Alter the Brain and Memory Consolidation During Sleep with Meditation

Alter the Brain and Memory Consolidation During Sleep with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

meditation. The deep relaxation technique has been shown to increase sleep time, improve sleep quality, and make it easier to fall (and stay) asleep.” – Sleep Foundation

 

We spend about a third of our lives in sleep, but we know very little about it. It is known that sleep is not a unitary phenomenon. Rather, it involves several different states that can be characterized by differences in physiological activation, neural activity, and subjective experiences. These changes can be recorded from the scalp with an electroencephalogram (EEG).

 

In the waking state the nervous system shows EEG activity that is termed low voltage fast activity. The electrical activity recorded from the scalp is rapidly changing but only with very small size waves. When sleep first occurs, the individual enters into a stage called slow-wave sleep, sometimes called non-REM sleep. The heart rate and blood pressure decline even further and the muscles become very soft and relaxed. In this state the EEG shows a characteristic waveform known as the theta rhythm, which is a large change in voltage recorded that oscillates at a rate of 4 to 8 cycles per second. As the individual goes even deeper into sleep something remarkable happens as the individual enters into rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). Here the muscles become extremely inhibited and flaccid, but the eyes move rapidly under the closed eyelids as if the individual was looking around. At the same time the heart rate and blood pressure increase and become very variable and sometimes very high.

 

Sleep has also been shown to be involved in memory consolidation. “Sleep is thought to strengthen information learned during the day, to select which experiences are best remembered and which are best forgotten, and to assimilate new knowledge into existing autobiographical networks.” It has been shown that mindfulness training, including meditation practice, affects sleep and tends to improve sleep and reduce insomnia. It has also been shown to affect memory. But there is need to further investigate the effects of meditation practice, particularly long-term meditation practice, on brain activity during sleep and wakefulness and memory consolidation to begin to understand the mechanisms by which meditation practice affects memory, sleep, and wakefulness.

 

In today’s Research News article “Different Patterns of Sleep-Dependent Procedural Memory Consolidation in Vipassana Meditation Practitioners and Non-meditating Controls.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03014/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1232595_69_Psycho_20200204_arts_A), Solomonova and colleagues recruited healthy young adult (aged 18-35 years) practitioners of Vipassana meditation and matched non-meditators for an afternoon nap study. The participants were measured for body awareness. On one day they engaged in a 90-minute nap preceded by either a 10-minute meditation or a 10-minute relaxation period. During the nap their EEG was recorded. The participants reported on their dreams when awoken halfway into and at the end of the nap. Before and after the nap the participants engaged in a 5-minute session measuring balance with a Nintendo game “Balance Bubble.”

 

They found that the meditators had significantly greater body awareness than the non-meditators. In addition, for meditators only, the higher the body awareness the better the performance on the balance task. Hence meditation practice is associated with better awareness of the body which was in turn related to their balance.

 

There were no significant differences between the groups in improvement on the balance task after the nap or in sleep structure as assessed with the EEG during the nap. Interestingly, the greater the lifetime meditation practice, the less time spent in slow-wave (non-REM) sleep. For the meditation group but not the controls, the greater the density of slow-wave (non-REM) sleep spindles during the nap, the greater the improvement in the balance task. On the other hand, for the non-meditators the greater the time spent in REM sleep, the greater the improvement in the balance task.

 

These findings suggest that memory consolidation for a balance task over a nap occurred in concert with different sleep architecture for the meditators and non-meditators. This suggests the meditation practice produce neuroplastic changes in the brain that resulted in different memory consolidation mechanisms during sleep. These are complex changes that suggest different neural processing of information during sleep in meditators.

 

So, alter the brain and memory consolidation during sleep with meditation.

 

Given the many health concerns pertaining to sleep aid medication use in older adults,” he added, “mindfulness meditation appears to be a safe and sensible health promoting practice to improve sleep quality.” – David Black

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Solomonova E, Dubé S, Blanchette-Carrière C, Sandra DA, Samson-Richer A, Carr M, Paquette T and Nielsen T (2020) Different Patterns of Sleep-Dependent Procedural Memory Consolidation in Vipassana Meditation Practitioners and Non-meditating Controls. Front. Psychol. 10:3014. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03014

 

Aim: Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and sleep spindles are all implicated in the consolidation of procedural memories. Relative contributions of sleep stages and sleep spindles were previously shown to depend on individual differences in task processing. However, no studies to our knowledge have focused on individual differences in experience with Vipassana meditation as related to sleep. Vipassana meditation is a form of mental training that enhances proprioceptive and somatic awareness and alters attentional style. The goal of this study was to examine a potential role for Vipassana meditation experience in sleep-dependent procedural memory consolidation.

