began when she was fairly young, around the age of nineteen. She’d been diagnosed with chronic pain and for years, doctors were unable to find the cause. She endured multiple surgeries and eventually, a doctor found the problem. Surgery repaired some of the issue—see the interview with Jennifer Raye—it didn’t get rid of her pain. Later, Jill was told she’d have to live with the pain or take very risky steps to deaden her nerves.  Jill had already explored movement and some meditation and wasn’t going to take the news lying down. So she decided to work with her mind since that’s where the pain was being registered. After a few years of meditation and specific yoga practices, she managed to heal parts of herself that doctors claimed, wasn’t possible. This led her down the path of thirty-five years of what she coins, integrative healthcare.  What she’s done and continues to do is combine many methods of yoga, meditation, relaxation, mindfulness, and so forth, to achieve her goals. Jill Satterfield teaches internationally. She is a wellness program director, speaks and coaches, and is the founder of Vajra Yoga & Meditation and founder and Director of the School for Compassionate Action: Meditation, Yoga and Educational Support for Communities in Need.  Jill certainly knows her stuff. Shambhala Sun Magazine named her one of the four leading yoga and Buddhist teachers in the country.  A happy and healthy life has more than one piece. While there are many parts to her practice, one of her methods I found helpful is called Checking In. Unlike some practices that have the practitioner focus solely on their breathing and body, during this check in, Jill has the practitioner focus on the room as well.  What temperature is it? Is there sound? Her method broadens the space of which we can be aware of our surroundings and present in them while keeping focus inside the body as well. It’s more of a meditation to use throughout the day or right before your yoga session. Combining the meditation and physical yoga movements really assist with balancing the mind and body.  Jill Satterfield also teaches how to move from the inside out. Rather than the very body-based yoga poses I’d previously tried, Jill teaches how to set the mind and heart straight first. Then go into positions. The difference is rather than a rigid body pose—a thing I struggle with constantly—the body is softer.  An example of this is in her Heart Opening sequence. The idea is to pull from a place of love within, then carry that into our poses. To push that feeling into our bodies and outward into our surroundings. Trying to feel peace from the actual pose has never worked for me. But beginning in the heart and moving outward into the body gives me the inner calm that leads me to feel filled with joy on a daily basis.  Mindfulness practices for yoga and every day. Adding in the Buddhist beliefs takes this practice to a place of even higher intent as it involves a lot more mindfulness than typical yoga. Buddhism is a way of living. Not just a belief, but daily actions. Being mindful means being aware of thoughts and actions. Buddha Net has a Five Minute Introduction to Buddhism where they explain some of the basic principles. Again, much of this is about mindfulness.  To fully understand how all of these things work together and make Jill Satterfield’s practice so effective, I did some research on how mindfulness itself helps us achieve happiness.  In 2012, Berkeley Science Review did a study on mindfulness and published the results. Once completed, researchers found what connects mindfulness with happiness. In their studies, they discuss something called the self-discrepancy gap. What this gap is, is the space between our actual self and our ideal self. It is in this gap that we fill ourselves with self-judgment. These two views of self tend to contradict one another. Thus creating negative emotions because our natural drive is to close the gap between these two selves.  We want to be this but we’re really that. After an eight-week mindfulness-based, cognitive therapy (for depression relapse prevention) session, those that completed the mindfulness therapy had fewer discrepancies between their actual self and ideal self. In essence, the gap became smaller. While the review goes into several reasons as to why this happened, it is clear that mindfulness helps us be present. When we’re present, we’re focused on the here and now. This isn’t to say we can’t have goals, but the practice helps us honor who we are in the moment. It helps us see that the gap between who we are and who we want to be isn’t as big as we thought.  Being mindful—which includes being present in mind and body—directly leads to happiness. It shatters this internal conflict of these two aspects of ourselves.  How your body can teach you to be mindful. The Berkeley Science Review brings me back to what Jill Satterfield shared in her interview with Jennifer. She knew that she needed to listen to her body and mind. That she needed to honor what her body was telling her it needed. She understood that the true healing would happen in her mind and carry out into her body.  If you haven’t tried this type of yoga practice, or if, like me, you were stuck in classes of people showing off, I can’t recommend Jill’s practice enough. She is supportive of people making their practices their own. She coaches as needed because she understands that we know what our bodies need.  The more present we are in our bodies, the faster we can go about healing ourselves. Jill Satterfield serves as an example of what we can achieve when we honour our needs and use integrative therapy to heal.  Modelphoto: Colorbox.com Portrait of Jill Satterfield vajrayoga.com  Written by Sienna Saint-CyrSienna Saint-Cyr is an author, advocate, and the founder of SinCyr Publishing. She speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on the importance of having a healthy body image, understanding enthusiastic consent, using sexuality to promote healing, navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships, having Complex PTSD, and more. Sienna loves sharing her journey of healing and finding happiness with her readers. Along with writing erotica and romance, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships. She writes for several websites. Find out more at https://siennasaintcyr.wordpress.com/.
