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  1. Benefits of meditation find roots in the west. The practice of meditation is growing in popularity in the West and so are the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. In a world which can sometimes seem chaotic, people are turning to meditation as an antidote to a multitasking, distracted lifestyle. Consequently increasing their mental and physical well-being. Meditation has its origins in prehistory. The earliest written records, the Vedas of ancient India, date from 1500 BC. As an umbrella term that covers a number of practices, meditation takes numerous forms. One of them is Mindfulness meditation. The participant focuses on the present moment, thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise. Another important one is Loving-kindness meditation. This derives from the Buddhist Vipassana tradition. It emphasises universal love and compassion for others. Many people practice those forms today. Science now backs the benefits of meditation that humans have instinctively understood for millennia.  These scientifically proven benefits mean that it is being recommended as an alternative therapy for a diverse range of conditions, including:  Stress Anxiety Depression Sleep difficulties Increasing happiness Promoting positive thinking Improving relationships Boosting cognitive abilities As science uncovers the secrets of how meditation can improve the function and even change the structures of the brain. Hence its place in increasing the well-being and happiness of both individuals and wider society is assured.  The benefits of meditation reach beyond the mind. Scientists began to attempt to study the effects of meditation on the mind and the body during the 1950s. However, there are flaws in this early science approaches. More recently, studies have used modern techniques such as EEG and fMRI to scan the brain before, during and after meditation. They are therefore allowing the link between meditation and physiological and psychological changes in the body to be studied in depth.  In 2013, a paper published by researchers at John Hopkins University identified 47 well-designed studies that had produced reliable results. Because of that, they concluded that meditation can be as effective as medication for some forms of depression and anxiety. A growing body of science supports the benefits of meditation which include:  Stress relief Doctors are coming to realise that stress is the root cause of many physical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. Meditation allows the body and brain to relax deeply and effectively. Research on PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) patients shows that meditation works:  by balancing the nervous system improving brain coherence restoring hormonal levels to a state of equilibrium The study also provides scientifically proven evidence that meditation helps people to cope better with stressful situations.  Lowering the risk of heart disease High blood pressure is a recognised risk factor for coronary heart disease. A long term study by the AHA shows that the risk of patients suffering from cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis, myocardial ischaemia and atherosclerosis of dying or suffering a heart attack stroke is reduced by 48% when compared to a control group in a similar physical condition who did not meditate.  Stopping smoking Meditation makes giving up smoking easier. The effect of meditating regularly is cumulative and as stress is reduced, so the impulse to smoke is lessened. One study of people meditating daily showed that 50% had given up smoking 2 years into the programme.  Improving cognitive abilities Recent research on a group of participants between 55-75 years old demonstrated that mindfulness meditation techniques improve goal-directed visuospatial attention span. Meditation techniques are useful strategies to slow the cognitive decline experienced in ageing.  Boosting happiness Studies at Kyoto University discovered that the precuneus area of the brain was larger in people who rated themselves as happy and upbeat than in those with a more negative outlook on life. Science has shown that regular meditation can actually boost the brain’s grey matter. It appears that we have the ability to grow our own happiness. Dr Wataru Sato furthermore says that now we understand that meditation increases grey matter in the precuneus, it will be possible to design scientifically-based programmes to grow a happier brain.  Improving the well-being and happiness of employees Contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation and mindful yoga can be helpful to business in boosting the happiness and health of their employees: a happy, healthy workforce is a key to the success of a company. After offering a mindfulness course to 600 of their employees, Transport for London found that 80% had seen an improvement in their relationships and felt more relaxed, more than half felt happier at work and 64% experienced better sleep patterns. Another pay-off for the employer was that absentee rates due to sickness and stress dropped by an astounding 71%.  The scientifically-proven benefits of meditation in creating a happier, healthier and more compassionate society By encouraging us to focus on the present, meditation calms us, empowering us to lead a happier life and to cope with any difficulties life presents. Science shows that meditation is not only an effective therapy for many common diseases but also helps individuals improve their levels of happiness, grow compassion for others and boost their own physical and mental well-being, leading to the development of a compassionate, thriving and resilient society.  Update 24.03.2018: This article was published on January 30th 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."   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.
  2. 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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