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The benefits of mindfulness

 

Lots of my clients say that they don’t have time for even a minute to spend meditating and yet the average person  in the UK  spends (during 2014) 3 hours, 44 minutes, 30 seconds a day watching TV……………..3 hours, 44 minutes and 30 seconds a day !!!!  And in Australia the average person spends one entire month in a year watching TV or about 3 hours per day.  The average global Facebook user spends about 20 minutes a day, but in the US its more like 40 minutes and overall back in 2014 the average person spent 1.72 hours per day on social networks.  Meanwhile just meditating for a few minutes a day has some fairly useful outcomes!

The proven benefits of meditation include:

  • An imporvement to general wellbeing
  • Helps with our ability to manage pain
  • Improving brain functioning
  • Has a positive effect on the aging process
  • Improves our immune system and helps with diabetes
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces stress hormones
  • Helps with drug and alcohol addiction

There’s a lovely Gandhi quote which really sums up the importance of meditation.  At the time he was busy trying to over throw the British Empire, the largest empire the world has ever seen.  And many of his supporters told him that he did not have time to meditate for an hour.  He responded

“I need to set aside one hour a day to do meditation.”  One of the backers said, “oh no, you can’t do that! You are too busy, Gandhi!”  Gandhi said, “Well, then, I now need to set aside two hours a day to do meditation.”

How busy are we?

Are we as busy as a man trying to over throw an empire and lead 500 million people , with thirty different languages and at least four major religions to democracy?  Or are we making ourselves maddeningly busy? Why do we pack all this other stuff in and prioritise working for people like Mark Zuckerberg rather than helping ourselves to thrive?  If this article doesn’t persuade you then read all the journals attached to this piece and then look for a meditation and mindfulness course !

Mindfulness benefits

Thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers indicate that mindfulness has a beneficial effect on mental and physical wellbeing.  Just a few minutes a day can have a significant impact upon your health and wellbeing.  Here are a few of the main proven benefits of mindfulness meditation:

General wellbeing

  • Anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion and irritability all decrease with regular sessions of meditation.1
  • Memory improves, reaction times become faster and mental and physical stamina increase.2 
  • Regular meditators are happier and more contented, while being far less likely to suffer from psychological distress.15
  • Mindfulness is at least as good as drugs or counselling for the treatment of clinical-level depression. 16
  • Meditation disrupts non serving habitual thought patterns, liberates attentional resources and takes them away from anxiety stimulating events 29
  • Participants engaged in a loving kindness meditation enjoyed a sustained and long lasting improvement in their self reported satisfaction with life 31

Helps with our ability to manage pain

  • Mindfulness can dramatically improve our ability to handle pain and the emotional reaction to it.5,6 Trials indicate that average pain ‘unpleasantness’ levels can be reduced by 57 per cent while accomplished meditators report reductions of up to 93 per cent.7
  • Clinical trials show that mindfulness improves mood and quality of life in chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia8 and lower-back pain,9 in chronic functional disorders such as IBS,10 and in challenging medical illnesses, including multiple sclerosis11 and cancer.12

Improving brain functioning

  • Mindfulness improves working memory, creativity, attention span and reaction speeds. It also enhances mental and physical stamina and resilience.13
  • Meditation improves emotional intelligence.14
  • Meditation enhances brain function. It increases grey matter in areas associated with self-awareness, empathy, self-control and attention.18 It soothes the parts of the brain that produce stress hormones19and builds those areas that lift mood and promote learning.20 
  • 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 and also experienced improvements in their working memory.
  • During an 8 week mindfulness course, participants revealed greater left -sided anterior brain activation, which has repeatedly been shown to be associated with approach related emotions 30

Addictions and drug taking

  • Mindfulness reduces addictive and self-destructive behaviour. These include the abuse of illegal and prescription drugs and excessive alcohol intake.17

Has a positive effect on the aging process

  • It reduces some of the thinning of certain areas of the brain that naturally occurs with ageing.21

