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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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Can We Bring Mindfulness to Schools?

With eyes closed and deep breaths, students are learning a new method to reduce anxiety, conflict, and attention disorders. But don’t call it meditation. Rather, its term is mindfulness -meditation’s sidekick.

Studies show that children who practice mindfulness in the classroom were less aggressive, less oppositional toward teachers, and more attentive in class. Those who received the mindfulness training also reported feeling more positive emotion and optimism, and seemed more introspective than children who were on a waitlist for the training.

Many schools are starting to catch on to the benefits of stress-reduction training like mindfulness: Toluca Lake Elementary School in Los Angeles, Mindfulness Awareness Center at UCLA, and  The Center for Mindfulness in MA have been a visionary source for years.

Researchers are even trying to gauge if mindfulness can help children over their entire lifespan, and if it might help inoculate them against psychological problems later in life.

And while some schools have welcomed mindfulness into their curriculum, there’s a lot more ground to cover.

Enter U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan.  He has a dream for America which is to create a society that has healthcare for all, a sustainable eco-system, fosters creativity at the highest levels, and time to connect with family and friends.  He sees us slowing down and becoming kinder and more aware. To help us do this, he advocates training ourselves in mindfulness awareness- starting with our children. He, and others, are successfully introducing this practice in many schools (not to mention the military, healthcare, and even in Congress).

The following is an article by U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan:

Is mindfulness in education just a well-meaning, do-gooder, tree-hugger approach to teaching? U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan says no. It’s proven to give children tools to help them cultivate inner resilience, and the unions that can make teaching those tools in public schools a widespread reality.

Should every school district teach mindfulness—which uses simple, universal techniques to cultivate natural qualities of the heart, mind, and body—to every student in the country? It seems so simple and inexpensive, and its effectiveness is backed by scientific research. What would it look like if we created a curriculum around this research? In fact, several organizations around the country have developed curricula for teaching mindfulness and what is called Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Social and emotional learning focuses on developing emotional resilience skills that, when lacking, can cause poor education outcomes and disrupt the school environment. A student who is bullying, being bullied, or having regular tantrums is not going to get a good education.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) out of Chicago is one of the leading organizations promoting SEL and forms of education that promote resilience in children. The Hawn Foundation is another, and Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) at the Garrison Institute in upstate New York, is yet another. These initiatives have produced very encouraging results with teachers and students. Their programs focus on developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

One of the topics the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, and I have discussed in depth is parenting and education. Jon and his wife, Myla, wrote a book on mindful parenting called Everyday Blessings, since the education and upbringing of children are a significant interest for them. Jon told me that one of the leading figures in the area of mindfulness and schools is Linda Lantieri, who has been an educator in New York City for 40 years. She is one of the most influential people in CASEL. Jon also gave me the book Linda wrote together with Daniel Goleman, Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children. After reading just a few pages, as a member of a House subcommittee that deals with education, I knew I had to meet Linda.

Linda was asked by the September 11th Fund to help the schools at Ground Zero recover from the trauma of the event. She decided to integrate the teaching of mindfulness practices with SEL, which was already happening in many of the schools, and give these skills first to the teachers and parents, and then to the students. One can only imagine the trauma a child would have experienced being close to the twin towers on that fateful day. Linda understands that many children experience traumas in their daily lives that are almost as intense. They grow up in low-income, high-crime areas. They often live in households that have experienced job loss or in which one or both parents are abusive. Over time these stressors have a debilitating effect. These children see so much bad that their brains are in a constant state of anxiety. The stress for many children is constant, and it is often intensified through physical abuse. Based on her experience with the Ground Zero project, Linda decided to start the Inner Resilience Program.

According to Linda, the Inner Resilience Program is about cultivating the inner lives of students, teachers, and schools by integrating social and emotional learning with mindfulness practice. This is a program not only for the disadvantaged; it’s for all children—every child in America in the 21st century lives with lots of pressures. I had all the advantages in school and in life, and yet stress made it hard for me to read, too. No one ever presented an alternative. Linda and her colleagues are committed to giving our children tools that help them find inner resilience and thrive amidst these pressures.