Methods: Groups of Vipassana meditation practitioners (N = 22) and matched meditation-naïve controls (N = 20) slept for a daytime nap in the laboratory. Before and after the nap they completed a procedural task on the Wii Fit balance platform.

Results: Meditators performed slightly better on the task before the nap, but the two groups improved similarly after sleep. The groups showed different patterns of sleep-dependent procedural memory consolidation: in meditators, task learning was positively correlated with density of slow occipital spindles, while in controls task improvement was positively associated with time in REM sleep. Sleep efficiency and sleep architecture did not differ between groups. Meditation practitioners, however, had a lower density of occipital slow sleep spindles than controls.

Conclusion: Results suggest that neuroplastic changes associated with meditation practice may alter overall sleep microarchitecture and reorganize sleep-dependent patterns of memory consolidation. The lower density of occipital spindles in meditators may mean that meditation practice compensates for some of the memory functions of sleep.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03014/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1232595_69_Psycho_20200204_arts_A

 

Improve Body Awareness with Mindfulness

Improve Body Awareness with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

We are so caught up in thought, distracted by everyday life and media, or simply in a hurry that we hardly feel anything anymore. Our life often only takes place in the head. But we are so much more! It is also very nourishing and beneficial to gradually develop a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the incredible performance that our body provides on a daily basis. Breathing, walking, eating and digesting, talking, hugging children, – let alone the five senses.” – Being mindful

 

Most of us spend the majority of our lives lost in thought. Even when we become aware of our surroundings it is principally of the sights and sounds surrounding us. It is usually only when something is very wrong that we become aware of our bodies, what is called interoceptive awareness. We are generally unaware of the signals from our bodies such as the breath, movements in the GI tract, heart beats accompanied with surges in blood pressure, the sensations from our muscles and joints, even the sensations from our skin.

 

Body awareness can be a good indicator of stress and emotional state. The lack of body awareness can be a real problem as this interoceptive awareness is needed to regulate and respond appropriately to the emotions. Being aware of the state of our bodies is also important for maintaining health, both for recognizing our physical state and also for making appropriate decisions about health-related behaviors. Interoceptive awareness is even fundamental to our sense of self and world view. Most contemplative practices focus attention on our internal state and thus improve our body awareness. There is a need to review and summarize what has been learned about the ability of mindfulness to improve body awareness.

 

In today’s Research News article “The relationship between mindfulness and objective measures of body awareness: A meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6874545/), Treves and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on the effects of mindfulness on body awareness. They identified 15 published studies involving a total of 879 participants. Seven studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) while 8 were comparisons of long-term meditators to meditation naïve controls.

 

They found that overall the published research literature reports that there is a small but significant positive relationship between mindfulness and body awareness such that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of body awareness. This relationship was only significant with the randomized controlled trials.

 

These findings are suggestive that mindfulness training produces a small but significantly greater sensitivity to bodily states. But these findings must be interpreted cautiously as the effect sizes were very small and only present in manipulative studies (RCTs). The fact that the relationship was only present for RCTs and not when long-term meditators were compared to meditation naïve participants suggests that something about the experimental procedure is critical in producing the effect. This may be contaminants such as participant or experimenter biases, demand characteristics, or sensitization effects. It may also suggest that short-term meditation practice increases sensitivity that habituates over time.

 

So, improve body awareness with mindfulness.

 

With the mind in the body, we can regulate our responses to events, people, and situations, set up an early warning process to detect fight, flight, and freeze while making better, more conscious choices, notice muscular tension and release it within minutes, observe which areas of the body are habitually tight, tense, and need extra relaxation effort, be more aware of signs of tension or perceived danger in others and adjust our responses skillfully.” – Elad Levinson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Treves, I. N., Tello, L. Y., Davidson, R. J., & Goldberg, S. B. (2019). The relationship between mindfulness and objective measures of body awareness: A meta-analysis. Scientific reports, 9(1), 17386. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53978-6

 

Abstract

Although awareness of bodily sensations is a common mindfulness meditation technique, studies assessing the relationship between mindfulness and body awareness have provided mixed results. The current study sought to meta-analytically examine the relationship between mindfulness operationalized as a dispositional trait or a construct trained through short- (i.e., randomized controlled trials [RCTs]) or long-term mindfulness meditation practice with objective measures of body awareness accuracy. PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and Scopus were searched. Studies were eligible if they reported the association between mindfulness and body awareness, were published in English, and included adults. Across 15 studies (17 independent samples), a small effect was found linking mindfulness with greater body awareness accuracy (g = 0.21 [0.08, 0.34], N = 879). When separated by study design, only RCTs continued to show a significant relationship (g = 0.20, [0.02, 0.38], k = 7, n = 505). Heterogeneity of effects was low (I2 < 25%), although with wide confidence intervals. Effects were not moderated by study quality. Low fail-safe N estimates reduce confidence in the observed effects. Results suggest a small but potentially detectable relationship between mindfulness and body awareness accuracy. Future investigations could examine individual differences in body awareness as a mechanism within mindfulness interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6874545/