Improves our immune system and helps with diabetes

  • Meditation improves the immune system. Regular meditators are admitted to hospital far less often for cancer, heart disease and numerous infectious diseases.22
  • Mindfulness may reduce ageing at the cellular level by promoting chromosomal health and resilience.23
  • Meditation and mindfulness improve control of blood sugar in type II diabetes.24

Reduces blood pressure

  • Meditation improves heart and circulatory health by reducing blood pressure and lowering the risk of hypertension. Mindfulness reduces the risks of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease and lowers its severity should it arise.25

Reduces stress hormones

  • Participants on a three-month meditation retreat had a significant reduction in cortisol 28

References

1 Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Kreitemeyer, J. & Toney, L. (2006), ‘Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness’, Assessment, 13, pp. 27–45.

2 Jha, A., et al. (2007), ‘Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention’, Cognitive Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, pp. 109–19; Tang, Y. Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007), ‘Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 104(43), pp. 17152–6; McCracken, L. M. & Yang, S.-Y. (2008), ‘A contextual cognitive-behavioral analysis of rehabilitation workers’ health and well-being: Influences of acceptance, mindful- ness and values-based action’, Rehabilitation Psychology, 53, pp.479–85; Ortner, C. N. M., Kilner, S. J. & Zelazo, P. D. (2007), ‘Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task’, Motivation and Emotion, 31, pp. 271–83; Brefczynski-Lewis, J. A., Lutz, A., Schaefer, H. S., Levinson, D. B. & Davidson, R. J. (2007), ‘Neural correlates of attentional expert- ise in long-term meditation practitioners’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 104(27), pp. 11483–8.

3. Brown, Christopher A., Jones, Anthony K. P., (2013) ‘Psychobiological Correlates of Improved Mental Health in Patients With Musculo- skeletal Pain After a Mindfulness-based Pain Management Program’, Clinical Journal of Pain, 29(3), pp. 233–44.

4. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., Gordon, N. S., McHaffie, J. G. & Coghill, R. C. 2011, ‘Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modu- lation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation’, Journal of Neuroscience, 31(14), p. 5540. See also the accompanying comments regarding mor- phine effectiveness by Fadel Zeidan of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine at http://ow.ly/i8rZs.

5. Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., Burncy, R. & Sellers, W. (1986), ‘Four- year follow-up of a meditation-based program for the self- regulation of chronic pain: Treatment outcomes and compliance’, Clinical Journal of Pain, 2, p. 159; Morone, N. E., Greco, C. M. & Weiner, D. K. (2008), ‘Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: A randomized controlled pilot study’, Pain, 134(3), pp. 310–19; Grant, J. A. & Rainville, P. (2009), ‘Pain sensitivity and analgesic effects of mindful states in zen medi- tators: A cross-sectional study’, Psychosomatic Medicine, 71(1), pp. 106–14.

6. Brown, Christopher A., Jones, Anthony K. P. 2013, MD, ‘Psycho- biological Correlates of Improved Mental Health in Patients With Musculoskeletal Pain After a Mindfulness-based Pain Management Program’, Clinical Journal of Pain, 29(3), pp. 233–44.

7. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., Gordon, N. S., McHaffie, J. G. & Coghill, R. C. 2011, ‘Brain Mechanisms Supporting the Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation’, Journal of Neuro- science, 31(14), p. 5540. See also the accompanying comments regarding morphine effectiveness by Fadel Zeidan of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine at http://ow.ly/i8rZs.

8. Grossman, P., Tiefenthaler-Gilmer, U., Raysz, A. & Kesper, U. (2007), ‘Mindfulness training as an intervention for fibromyalgia: evidence of postintervention and 3-year follow-up benefits in well-being’, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 76, pp. 226–233; Sephton, S. E., Salmon, P., Weissbecker, I., Ulmer, C., Floyd, A., Hoover, K., et al. (2007), ‘Mindfulness meditation alleviates depressive symptoms in women with fibromyalgia: results of a randomized clinical trial’, Arthritis & Rheumatism, 57, pp. 77–85; Schmidt, S., Grossman, P., Schwarzer, B., Jena, S., Naumann, J., and Walach, H. (2011), ‘Treating fibromyalgia with mindfulness-based stress reduction: results from a 3- armed randomized controlled trial’, Pain 152, pp. 361–9.

