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Month: October 2015

Research MRI: Meditation Actually Alters Area’s of The Brain

Research: 8 Weeks is Enough Meditation to Alter Gray Matter

to Increase Awareness AND Decrease Stress

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There is a reason why nearly 100,000 viewers have chosen to share this article across the major social media platforms. The research done here demonstrates a connection between the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practice related to mood and attention and stress resiliency with changes that are taking place in the make up of the brain.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about his research is that it found that in an eight week mindfulness meditation program the amount of the brain’s grey matter BOTH increased AND decreased. It increased in the area associated with conscious awareness in the brain’s area of executive function…the cortex, while at the same time decreasing in the area associated with the stress response (the amygdala).

This study presents some very interesting results as brain science advances.

Check out the details below. Fascinating…

Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. In a study that will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging  Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

For the current study, magnetic resonance (MR) images were taken of the brain structure of 16 study participants two weeks before and after they took part in the eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) Program at theUniversity of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness . In addition to weekly meetings that included practice of mindfulness meditation — which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of sensations, feelings, and state of mind — participants received audio recordings for guided meditation practice and were asked to keep track of how much time they practiced each day. A set of MR brain images was also taken of a control group of non-meditators over a similar time interval.

The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditation-associated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress

It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,” says ,Britta Holzel author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

Thanks to Harvard.edu where you can read the rest of this article.

 

Gratitude…Antidote to Stress and Anxiety

Gratitude: Simple Things Become Extraordinary!

by Michael Gusack

Good Day (or evening) !

When you are distressed and anxious and upset with your current situation, you often hear that you need to  “count your blessings”. That is supposed to ease your concerns. Today, for a moment, consider this.

Gratitude can perhaps best be cultivated when you appreciate the simple things in life. The ordinary things. These are the things…or people…you normally take for granted:

* A bed to sleep in
* The ability to breathe in a breath of fresh air…your lungs, your mouth, your nose
* A car to drive so you don’t have to walk long distances
* The Earth your feet can touch…Thank You!
* Breakfast…Yes!
* Your children…especially the one who drives you crazy:-)
* Your life partner…Eckhart Tolle says “Relationships are not there to make us happy. They are there to make us conscious.” So many opportunities:-)
* Being conscious (while awake…no sleep walking:-)
* Sleep…Ahhh!
* Eyesight
* Your heart…what an amazing machine
* Hearing…my hearing aids help me appreciate what hearing I have
* A cool breeze

And so on. And if you are lacking something on the above list, then, certainly, the idea is to appreciate what you DO have in the interest of balance and perspective.

Here’s a practice I learned years ago as a walking meditation:

1. As you walk with each left or right step in sequence repeat 3 times
Thank You!, Thank You!, Thank You! (appreciation to the Earth for being there for your feet to touch…or, of course anything or anyone you appreciate for which your are grateful).

2. Then, as you step repeat 3 times
Yes! Yes! Yes! (appreciation to Life (GOD) for sustaining each step, each breath)

You can just as easily practice while you walk in circles in your living room as in your neighborhood or on the street or sidewalk or trail.

When you no longer take your life for granted, each moment is miraculous. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Each moment is a gift. If you embrace all that you take for granted, it definitely takes the edge off your stress level, your anxiety, your upset.

And it’s best to practice this when “you don’t need to”…because you actually always need to. Best to be conscious of how precious are friends, family, health and peace (in any moment we have it).

Be Well,
Mike