Posts tagged with "Mindfulness"

‘Kindhearted’ folks are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease or anxiety

September 26, 2019

Do nice guys actually finish first? A new interdisciplinary research institute at UCLA is poised to explore whether mindfulness and kindness to others actually may make us healthier—reducing our own depression, as well as the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

According to a report by MSN, research by UCLA scientists already has shown that mindfulness and kindness actually alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers, and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections.

But the ultimate goal of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is to spread kindness and promote a more humane world. The plans to develop training tools to help practice kindness and spread them through online programs, public lectures, media outreach and a free app called UCLA Mindful, which already is available

A $20 million gift from the Bedari Foundation, established by philanthropists Jennifer and Matthew C. Harris, will provide seed funding for the institute’s research projects.

“Our vision is that we will all live in a world where humanity discovers and practices the kindness that exists in all of us,” said Matthew Harris, the foundation’s co-founder and a 1984 UCLA graduate. “Much research is needed to understand why kindness can be so scarce in the modern world. As we seek at Bedari to bridge the divide between science and spirituality, through the establishment of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute we hope to educate and empower more and more people in the practice of kindness.”

“In the midst of current world politics, violence and strife, the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute seeks to be an antidote,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the UCLA division of social sciences, which will house the venture.

Researchers agreed on an academic definition for kindness: an act that enhances the welfare of others as an end in itself, MSN reports.. When it comes to kindness, the intention, rather than the outcome, is key. In other words, it’s the thought that counts, as the adage goes.

Kindness is complimenting someone to make them feel good, not to get what you want. It’s sending a donation to a charity even if the check gets lost in the mail. It’s contemplating a legitimate reason why a driver who cuts you off might be in a hurry.

Already, a range of researchers at UCLA are studying the types of questions that will be the basis of the institute’s work. For example, UCLA anthropologists are examining how kindness spreads from person to person and group to group. UCLA sociologists are analyzing how people who regularly act unkind might be encouraged to engage in kind acts instead, and UCLA psychologists are researching how kindness can improve people’s moods and reduce symptoms of depression.

UCLA researchers also have shown that kindness can significantly ease depression and anxiety. Michelle Craske, a professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences, has demonstrated that patients who received compassion training to cultivate joy, gratitude, loving-kindness and generosity, and engaged in kind acts — offering to help coworkers on projects, for instance — significantly reduced their depression. The improved mental health lasted throughout the six months researchers followed the patients, she said.

Craske plans to start a similar research project with high school students at risk of depression in the Imperial Valley and is expanding efforts to help UCLA students. Sharing the techniques of mindfulness training, she hopes, will help combat what many experts say is a national rise in mental health problems among students. Craske also is developing virtual reality tools to simulate positive environments that can help boost people’s sense of well-being.

Michael Irwin, a psychiatrist and neuroimmunologist, and his colleagues, have published several studies that found mindfulness and kindness actually change the brain and behavior of genes. One ongoing study of caregivers to people with Alzheimer’s disease has found mindfulness training — methods to focus on the present, aided by slow and deep breathing — reduced problems with sleep and depression. The free app developed by his UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center at the Semel Institute offers several meditations that cultivate mindfulness and kindness.

“My end goal is to have a broad platform to promote empathy and help people think about kindness,” Harris said. “It is, in terms of the perpetuation of our species and the ability to live with each other and nature, critically important.”

Research contact: @MSN

Speaking your mind: Is it normal to talk to yourself?

August 27, 2019

When was the last time that somebody talked some sense into you in a stressful or unnerving situation? And was that person actually you?

Just about all of us talk to ourselves—either mentally or out loud. In fact, some of us do it frequently—and it can be a good thing, the Huffington Post Canada reports.

“It is very normal to talk to yourself and thus very common,” Dr. Laura F. Dabney, a psychotherapist based in Virginia Beach, recently told the online news outlet in an email.

“It’s not a trait we necessarily outgrow after childhood,” she said, “or a sign of mental illness; and it’s more common than you might realize.”