I was so impressed with Linda Lantieri’s work that I invited her to testify before our House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. After learning more from her about what SEL combined with mindfulness practice can do for children, my committee directed almost $1 million in federal money to two school districts to implement mindfulness and SEL, and evaluate its effectiveness. Linda is currently working in the Youngstown and Warren city schools in Ohio, and I predict we will see a transformational shift in these schools. Why do I feel that way? Because I’ve been seeing firsthand what this program can do.

I attended the fourth day of a 5-day training that Linda was giving to the teachers in our Youngstown and Warren program. I’ll never forget walking into the hotel conference room that day. Linda asked me to stop by and say hello. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive. The SEL and mindfulness program for these schools had been completely my idea. I had talked the superintendents into doing it. Now I had to go and see if the teachers were actually responding to it. I was concerned some of the teachers would view this as a well-meaning, do-gooder, tree-hugger approach to teaching that would never work in the heart of inner city Youngstown. I also worried that the Warren teachers didn’t have time to incorporate this teaching in their already overburdened schedules.

As I noticed these thoughts, I started to do a little walking meditation. I focused on my breath and feet as they touched the ground. I focused on not bringing my insecurities to this moment and on just dealing with the situation as it presented itself. I was glad I did, because what I saw inspired me and opened my heart.

As I entered the conference room I could feel a palpable sense of calm. The teachers were on a break and it was quiet. There was not the kind of chatter one would normally hear at a conference coffee break. No one was looking at their watch or the clock. I saw Linda and asked her how it was going.

“Amazing,” she said. The training really resonated with the teachers. I asked a few of the other trainers, and they all said the same thing. Then Linda introduced me to share a few words, which I did briefly.

As I finished up, Linda asked me to stay for one of the exercises. She pulled out a large stuffed globe. Next she asked the teachers to raise their hands and share with the group of 60 teachers, and me, an awareness they discovered during the week of training.

Teacher after teacher stood up, held the globe, and poured their heart out. One said, “I’ve already started treating my own children differently.”

Another said, “I’ve been looking for something like this for 30 years.”

Yet another said she finally realized her problem was that she never took time to care for herself, so how could she possibly be there for her kids? She was excited to start school the next week. Another said she felt reborn as a teacher, returning to why she got into the profession in the first place.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had a huge lump in my throat thinking about how this training can transform our schools and community. Then one of the three male teachers held the globe. I braced for some criticism and my neck stiffened. Maybe this did not touch the men in the room the way it did the women. I was wrong. He talked about going to his son’s soccer game the night before, and he said that he was actually at the soccer game. His mind was not somewhere else. He was with his son. He said he looked at the beautiful sky and the clover grass and found a real sense of peace. It hit me how potent SEL and mindfulness are. They even resonate with ordinary American guys like me and the male teachers I met in Warren, Ohio.

We couldn’t get these kinds of results without lots of local support, and when it comes to public education, union support is vital. Two of the biggest advocates for our local SEL and mindfulness program are the head of the teacher’s union in Youngstown, Will Bagnola, and his wife, Lori. Youngstown has a long history of union membership. As the industrialization of this country grew in the steel belt, unions protected and empowered workers, and made the workplace safer and more humane. The unions were made up of hard-nosed, hardworking people who were willing to fight, and even die, for social justice, fair wages, and safe working conditions. Why is a 50-year-old lifelong union man like Will Bagnola so high on SEL and mindfulness? Because he carries within him the heart of the industrial union movement—a deep desire for better lives for everyone. Will agrees with me that SEL and mindfulness make the workplace a safer and more humane place. The face of the union movement is changing, and I believe Will is going to be lauded as one of the most progressive leaders because of his support and advocacy of SEL and mindfulness. And other unions will follow Youngstown’s lead. Eventually, unions will be negotiating for SEL and mindfulness teacher training throughout the country.

What are your thoughts about integrating mindfulness into schools?  Do you know of any cool existing mindful programs you can share with us?  Please do!

If you enjoyed this article, you will also like: “10 Ways Science Proves Mindfulness Changes Your Life

Congressman Ryan excerpted from A Mindful Nation by Tim Ryan. Copyright ©2012 by Hay House.

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Your New Personal Theme Song; “My Day” by Tarrus Riley

My Day Tarrus Riley

Here’s a video that’s guaranteed to brighten your day with positive vibes, happy faces, and groovy dancehall reggae with a mindful message.

“You can say what you want and do what you want, it’s no concern to me.  Because I have my own vision, my own mission to rule my destiny. Put away your worries, help me sing along….”

Enough said, just click!

 

 

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Tiny Time Machines

Tiny Time Machines Stealing Time Back

by Garni Sohrabian.

once upon a time, before clocks told the time

not yet tomorrow, after yesterday
the time is now, the day today

the clockmaker made a big noisy clock
strange it was and said tick tock tick tock

the time bandit, one noisy day
heard so much noise he could not play

he broke the clock to be free
and made it look like infinity

Garni Sohrabian started a shoe company with a friend right after college. It grew into into nineteen countries and everyone thought he had it all on the outside, but deep inside something was missing. After seven years, he sold his ownership in the shoe company to travel, write, and do some soul searching. After finally finding his soul again, he started tiny time machines with his fellow time bandit friend Armen Mahdessian. Now they break clocks and remind people to be here now. Or as they call it, “steal time back” from the clockmaker!

Be sure to check them out on Facebook.

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Hitting the Wall of Truth

pema chodron on being present

At some point, if you’re fortunate, you’ll hit a wall of truth and wonder what you’ve been doing with your life. At that point you’ll feel highly motivated to find out what frees you and helps you to be kinder and more loving, less klesha driven (having a clouded mind) and less confused. At that point you’ll actually want to be present—present as you go through a door, present as you take a step, present as you wash your hands or wash a dish, present to being triggered, present to simmering, present to the ebb and flow of your emotions and thoughts. Day in and day out, you’ll find that you notice sooner when you’re hooked, and it will be easier to refrain. If you continue to do this, a kind of shedding happens—a shedding of old habits, a shedding of being run around by pleasure and pain, a shedding of being held hostage by worldly concerns.

- Pema Chodron,  “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”

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Glad.is Recommends Emerging Women Live 2014 – October 9th to 12th, 2014

Emerging Women 1

 

With feminine power on the rise, many women are feeling called to create a new kind of work life – one where we can be fully expressed and supported in our lifestyle choices. With technology made more accessible every day, the barriers to starting and growing a business are shrinking, and many women are choosing entrepreneurship as a path to a career of meaning and purpose, creative expression,  and financial success.  Other women in leadership or executive positions are using this paradigm shift to influence change in “the how” of doing business within companies or organizations.

This year’s event will be in New York  at the Sheraton Hotel Times Square. Relax and de-stress in New York  at the Sheraton Hotel Times Square and nourish yourself with integrative practices such as yoga, dance, and meditation.

At Emerging Women Live each participant will be introduced to a facilitated peer circle of about 15 participants at the event. These circles will address issues that are specific to the people in the group, questions or comments that arise from the material on the main stage, and themes that are emerging from the tribe. These circles are meant to be seeds for connection, peer support, and mentor-ship, and tied to many other circles as we continue to expand our reach. We are all in various stages of becoming, and there is no stronger foundation than to emerge within the support and wisdom of community.

Whether you are an executive, an entrepreneur, or a creative – if you are committed to expressing your unique gifts to the world, at Emerging Women Live you’ll find a community of like-minded women ready to help you succeed.

Emerging Women Live 2014 is a wonderful event for all women. Join Glad.is at th eSheraton Hotel Times Square in New York City for an enlightening experience.

For more information on Emerging Women Live 2013 click here.

 

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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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