  11. Meditation has countless forms - which of the many meditation styles is best for you? Research has proved that the effects of meditation can be to reduce pain, lower blood pressure and increase our overall sense of well-being and self-compassion. However, while there is a host of positive claims for the benefits of meditation, there is still much that is not fully understood by science. Mindfulness meditation is sometimes presented by mainstream media as a cure-all. Recent studies indicate that for anxiety and depression, meditation did not seem to be any more effective - yet still effective! - than other forms of treatment, such as medication or exercise. Bearing this research in mind, how do you decide on what personal meditation style is best for your needs and achieve the effects you desire?  Commitment is necessary in order to reap the full benefits. It is essential to find a personal meditation style that you are comfortable with. Finding the best form of meditation means you are more likely to persevere with your practice. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, it is completely subjective. You should choose a type that you feel that speaks to you spiritually.     Try these widely practised meditation styles to find the one that works best for you Below, we will describe some of the more common meditation styles. Before reading on, ask yourself a few questions that will help you discover your best personal meditation style:  Are you trying to empty your mind or focus it?  Do you find it easy to focus when sitting still or do you find it easier when active?  Do you find sounds distracting or calming?  Is darkness relaxing for you?  When assessing the effects of a particular style, you may find it helpful to keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings during and after a sitting.  Focused meditation Suited for beginners and those who need assistance in focusing. Science has shown that practising meditation over years can actually cause the grey matter in the brain to increase in area, so it is well worth finding a form of meditation that will help you persevere. The focused meditation style concentrates on the senses. Visualisation is when you focus on a mental image of an object such as a light or a flower. This is a commonly used technique. Occasionally you may be asked to focus on other senses, like sound or touch. Other focus points include breathing and the flow of energy through your body.  Mantra meditation One of the best meditation styles for those who find silence distracting and find relaxation and peace in repetition. Mantra meditation has been practised for thousands of years. You chant or recite a mantra such as the mystical Sanskrit word “Om”- claimed to be the origin of all sound. Whether you whisper it mentally or chant aloud, repetition allows your mind to relax. Alternatively, you could choose an inspirational phrase that is personal to you. Mantra meditation can be practised in a group or individually.  Movement meditation May suit you if your mind becomes distracted when you are still. Or if you sit at a desk all day and prefer to find tranquillity through action. Movement meditation is a broad category of active meditation styles. Gentle, repetitive movements such as yoga, a walk through the woods, gardening or even housework help to clear your mind and allow it to be in the moment. Research by scientists at Oregon University found a significant decrease in pain experienced by fibromyalgia patients who practised movement meditation.  Transcendental meditation One of the meditation styles that may suit a person looking for a more structured form. Or committed beginners who are ready for a regular practice. Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and with more than five million practitioners worldwide, transcendental meditation is the style which has received the most attention from science. For example, research by the AHA has shown that TM can reduce hypertension. Instead of just following the breath, transcendental meditation uses a series of Sanskrit words and mantras to help you focus. Every student is given an individual mantra, based on factors like gender or birth year. The recommendation for transcendental meditation is to practise in a comfortable seated position, for 20 minutes twice a day.  Spiritual meditation If you thrive in silence, spiritual meditation may be your best personal meditation style. Science shows that spiritual meditation can be very helpful in lowering high blood pressure and preventing heart disease. Similar to prayer, spiritual meditation allows the practitioner to reach a more reflective ad contemplative state through various elements. Whether at home or in a place of worship, you embrace the silence and gradually allow your mind to wander over a personal question or prayer. Some people find that the answer to their deepest questions comes from within. While others feel that they answer comes from outside - from God or the universe.  Mindfulness meditation May suit someone who has no regular access to a group or teacher. Buddhist teachings base themselves on mindfulness meditation. It is an umbrella term for meditation techniques that teach us to accept everything that arises without judgement. To address things that occur and release stress as it arises while nurturing a surrender to things that cannot change. Studies show that mindfulness meditation can be an effective treatment for episodes of depression. It is possible to practice this style of meditation alone. Making it suitable for those who do not have access to a class or teacher.  