 

Improve Eating Behavior in Obese Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness

Improve Eating Behavior in Obese Cancer Survivors with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindful eating helps you distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. It also increases your awareness of food-related triggers and gives you the freedom to choose your response to them.” – Adda Bjarnadottir

 

Eating is produced by two categories of signals. Homeostatic signals emerge from the body’s need for nutrients, is associated with feelings of hunger, and usually work to balance intake with expenditure. Non-homeostatic eating, on the other hand, is not tied to nutrient needs or hunger but rather to the environment, to emotional states, and or to the pleasurable and rewarding qualities of food. These cues can be powerful signals to eat even when there is no physical need for food. External eating is non-homeostatic eating in response to the environmental stimuli that surround us, including the sight and smell of food or the sight of food related cause such as the time of day or a fast food restaurant ad or sign.

 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating while it is occurring, including attention to the sight, smell, flavors, and textures of food, to the process of chewing and may help reduce intake. Indeed, high levels of mindfulness are associated with lower levels of obesity and mindfulness training has been shown to reduce binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating.

 

A mindfulness training technique that was developed to treat addictions called Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) involves 10 weekly sessions of 2 hours and includes mindful breathing and body scan meditations, cognitive reappraisal to decrease negative emotions and craving, and savoring to augment natural reward processing and positive emotion. Participants are also encouraged to practice at home for 15 minutes per day. It is not known if MORE is effective in changing eating behavior in obese women cancer survivors.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement Restructures Reward Processing and Promotes Interoceptive Awareness in Overweight Cancer Survivors: Mechanistic Results From a Stage 1 Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6552347/), Thomas and colleagues recruited obese (BMI >30) women who had a cancer diagnosis either current or in remission. They were randomly assigned to receive a 10-week, 1.5-hour session, once per week, of either a standard exercise and nutrition program or the Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) program. The participants were measured before and after the program for body composition, eating behaviors, interoceptive awareness, savoring the moment, and attention bias toward food. In addition, they were measured for muscular electrical responses to food and non-food pictures to assess responsiveness to cues.

They found that in comparison to baseline and the exercise and nutrition program Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) produced significantly greater increases in smiling to natural reward cues, and interoceptive awareness including increases in noticing body sensations, attention regulation, self-regulation, and body listening, and significant decreases in attentional responsiveness to food cues and external eating. Using a path analysis, they found that MORE had its effects on attentional responsiveness to food cues directly and also indirectly by its positive effects on attention bias toward natural reward cues that, in turn, negatively affected their responsiveness to food cues. Finally, these decreases in attentional responsiveness to food cues were related to decreases in the participants’ waist to hip ratio.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) may reduce inappropriate responsiveness to food in obese women with cancer by increasing their awareness of their internal state (interoceptive awareness) and their responsiveness to natural reward cues. Hence, the training makes the women more sensitive to their actual internal state which makes them more responsive to real hunger and satiety and less responsive to non-homeostatic eating signals. In addition, it appears to allow them to receive more reward from non-food related natural stimuli and thereby reduce their need to receive reward through eating. Thus, MORE appears to improve obese women’s ability to better regulate their eating behavior.

 

So, improve eating behavior in obese cancer survivors with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness practice helps individuals develop skills for self-regulation by improving awareness of emotional and sensory cues, which are also important in altering one’s relationship with food.” –  Sunil Daniel

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Thomas, E. A., Mijangos, J. L., Hansen, P. A., White, S., Walker, D., Reimers, C., … Garland, E. L. (2019). Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement Restructures Reward Processing and Promotes Interoceptive Awareness in Overweight Cancer Survivors: Mechanistic Results From a Stage 1 Randomized Controlled Trial. Integrative cancer therapies, 18, 1534735419855138. doi:10.1177/1534735419855138

 