9. Morone, N. E., Lynch, C. S., Greco, C. M., Tindle, H. A. & Weiner, D. K. (2008b), ‘“I felt like a new person” – the effects of mindfulness med- itation on older adults with chronic pain: qualitative narrative analysis of diary entries’, Journal of Pain, 9, pp. 841–8.

10. Gaylord, S. A., Palsson, O. S., Garland, E. L., Faurot, K. R., Coble, R. S., Mann, J. D., et al. (2011), ‘Mindfulness training reduces the sever- ity of irritable bowel syndrome in women: results of a randomized controlled trial’, American Journal of Gastroenterology, 106, pp. 1678–88.

11. Grossman, P., Kappos, L., Gensicke, H., D’souza, M., Mohr, D. C., Penner, I. K., et al. (2010), ‘MS quality of life, depression, and fatigue improve after mindfulness training: a randomized trial’, Neurology, 75, pp. 1141–9.

12. Speca, M., Carlson, L., Goodey, E. & Angen, M. (2000), ‘A random- ized, wait-list controlled clinical trial: the effect of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients’, Psychosomatic Medicine, 62, pp. 613–22.

13. Jha, A., et al. (2007), ‘Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention’, Cognitive Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, pp. 109–19; Tang, Y. Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007), ‘Short-term meditation training improves attention and self- regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 104(43), pp. 17152–6. McCracken, L. M. & Yang, S.-Y. (2008), ‘A contextual cognitive-behavioral analysis of rehabilitation workers’ health and well-being: Influences of acceptance, mindfulness and values-based action’, Rehabilitation Psychology, 53, pp.479–85; Ortner, C. N. M., Kilner, S. J. & Zelazo, P. D. (2007), ‘Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task’, Motivation and Emotion, 31, pp. 271–83; Brefczynski-Lewis, J. A., Lutz, A., Schaefer, H. S., Levinson, D. B. & Davidson, R. J. (2007), ‘Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 104(27), pp. 11483–8.

14. Brown, Kirk Warren, Ryan, Richard, M. (2003), ‘The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), pp. 822–48; Lykins, Emily L. B. & Baer, Ruth A. (2009), ‘Psychological Functioning in a Sample of Long-Term Practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation’, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), pp. 226–41.

15. Ivanowski, B. & Malhi, G. S. (2007), ‘The psychological and neuro- physiological concomitants of mindfulness forms of meditation’, Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 19, pp. 76–91; Shapiro, S. L., Oman, D., Thoresen, C. E., Plante, T. G. & Flinders, T. (2008), ‘Cultivating mindfulness: effects on well-being’, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(7), pp. 840–62; Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E. & Bonner, G. (1998), ‘Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and pre- medical students’, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, pp. 581–99.

16. See NICE Guidelines for Management of Depression (2004, 2009). Ma, J. & Teasdale, J. D. (2004), ‘Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: Replication and exploration of differential relapse preven- tion effects’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, pp. 31–40; Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G. & Teasdale, J. D., Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: a new approach to preventing relapse (Guilford Press, 2002); Kenny, M. A. & Williams, J. M. G. (2007), ‘Treatment-resistant depressed patients show a good response to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy’, Behaviour Research & Therapy, 45, pp. 617–25; Eisendraeth, S. J., Delucchi, K., Bitner, R., Fenimore, P., Smit, M. & McLane, M. (2008), ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Treatment-Resistant Depression: A Pilot Study’, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 77, pp. 319–20; Kingston, T., et al. (2007), ‘Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for residual depressive symptoms’, Psychology and Psychotherapy, 80, pp. 193–203.

