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10 Ways Science Proves Mindfulness Can Change Your Life

science and mindfulness

Mindfulness Meditation is a simple yet powerful practice that has been practiced for thousands of years, and despite it’s solid reputation to improve quality of life, most still allow its possibilities to slip under our radar.  It’s a classic case of thinking a simple answer can’t possibly be the remedy to a complex problem.  But it is.

The concept of mindfulness is defined as: “The nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.” Mindfulness invites us to pay attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. And the scientific community’s interest in mindfulness has exploded over the last several years, with most major Universities adding mindfulness centers on their campuses. And the number of research papers on it’s benefits is now limitless.  Here are 10 research highlights of the benefits you can reap from incorporating just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation into your day:

1. It lowers stress — literally. Research published just last month in the journal Health Psychology shows that mindfulness is not only associated with feeling less stressed, it’s also linked with decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

2. It lets us get to know our true selves. Mindfulness can help us see beyond those rose-colored glasses when we need to really objectively analyze ourselves. A study in the journal Psychological Science shows that mindfulness can help us conquer common “blind spots,” which can amplify or diminish our own flaws beyond reality.

3. It can make your grades better. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that college students who were trained in mindfulness performed better on the verbal reasoning section of the GRE, and also experienced improvements in their working memory. “Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences,” the researchers wrote in the Psychological Science study.

4. It changes the brain in a protective way. University of Oregon researchers found that integrative body-mind training — which is a meditation technique — can actually result in brain changes that may be protective against mental illness. The meditation practice was linked with increased signaling connections in the brain; something called axonal density, as well as increased protective tissue (myelin) around the axons in the anterior cingulate brain region.

5. It makes you a better person. Sure, we love all the things meditation does for us. But it could also benefit people we interact with, by making us more compassionate, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities found that meditation is linked with more virtuous, “do-good” behavior.

6. It could help the elderly feel less lonely. Loneliness among seniors can be dangerous, in that it’s known to raise risks for a number of health conditions. But researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that mindfulness meditation helped to decrease these feelings of loneliness among the elderly, and boost their health by reducing the expression of genes linked with inflammation.

7. It could make your health care bill a little lower. Not only will your health benefit from mindfulness meditation training, but your wallet might, too. Research in the American Journal of Health Promotion shows that practicing Transcendental Meditation is linked with lower yearly doctor costs, compared with people who don’t practice the meditation technique.

8. It lowers depression risk among pregnant women & teens. As many as one in five pregnant women will experience depression, but those who are at especially high risk for depression may benefit from some mindfulness yoga. “Research on the impact of mindfulness yoga on pregnant women is limited but encouraging,” study researcher Dr. Maria Muzik, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. “This study builds the foundation for further research on how yoga may lead to an empowered and positive feeling toward pregnancy.”

It also lowers depression risk among teens. Teaching teens how to practice mindfulness through school programs could help them experience less stress, anxiety and depression, according to a study from the University of Leuven.

9. It supports your weight-loss goals. Trying to shed a few pounds to get to a healthier weight? Mindfulness could be your best friend, according to a survey of psychologists conducted by Consumer Reports and the American Psychological Association. Mindfulness training was considered an “excellent” or “good” strategy for weight loss by seven out of 10 psychologists in the survey.

10. It helps you sleep better. We saved the best for last! A University of Utah study found that mindfulness training can not only help us better control our emotions and moods, but it can also help us sleep better at night. “People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress,” study researcher Holly Rau said in a statement.

We each have our own time when we are ready to go from “hearing about” something to actually incorporating it into our daily lives. When you’re ready, it’s there for you.

If you liked this you will also enjoy: “10 Things Science and Buddhism Say Will Make You Happy”.

Also: If you’re looking for a place to practice mindful meditation, we have some great recommendations.

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How To Find Your Soul in a Soul-less Place

connect to your soul

By Lorraine Pursell

I have been crying since Saturday.  It’s been a long week, but a transformational one. I openly share my journey with you because I do not want you to feel alone or that something is wrong with you when you struggle. We think that there is something wrong with us if we find ourselves in a valley.  Be reminded that there are valleys there, and we all have them!