Abstract

Introduction: The primary aims of this Stage I pilot randomized controlled trial were to establish the feasibility of integrating exercise and nutrition counseling with Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), a novel intervention that unites training in mindfulness, reappraisal, and savoring skills to target mechanisms underpinning appetitive dysregulation a pathogenic process that contributes to obesity among cancer survivors; to identify potential therapeutic mechanisms of the MORE intervention; and to obtain effect sizes to power a subsequent Stage II trial. Methods: Female overweight and obese cancer survivors (N = 51; mean age = 57.92 ± 10.04; 88% breast cancer history; 96% white) were randomized to one of two 10-week study treatment conditions: (a) exercise and nutrition counseling or (b) exercise and nutrition counseling plus the MORE intervention. Trial feasibility was assessed via recruitment and retention metrics. Measures of therapeutic mechanisms included self-reported interoceptive awareness, maladaptive eating behaviors, and savoring, as well as natural reward responsiveness and food attentional bias, which were evaluated as psychophysiological mechanisms. Results: Feasibility was demonstrated by 82% of participants who initiated MORE receiving a full dose of the intervention. Linear mixed models revealed that the addition of MORE led to significantly greater increases in indices of interoceptive awareness, savoring, and natural reward responsiveness, and, significantly greater decreases in external eating behaviors and food attentional bias—the latter of which was significantly associated with decreases in waist-to-hip ratio. Path analysis demonstrated that the effect of MORE on reducing food attentional bias was mediated by increased zygomatic electromyographic activation during attention to natural rewards. Conclusions and Implications: MORE may target appetitive dysregulatory mechanisms implicated in obesity by promoting interoceptive awareness and restructuring reward responsiveness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6552347/

 

Strengthen the Brain’s Interoceptive Networks with Mindfulness

Strengthen the Brain’s Interoceptive Networks with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness strengthens interoception, operationalized here as the mean insula connection strength within the overall connectome.” – Strong et al.

 

Most of us spend the majority of our lives lost in thought. Even when we become aware of our surroundings it is principally of the sights and sounds surrounding us. It is usually only when something is very wrong that we become aware of our bodies, what is called interoceptive awareness. We are generally unaware of the signals from our bodies such as the breath, movements in the GI tract, heart beats accompanied with surges in blood pressure, the sensations from our muscles and joints, even the sensations from our skin. Adding to the lack of awareness of our bodies we are also unaware of our implicit beliefs and attitudes about our bodies and the emotions that accompany these attitudes.

 

To exemplify this, just for a moment start paying attention to the sensations coming from the contact of your clothing with your skin. You were in all probability totally unaware of these sensations until your attention was directed toward them. Now notice the feelings from your facial muscles. Are they tense, relaxed, or something in-between. You probably were not aware of their state yet they can be good indicators of stress and your emotional state. This can be a real problem as interoceptive awareness is extremely important for our awareness of our emotional state which is in turn needed to regulate and respond appropriately to the emotions. Being aware of the state of our bodies is also important for maintaining health, both for recognizing our physical state and also for making appropriate decisions about health-related behaviors. Interoceptive awareness is even fundamental to our sense of self and world view.

 

Most contemplative practices focus attention on our internal state and thus improve our body awareness. But, in fact there is little empirical evidence on how this is accomplished. The insula cortex is a large piece of cerebral cortex has been covered and is buried deep inside at the juncture of the parietal, temporal, and frontal lobes. The insula is highly interconnected with a wide variety of other cortical and subcortical areas of the brain and it has been implicated in interoceptive awareness. So, changes in the insula may well reflect changes in interoceptive awareness. This suggests that mindfulness training would produce changes in the insula cortex.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness training induces structural connectome changes in insula networks.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962606/ ), Sharp and colleagues examined the Magnetic Resonance Images (MRIs) from two groups of participants in a larger study. Both groups had received cognitive training plus physical fitness training, while one group received an additional mindfulness training. Training consisted of 3 70-minute training sessions per week for 16 weeks. Functional Magnetic Resonance Images (f-MRIs) were obtained before and after training as well as a subjective interoceptive awareness measure.

 

They found that only after the training that included mindfulness training was there a significant increase in the strength of the connections between the insula cortex on the right side of the brain and the rest of the brain. These results suggest that mindfulness training alters the connectivity of the brain region that underlies interoceptive awareness. This may explain how mindfulness training improves body awareness and in turn the ability to sense and regulate emotions. Because emotion regulation is so fundamental to psychological health, these findings could explain how mindfulness training improves mental health and relieves mental illness.

 

So, strengthen the brain’s interoceptive networks with mindfulness.