17. Bowen, S., et al. (2006), ‘Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Use in an Incarcerated Population’, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 20, pp. 343–7.

18. Hölzel, B. K., Ott, U., Gard, T., Hempel, H., Weygandt, M., Morgen, K. & Vaitl, D. (2008), ‘Investigation of mindfulness meditation prac- titioners with voxel-based morphometry’, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 3, pp 55–61; Lazar, S., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J., Greve, D., Treadway, M., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B., Dusek, J., Benson, H., Rauch, S., Moore, C. & Fischl, B. (2005), ‘Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness’, NeuroReport, 16, pp. 1893–7; Luders, Eileen, Toga, Arthur W., Lepore, Natasha & Gaser, Christian (2009), ‘The underlying anatom- ical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter’, Neuroimage, 45, pp. 672–8.

19. Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feg, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., Sui, D., Rothbart, M., Fan, M. & Posner, M. (2007), ‘Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, pp. 17152–6.

20. Davidson, R. J. (2004), ‘Well-being and affective style: Neural sub- strates and biobehavioural correlates’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 359, pp. 1395–1411.

21. Lazar, S., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J., Greve, D., Treadway, M., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B., Dusek, J., Benson, J., Rauch, S., Moore, C. & Fischl, B. (2005), ‘Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness’, NeuroReport, 16, pp 1893–7.

22. Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J. Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K. & Sheridan, J. F. (2003) ‘Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation’, Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, pp. 564–70; Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feg, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., Sui, D., Rothbart, M., Fan, M. & Posner, M. (2007), ‘Short-term med- itation training improves attention and self-regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, pp. 17152–6.

23. Epel, Elissa, Daubenmier, Jennifer, Tedlie Moskowitz, Judith, Folkman, Susan & Blackburn, Elizabeth (2009), ‘Can Meditation Slow Rate of Cellular Aging? Cognitive Stress, Mindfulness, and Telomeres’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1172; Longevity, Regeneration, and Optimal Health Integrating Eastern and Western Perspectives, pp. 34–53.

24. Walsh, R. & Shapiro, S. L. (2006), ‘The meeting of meditative disci- plines and Western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue’, American Psychologist, 61, pp. 227–39.

25. Ibid. 26. Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., Burncy, R. & Sellers, W. (1986), ‘Four-year follow-up of a meditation-based program for the self- regulation of chronic pain: Treatment outcomes and compliance’, Clinical Journal of Pain, 2, p. 159; Brown, Christopher A., Jones, Anthony K. P. (2013), ‘Psychobiological Correlates of Improved Mental Health in Patients With Musculoskeletal Pain After a Mindfulness-based Pain Management Program’, Clinical Journal of Pain, 29(3), pp. 233–44; Lutz, Antoine, McFarlin, Daniel R., Perlman, David M., Salomons, Tim V. & Davidson, Richard J. (2013), ‘Altered anterior insula acti- vation during anticipation and experience of painful stimuli in expert meditators’, Journal NeuroImage, 64, pp. 538–46.

27.Baliki, Marwan N., Bogdan, Petre, Torbey, Souraya, Herrmann, Kristina M., Huang, Leijan, Schnitzer, Thomas J., Fields, Howard L. &, Vania Apkarian, A. (2012), ‘Corticostriatal functional connectivity predicts transition to chronic back pain’, Nature Neuroscience, 15, pp. 1117–19.

 28. Jacobs TL, Shaver PR, Epel ES, Zanesco AP, Aichele SR, Bridwell DA, Rosenberg EL, King BG, Maclean KA, Sahdra BK, Kemeny ME, Ferrer E, Wallace BA, Saron CD. Health Psychol. 2013 Oct;32(10):1104-9. doi: 10.1037/a0031362. Epub 2013 Mar 25.

29.  Baer 2003

30. Davidson et al 2003

31. Fredricson 2007

 

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