For many people, meditation induces calmness, relaxation and a sense of well-being. This is not true for everyone. Some potentially negative effects of meditation For many people, meditation induces calmness, relaxation and a sense of well-being. This is not true for everyone. Individuals suffering from mental health problems or who have undergone trauma in the past may find that meditation causes unpleasant or painful memories to arise, which they are not ready to confront.  Long term studies at Brown University are still ongoing. Once complete, science should have a clearer picture of the potential adverse effects of meditation for certain individuals.  Some meditation styles are more difficult than others. For example, if you should visualise a small child and you experienced an abusive childhood, then you should assess whether another form of meditation might benefit you more. If you experience difficulties with your personal meditation style, it may be appropriate to seek help from a support group or psychotherapist. Meditation should not be a self-optimisation goal in-and-of itself but rather a means of developing self-compassion and peace. Be wary of pushing on with a meditation practice if it feels counter-productive.     Modelphoto meditating couple: Colorbox.com Modelphoto movement meditation: Colorbox.com  Written by Guest AuthorWe are happy to publish articles by guest authors that will broaden the perspective and bring new insights. If you are interested in publishing an article here on happiness.org please contact us.
  12. Tara Brach: Portrait of a Writer, Pychologist and Teacher With a PhD Clinical Psychology, Tara Brach is an American psychologist and writer, mostly associated with advocating for the role of Eastern spiritual practices in Western contexts. She grew as a Unitarian and lives in Virginia with her husband, a teacher of meditation and yoga. Tara Brach helped found the Insight Meditation Community in Washington DC in 1998. This spiritual community teaches and practices insight or Vipassana as referred to by Buddhists. Her teaching focusses on drawing attention to the mindful attention to the inner life of people as well as developing a full and compassionate engagement with the world.  Meditation and Teaching A spiritual teacher who travels all over America, Tara Brach teaches online, in written form and also in person. She has gone to Europe to discuss her views on meditation and Eastern spirituality in psychology. Her teaching focusses on the application of what are essentially Buddhist teachings to bring about healing at an emotional level. Her first published work dealt with how practices such as mindfulness can be effective in healing trauma. Other written teachings offer similar suggestions, such as how tapping into inner peace and wisdom can help people who are going through psychological difficulties and stressful situations.  Imperfection is not our personal problem - it is a natural part of existing. - Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance In person, Tara Brach is well-versed as a presenter. In addition, she teaches classes, provides workshops and leads silent meditations. Brach is also well-known as a teacher of mindfulness and meditation on the internet. She produces a regular podcast which is downloaded in the region of a million times each month.  Education and Background Tara Brach gained her qualification in psychology from the Fielding Institute. Her dissertation centres on a ground-breaking analysis of the effectiveness of meditation in the healing of certain eating disorders. As an undergraduate, she received a double major in psychology and political science from Clark University.  It was at this time in her life that she began attending yoga classes, something which led to an interested in exploring Eastern approaches regarding inner transformation. After graduation, Brach chose to spend a decade in an ashram where she developed techniques in concentrative meditation. Later, she attended a Buddhist Insight Meditation retreat run by Joseph Goldstein. During this part of her life, Brach trained her mind in unconditional and loving presence. “I knew this was a path of true freedom,” she says.  Brach bases many of her past teachings around the processional development in her life. It is from her direct personal experiences with the role of Eastern spirituality in her own life, as well as her academic understanding of clinical psychology, that has led to her particular vision for blending Buddhist ideas with psychological ones.  Authorship and Written Works Among the many notable works of Tara Brach is her book, Radical Self-Acceptance: A Buddhist Guide to Freeing Yourself from Shame, which appears in several other languages. The book looks into how crippling self-judgements and inner conflicts can lead to futile perfectionism, loneliness and an over-reliance on self-worth based on work. In it, Brach offers interpretations of Buddhist tales and meditations to show how to overcome such judgements by a radical acceptance of one's self.  Another title worth seeking out is True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. It deals with subject matter such as obsessive behaviour, life-changing illness and relationship breakdown. Brach has also produced a free guide to meditation which are available in several languages. This easy-to-read guide provides entry-level advice for establishing a meditative regime. It is dealing with hindrances to meditation and guidance on how to sustain meditation as a practice.  Online Resources for Tara Brach As mentioned, many of Brach's teachings and ideas in psychology are accessible via the internet, much of it without charge. Although she frequently teaches in person, for many people it is the online world which has brought her vision of a blend Western psychology and Eastern spiritual teachings to the fore. Below is a resource for anyone interested in gaining further insights into her life, works and teaching.  You can find several online courses on mindfulness, which she developed with Jack Kornfield, at "Soundtrue". We've already tried "Mindfulness daily" - an app which provides daily lessons and shot meditations.  Podcasts and Audio Brach's audio podcasts, which includes led meditations, can be opened in iTunes for free. Another place to listen to her talks and other audio freely is via her website which includes an integrated audio player. The archive goes back several years, so there is plenty to hear and learn from. Audio versions of her books on CD are also available to purchase from many retailers that specialise in mindfulness and meditation.  Videos Some of Brach's past talks are available on video. They offer many insights into matters such as awakening consciousness, seeking internal and external truths and spiritual empowerment. While addressing from a lectern, Brach's style is engaging and often compelling while never becoming overly technical in either psychological or spiritual terminology. Her website hosts a number of these videos. She also has her own YouTube channel which includes a fascinating free-to-watch playlist named 'Finding True Refuge'.  Written Word Several online retailers sell Brach's books. Some of these sites specialise in mindfulness and Eastern learning. Many them, such a Good Reads, offer reviews by people who have read her books. These reviews assist general readers in getting to know which of her works might be best as a first choice. Depending on their particular requirements.  Talks and Events As a practising psychotherapist and a meditation teacher, some of Brach's talks and training sessions are for professionals only. For example, some of her groundbreaking work in showing how psychotherapists can integrate mindfulness strategies into their clinical work is conducted in academic institutions in the United States only. However, public events are online. Other than Brach's frequent work with Vipassana meditation instruction, occasional retreat teaching sessions are listed on her website. She also maintains regular updates of her Facebook page which details upcoming talks and public events.  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  13. Want to alter the way your mind works to gain a greater understanding of the here and now? Thinking about which strategies you can use for dealing with pain, inattentiveness or stress? Worried that any approach you might take is not bound up in real scientific research? If so, then MBSR may be the practice you have been looking for all along. Based on the concept: mindfulness that is 'in the moment.' These techniques are simple, anyone can learn them with persistence. Thorough research from various leading medical experts in their fields has revealed some impressive facts about this practice.  The Key Effects of MBSR – What You Need to Know Mindfulness-based stress reduction is something that can bring tremendous benefits to anyone who takes up the practice. While it is not a substitute for treating more serious medical ailments, it does have many benefits. As with most things in life, creating a balance is the key. Once you become better-versed in the mindfulness techniques and training, they can have a widely-accepted therapeutic effect for any of the following conditions:  stress high blood pressure depression chronic anxiety migraine headaches diabetes some heart conditions In particular, common uses for MBSR are for controlling the often debilitating effects of chronic pain. A frequently unwanted symptom of several of the above-listed ailments. But, how can such claims be made? According to Dr Daniel J. Siegel, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, scientific studies and research programs have regularly shown that MBSR is effective in reducing stress in all these conditions and more.  In addition to the medical effects that mindfulness can have, many people use the techniques involved to improve their daily lives. Everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, going for a walk, can all be performed using mindfulness techniques. According to Professor of Medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, taking a mindful approach is as focused on being as fully awake in life as it is when dealing with medical ailments. “It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment", he says. Therefore, stress-reducing mindfulness can have a powerful effect on individuals who consistently practice the techniques. Even those who don't suffer from excessive amounts of anxiety and mental anguish can benefit from mindfulness techniques.  A Brief History of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction The science of mindfulness has been a crucial part in creating its modern history. It had its start in America in 1979. Numbers were small, but as word spread of its positive effects, numbers grew. Currently, courses in mindfulness-based stress reduction are more than 22,000 participants. The thirty-five-year history of the course program has revealed to science that it can deliver a consistent and reliable improvement in individuals suffering from stress and other related symptoms. This betterment is present in both medical and psychological symptoms.  Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are. ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are Pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who successfully brought together modern Western traditions of science and medicine together with ancient mindfulness techniques from the Far East. Indeed, mindfulness can trace its roots back hundreds, if not thousands, of years to transcendentalism and Buddhism. Centred in and around the Middle East, India and China mindfulness takes hold in various religions and philosophies. The word  The word mindfulness is essentially a translation into English of the Indian Pali word sati or smrti in Sanskrit. Sometimes translated as awareness, sati is one of the fundaments of Buddhist thought. These concepts have a broad range of ways in which they can be practised. Similar to anapanasati and satipaṭṭhāna which are popular in Zen Buddhism. These ideas focus on mindfulness and awareness of sensory experiences.  