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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How much meditation is enough?

A bevy of research studies have found measurable results from meditation: reduced blood pressure, changes in brain activity and heart rate. It's undeniable that working with your mind has physical effects.

But how much meditation does it take to see results?

Researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University have found that 25 minutes of meditation for three consecutive days alleviates psychological stress.

"More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits," said lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
For the study, 66 people age 18-30 years old participated in a three-day experiment. Some participants went through a three-day mindfulness meditation training program where they were given breathing exercises to help them monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences. A second group completed a matched three-day cognitive training program in which they were asked to critically analyze poetry in an effort to enhance problem-solving skills.

After the training, participants were asked to complete stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators. Each individual reported their stress levels and provided saliva samples for measurement of cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone.

The participants who received the meditation training perceived less stress related to the speech and math tasks, but showed greater cortisol reactivity.
 "When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it — especially during a stressful task," Creswell said. "And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production."
Researchers are looking at the possibility that mindfulness can become more automatic and easy to use with long-term meditation training, which may result in reduced cortisol reactivity.
“More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits,” lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences said in a press release. - See more at: http://www.elevatedexistence.com/blog/2014/07/10/25-minutes-of-mindfulness-meditation-alleviates-psychological-stress-study-shows/#sthash.EaLVAwjz.dpuf
“More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits,” lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences said in a press release. - See more at: http://www.elevatedexistence.com/blog/2014/07/10/25-minutes-of-mindfulness-meditation-alleviates-psychological-stress-study-shows/#sthash.EaLVAwjz.dpuf
New research from Carnegie Mellon University is the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice — 25 minutes for three consecutive days — alleviates psychological stress. Published in the journal “Psychoneuroendocrinology,” the study investigates how mindfulness meditation affects people’s ability to be resilient under stress.
“More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits,” lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences said in a press release.
- See more at: http://www.elevatedexistence.com/blog/2014/07/10/25-minutes-of-mindfulness-meditation-alleviates-psychological-stress-study-shows/#sthash.EaLVAwjz.dpuf
New research from Carnegie Mellon University is the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice — 25 minutes for three consecutive days — alleviates psychological stress. Published in the journal “Psychoneuroendocrinology,” the study investigates how mindfulness meditation affects people’s ability to be resilient under stress. - See more at: http://www.elevatedexistence.com/blog/2014/07/10/25-minutes-of-mindfulness-meditation-alleviates-psychological-stress-study-shows/#sthash.EaLVAwjz.dpuf
New research from Carnegie Mellon University is the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice — 25 minutes for three consecutive days — alleviates psychological stress. Published in the journal “Psychoneuroendocrinology,” the study investigates how mindfulness meditation affects people’s ability to be resilient under stress. - See more at: http://www.elevatedexistence.com/blog/2014/07/10/25-minutes-of-mindfulness-meditation-alleviates-psychological-stress-study-shows/#sthash.EaLVAwjz.dpuf

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Turning inner aversion to friendship

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that two-thirds of men and one-quarter of women were so averse to sitting with only their thoughts for 15 minutes that they chose to administer an electric shock to themselves that they'd previously said they would pay to avoid after first experiencing.

In a series of 11 studies, U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard University found that study participants from a range of ages generally did not enjoy spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream. The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.

“Those of us who enjoy some down time to just think likely find the results of this study surprising – I certainly do – but our study participants consistently demonstrated that they would rather have something to do than to have nothing other than their thoughts for even a fairly brief period of time,” Wilson said.
Wilson notes in his paper that broad surveys have shown that people generally prefer not to disengage from the world, and, when they do, they do not particularly enjoy it. These surveys indicate Americans spent their time watching television, socializing, or reading, and spend little or no time “relaxing or thinking.”

Is watching television engaging with the world? Or is that a way to avoid knowing what's going in in your inner world?

Wilson observes that without training in meditation techniques -- "which still are difficult," he adds -- people have a hard time being alone with their thoughts.

Why don't people want to spend time alone with their thoughts? Maybe it's like that Rodney Dangerfield line: I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member. We'll sit with fictional characters, with games, with 140-character conversations.

Imagine being able to be at ease with yourself, to listen to your thoughts with open-heartedness and assurance you'd give a friend. Imagine finding ease at being with yourself rather than running away from yourself at every opportunity. That's what meditation offers.

"Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we already are." Pema Chodron