We must work hard to stay soulful. Tears and struggle remind us that we have a soul. Distractions abound. Finding our still small voice is a challenge and certainly not fashionable.  On this quest, you will likely be alone among your friends and colleagues –  it’s easier to buy gadgets, apps, play online games, surf Facebook, etc. Sometimes I feel that the World Wide Web sucks our souls from us when we log on and look into our screens. What about quiet time? How should we know who we are?

Transformation is sweet. It’s the sunshine at the top of the valley. When we have a breakthrough after faithfully traversing the valley of the shadow of death (because it feels like nothing short of that), only then can we see the bigger picture. “Oh, that’s what that was about.”  Television and computers distract us from this inner journey of personal growth, I am sorry to say.

How can we stay connected to our soul in a soulless environment? By unplugging. By turning off the technology.  By being alone with ourselves. By going within and asking how we feel right now. By honoring those feelings. By honoring ourselves and what is most important to us. By asking if this was my last month on earth, what would I want it to be about.

Yes, we are in the journey of the human experience in the 21st century. Can we stay connected to our souls and not combust? Can we take it straight  - without drugs and alcohol to numb our inner confusion and distress? Can we be honest with ourselves about who we are and what we really want? Because if not, we will be washed up onto shores of isolated islands, having lost true friendship with ourselves.

How do we find true friendship with ourselves? Well, first step, I think, is the quiet time. Can we carve out even 5 minutes in the am and pm to sit in silence, close our eyes and let distracting thoughts float through our minds without engaging them? I know I need help with this. It is the quest of the inner terrain- this is the final frontier. And the payoff is that you are your own best friend for life.

There also is the meditative walk. Take a walk in nature or even around your garden, noting the beauty and the beings, bugs, twigs, leaves, rocks, soil. Take it in and let it enrich your soul. Be still with it. And then there is gratitude. Make lists of what you appreciate about your loved ones, and even those you do not love but are a pain in your side. Document and profess their positive aspects.

And then there is you. Make a list of the things you love about you, I know this is one of the hardest exercises I give my clients because we are becoming a soulless society. Go ahead. Right now, write 5 things you love about you. It’s okay. You are not conceited by doing so, you are appreciating the gifts that are yours. As you love your self-appreciation, you will beam and glow, and THEN you will be a light unto the world.

Blessings on you, dear reader. We are in the journey together. We all take the same steps and it is all okay. Let it flow. Let’s stay in touch with our inner selves as we move through each valley into each transformation. It’s a beautiful thing to be human even though it hurts. Remember when it hurts, we are reminded that we have a soul, thank God. Smile at strangers and send love to others you do not know- they need it just like we do.

 

About Lorraine:

Once a clueless single mom, Lorraine vowed to be the best parent possible and underwent her own Parent Evolution. Her Master’s is in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, she’s a board certified Educational Therapist, and since 1995 she’s guided and coached individuals, parents, couples and families into loving, life-long relationships through TV, radio, video, speaking, writing, and private practice. How to Raise Safe, Happy and Confident Kids is one of her signature programs. She is the  author of Affirmations for Kids and Parents CD and Book programs in 4 versions, a columnist for The Williston Herald, and has a weekly radio show, Mental Health Mondays. Lorraine is a featured author in an upcoming Morgan James Publishers, NY book available for sale Fall, 2014.

Subscribe to Uplift Your Inbox at www.LorrainePursell.com. You will get this article, Lorraine’s Parent Secrets and her weekly radio show. Lorraine is a Parent and Couples’ Mentor specializing in creating inner and outer harmony in families and individuals since 1995. Copyright 2006-2015 Lorraine Pursell.


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Book Review: Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being

mind body spirit retreats, books, Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being is a beautiful little spiral bound book with an accompanying CD created by the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

This is one of several routines I have been doing everyday for the past five years. It is so simple to do that I even do it when I am on vacation or I am a bit under the weather. Some people are under the misconception that being mindful means sitting quiet and still with focused attention. These exercises demonstrate how you can have focused awareness while moving, promoting well-being through mindful movement.