Notable Scientific Studies into the Effects of MBSR According to Philippe R. Goldin and James J. Gross in their study into 'Emotion Regulation in Social Anxiety Disorder' available from the United States National Library of Medicine. One of the key findings of MBSR research is that it has measurable effects on emotional regulation. They point out that reducing stress, anxiety, and depression is possible by using these techniques. This result was due to the modifying emotion regulation abilities which mindfulness practices can create. The study shows that people involved in this research program were able to achieve emotional regulation in a number of different ways. These included changing situations by selection, modifying situations, attentional deployment and response modulation. Another key factor in the scientifically noted emotional regulation detected in participants resulted in cognitive change. Further research studies have been carried out to determine the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction on social anxiety disorder- a common psychiatric condition usually referred to as SAD. According to one critical study, carried out by Koszycki et al. in 2007. Results from the study showed a like-for-like improvement in patients with SAD was achievable by participating in an 8-week MBSR course. Compared with a 12-week cognitive–behavioural group therapy course. Although both programs produced improvements in the mood, functionality, and quality of life for the participants, the study also revealed significantly lower scores for anxiety. Especially with cognitive behavioural therapies compared with MBSR as rated by both clinicians and patients. In a 1998 study conducted on medical students, a control group who underwent an MBSR course showed reduced stress levels. Published in the American Journal of Behavioural Medicine, Shapiro et al.'s study showed that there was a reduction of reports from the group of overall psychological distress including depression. Furthermore, the group stated that they felt increased levels of empathy. They also measured their spiritual existence with higher scores at the end of the course.    Fields of Use for Stress-Reducing Mindfulness As you can see in the video, there are many areas of use for mindfulness-based stress reduction. According to Judith Ockene Ph D at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Early scientific studies showed that psoriasis patients saw improved results after their phototherapy treatments. Two control groups were created. One group listened to a guided mindfulness audio during their treatment. The other group heard no accompanying audio. This study, it should be noted, centred on the physical ailments of psoriasis and not the mental aspects. By simply reducing the stress levels of the patients who underwent their treatments, scientifically demonstrable improvements demonstrated the effects of the physical outcomes from using the mindfulness audio.  Therefore, much of the recent scientific research, understandably, focusses on mental well-being. With a particular focus on conditions like depression. Mindfulness can be a powerful tool in the field of medicine across many disciplines and therapeutic avenues. For example, according to Lawrence Leung, Associate Professor at the Department of Family Medicine at Queen's University, Canada. The MBSR technique is used to help patients cope with chronic non-cancer related pain and a range of other conditions. These matters eventually affect up to half of the world's population at some time or another. With such wide-ranging uses, it seems that the medical possibilities for mindfulness are limitless. All it takes is new ways of imagining its practical application.  You can take the 8-week MBSR course for free:  Online MBSR/Mindfulness (Free) This online MBSR training course is 100% free, created by a fully certified MBSR instructor, and is modelled on the program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the ... Update 24.03.2018: This article was published on April 10th 2017. Meanwhile a new book "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body" by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson was published. Altered Traits is a collaborative overview of the history of research on meditation and an analysis of what claims in the mainstream press are legitimate as opposed to those that are overreaching or simply wrong. For those who are interessted in the purely scientificly provend effects of meditation and how to make the most out of it wen highly recoment this book: "In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that has made them giants in their fields, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson show us the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it. Sweeping away common misconceptions and neuromythology to open readers’ eyes to the ways data has been distorted to sell mind-training methods, the authors demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will not get us to the highest level of lasting positive change—even if we continue for years—without specific additions. More than sheer hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, all of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training. The authors also reveal the latest data from Davidson’s own lab that point to a new methodology for developing a broader array of mind-training methods with larger implications for how we can derive the greatest benefits from the practice." Photo: Colorbox.com  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
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