“The truth is that we all talk to ourselves,” Vironika Tugaleva, the author of The Art of Talking to Yourself (Soulux Press, 2017), said, also in an email, adding, “It might look strange if you do it out loud in public, but we all have intricate multi-level conversations in our heads, as a way to give meaning to and explain to ourselves the things that happen during our days.”

Think of everyday scenarios where you might talk to yourself. For example, as you’re leaving the house you might recite your essential item —keys, coat, bag, lunch—out loud to yourself as a checklist, Dabney said. Or on the way home from work, you might go over a stressful conversation you had with a boss, venting about it to yourself.

“It is not only normal, it’s crucial, and becoming aware of the quality of this inner discourse is a path to happiness and fulfillment,” Tugaleva said.

In fact, it can be an effective way in which to soothe yourself and focus on the positives instead of worries and stressors. “I tell my clients and readers that talking to themselves in a caring manner can be a way to mother themselves,” Sheri McGregor, a life coach, emailed to HuffPost.

Talking to yourself can also function as a way to deal with small or situational problems, McGregor said. She advised that, the next time you’re nervous about a presentation, you try having a conversation with yourself to go over your fears and present constructive solutions, or to remind yourself how prepared you are. Avoid self-talk that is self-sabotaging or allows you to spiral into your worries.

During hard times, our minds can take us to dark places, which is why — just as with meditation — making positive self-talk a habit takes some work, but is a good practice to foster.

In fact, talking to yourself is tied to mindfulness — a practice that is becoming increasingly popular. “Mindfulness comes first because it brings awareness [to] not only one’s thoughts, but the words [people] mutter to themselves,” McGregor said.

Finally, of course, there are some situations in which self-talk may be an indication of a psychological problem. If you are engaging in self-talk that involves repetitive phrases, mantras, or numbers, and this type of self-talk is disruptive to you or difficult to stop, that can be also be an indicator of an emotional problem. Speak to a qualified medical professional for a proper assessment.

Research contact: @HuffPostCanada

Self-hypnosis is fast becoming the new meditation

July 4, 2019

A nationwide survey conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has found that 32% of Americans are more anxious than they were last year, and 43% say they are “about as anxious” as they were 12 months ago.

What’s more, 22% say they are seeing a psychotherapist for treatment and 7% say they are using a mental health app on their smartphones.

Enter self-hypnosis—an increasingly popular technique that aims to create an inner state of self-awareness and relaxation.

According to a report by SheKnows, hypnotherapy is “the clinical use of hypnosis to achieve emotional and physical benefits, ranging from easing anxiety to losing weight.” In a state of self-hypnosis, an individual’s subconscious is open to suggestions, which can be used to bring about powerful lifestyle changes.

But what’s the difference between self-hypnosis and meditation?

Generally speaking, meditation is a form of relaxation that focuses on mindfulness surrounding your thoughts, or the act of “emptying your brain.” Like guided meditation, hypnosis is about being open to new ideas.

That being said, hypnotherapy typically focuses on a specific goal, such as improved self-confidence, cessation of smoking, or weight loss, Bernhard Tewes, a hypnotherapist from Berlin and the inventor of HypnoBox, a self-hypnosis app, told SheKnows.

“For me, meditation is about the quantity of thoughts, and hypnosis is about the quality of thoughts,” Tewes told the news outlet. “Self-hypnosis is like fine-tuning.”

And the evidence is clear. In a 2007 randomized trial of 286 smokers, 20% of people who received hypnosis quit smoking, compared to 14% of participants who received counseling, SheKnows reports.

The website also reports that, in a 2003 study, 204 people with irritable bowel syndrome received hypnotherapy, then completed questionnaires before, immediately after, and up to six years following the treatment. Seventy-one percent of patients experienced a positive impact from the treatment. Of those who saw a difference, 81% sustained their improvement, while the majority of the remaining 19% noted that their deterioration of symptoms were only slight.

So, how can self-hypnosis help you? The experts say that the trick is to believe in the science. Approximately 10% to 15% of the population is labeled as “highly hypnotizable.” On the other end of the spectrum, 10%  to 15% of the population is labeled as “low hypnotizable.”

In addition to the HynoBox app, there are many other apps online that will walk you through the self-hynosis process.

Research contact: @SheKnows