Here is a Youtube video of Thich Nhat Hahn doing these exercises:

It may be hard to believe, but he is in his 80’s, yet notice the control he has over his movements.

The beauty of this book and CD is that young and old alike are capable of doing these mindful movements. As soon as our granddaughter is able to keep her balance on one leg, I plan to teach her this routine. It is never too young to teach mindfulness, and it is never too old to focus on our well-being.

To purchase this book, please click here (thanks for supporting Glad.is by purchasing through our Amazon store!)

Thank you to Paula Wilkes for submitting this book review. You may also be interestred in an article she recently wrote entitled “Do You Have a Spiritually Sensitive Child:” To learn more about Paula Wilkes, click here.

 

 

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Feb 23 – Hugging Meditation

hugging mediation

The Hugging Meditation by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

With the first breath, become aware that you are present in this very moment and feel happy. With the second breath, become aware that the other person is present in this moment and feel happy as well. With the third breath, become aware that you are here together, right now, on this Earth. We can feel deep gratitude and happiness for our togetherness. Finally, release the other person and bow to each other to show your thanks.

 

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Nov 26

what does meditation do?

What is meditation? It is self-empowering, it clears the mind of unwanted clutter, reduces stress and anxiety, brings peace, bliss and provides higher creativity and better personal relationships. (wow, it really does!)

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Mindfulness for Brainiacs


UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC)

This new institute at UCLA is one of our staff favorites.  We love their many courses and seminars on mindfulness and meditation which are not just interesting, but also backed up with solid scientific research.  Bring even your most skeptical friend to a day-long intensive with PhDs and world-renown Scientists and they’ll be converted to the benefits of being present with no turning back.
MARC offers a variety of courses – from weekly free mediation sessions, to on-going courses, day long retreats and Workshops hosted by a variety of best in class Professors, Authors and Researchers.   We recently attended a session by the authors of “You are Not Your Brain” and were fully blown away.
MARC events are listed on Glad.is

And check their website for more information and directions: http://marc.ucla.edu/UCLA Mindful Center

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Against the Stream Meditation Society

When you walk into the warehouse space in Santa Monica that Against the Stream calls home, it looks a little like a meeting for the Williamsburg Motorcycle club. Tattoos abound, as do hipsters.  But just as it strikes you, that despite appearances, everyone here is so genuinely nice and friendly, you remember that it IS a Buddhist gathering after all.  Noah Levine, Buddhist teacher and author of Dharma Punx founded the original center on Melrose in 2008.  They’ve since added the second center in Santa Monica, and have affiliated groups across the U.S.

We happened to catch a Monday meditation evening where Noah himself was teaching a Dharma Talk on the subject of Equanimity. He is charismatic and entertaining, and delivers the ideas of Buddhism in the simple, no-nonsense approach you would expect from a bald guy with big pipes and a lot of ink. (On Equanimity, Noah explains…”One of a Buddhists goal is to develop equanimity. That is to gain the ability to accept what’s happening to you, whether it’s good or bad. But that doesn’t mean that you should walk around like a Zombie just because you’re f*cking spiritual. No, you just learn to feel emotion in an appropriate way.“)  True, that.

Bring your least spiritual spiritual friend and attend one of their Monday (7:30 pm) session in Santa Monica. Or Wednesdays on Melrose (7:30)  Check the website below for more information.

 

From their website: www.againstthestream.org/

We welcome people from all racial, economic, sexual, social, political and religious backgrounds and preferences and believe that the path of awakening is attainable by all and should be available to all.

Weekly Meditation Group with teachers alternating between Noah Levine and Matthew Brensilver. Suitable people beginning meditation practice or those with previous experience – no registration required. Donation only. Just drop in.

Who We Are: Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society was founded by Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx and Against the Stream, to make the teachings of the Buddha available to all who are interested. We wish to create and sustain communities of healthy, accountable, wise and compassionate people from every walk of life.

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