 

“”Mindfulness” is a capacity for heightened present-moment awareness that we all possess to a greater or lesser extent. Training this capacity seems to have a quieting effect on brain areas associated with our subjective appraisal of our self. By considering thoughts and feelings as transitory mental events that occur, but are separate from the self, people are able to lessen their hold on their worries and positive mental health outcomes follow.” – Sian Bellock

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Paul B. Sharp, Bradley P. Sutton, Erick J. Paul, Nikolai Sherepa, Charles H. Hillman, Neal J. Cohen, Arthur F. Kramer, Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, Wendy Heller, Eva H. Telzer, Aron K. Barbey. Mindfulness training induces structural connectome changes in insula networks. Sci Rep. 2018; 8: 7929. Published online 2018 May 21. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26268-w

 

Abstract

Although mindfulness meditation is known to provide a wealth of psychological benefits, the neural mechanisms involved in these effects remain to be well characterized. A central question is whether the observed benefits of mindfulness training derive from specific changes in the structural brain connectome that do not result from alternative forms of experimental intervention. Measures of whole-brain and node-level structural connectome changes induced by mindfulness training were compared with those induced by cognitive and physical fitness training within a large, multi-group intervention protocol (n = 86). Whole-brain analyses examined global graph-theoretical changes in structural network topology. A hypothesis-driven approach was taken to investigate connectivity changes within the insula, which was predicted here to mediate interoceptive awareness skills that have been shown to improve through mindfulness training. No global changes were observed in whole-brain network topology. However, node-level results confirmed a priori hypotheses, demonstrating significant increases in mean connection strength in right insula across all of its connections. Present findings suggest that mindfulness strengthens interoception, operationalized here as the mean insula connection strength within the overall connectome. This finding further elucidates the neural mechanisms of mindfulness meditation and motivates new perspectives about the unique benefits of mindfulness training compared to contemporary cognitive and physical fitness interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962606/

 

Feeling Feelings: Getting in Touch with the Body

Most of us spend the majority of our lives lost in thought. Even when we become aware of our surroundings it is principally of the sights and sounds surrounding us. It is usually only when something is very wrong that we become aware of our bodies, what is called interoceptive awareness. We are generally unaware of the signals from our bodies such as the breath, movements in the GI tract, heart beats accompanied with surges in blood pressure, the sensations from our muscles and joints, even the sensations from our skin. Adding to the lack of awareness of our bodies we are also unaware of our implicit beliefs and attitudes about our bodies and the emotions that accompany these attitudes.

To exemplify this, just for a moment start paying attention to the sensations coming from the contact of your clothing with your skin. You were in all probability totally unaware of these sensations until your attention was directed toward them. Now notice the feelings from your facial muscles. Are they tense, relaxed, or something in-between. You probably were not aware of their state yet they can be good indicators of stress and your emotional state.

This can be a real problem as interoceptive awareness is extremely important for our awareness of our emotional state which is in turn needed to regulate and respond appropriately to the emotions. Being aware of the state of our bodies is also important for maintaining health, both for recognizing our physical state and also for making appropriate decisions about health related behaviors. Interoceptive awareness is even fundamental to our sense of self and world view.

Obviously it is important that we find ways to improve our poor body awareness. Most contemplative practices focus attention on our internal state and thus should improve our body awareness. But, in fact there is little empirical evidence on the issue. In today’s Research News article “Differential changes in self-reported aspects of interoceptive awareness through 3 months of contemplative training”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1063072420383350/?type=1&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4284997/

Bornemann and colleagues examine the effect of a 3-month training employing focused meditation and body scan meditation on interoceptive awareness. They found significant increases in five of the eight scales of interoceptive awareness compared to a control group.

It was found that meditation and body scan practice improved the regulatory aspects of interoceptive awareness. These include Self-Regulation which is the ability to control distress by paying attention to sensations from the body, Attention Regulation which is the ability to focus in a sustained way on the sensations from the body, and Body Listening which is the ability to gain insight into the physical and emotional state by listening to the signals from the body. These are important skills involved in being able to not only be aware of body sensations but to use these sensations to better understand and control their internal state and physical wellbeing.

Contemplative practice also improved Emotional Awareness, which is the ability to be aware of and understand the connection between body sensations and emotions, and Body Trusting, which is experiencing one’s own body as a safe place. These are also important abilities as they allow us to trust in the usefulness of the information from the body to better understand and control our emotions.

It is interesting that the contemplative practice did not increase Noticing of body sensations such as heart beat and breathing. Rather it appears to markedly improve our ability to use the information from our bodies to understand and regulate our emotional or motivational state. This is very important to our wellbeing both mental and physical. It puts us better in control by providing the signals we need to be better able to regulate our state.

These improvements in interoceptive awareness could also explain to some extent how mindfulness practices produce their well-documented significant improvements in physical and psychological health and wellbeing. It simply makes us better able to respond to and control our bodies and our emotions.

So engage in contemplative practice and learn how to feel your feelings and benefit your body’s signals.

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies