Yoga and Meditation Improves Well-Being in Prisoners

“We consistently teach a practice to provide prisoners with a skill to become more sensitive to how they feel in their bodies. When you develop a close relationship with your own sensitivity, you are less apt to violate another. This is empathy. And empathy, when encouraged, leads to compassion. Gradually, the cycle of violence is interrupted.”  ~ James Fox

 

Prison is a very stressful and difficult environment for most prisoners. This is compounded by the fact that most do not have well developed coping skills. In addition, many have suffered from trauma, often experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. In addition, prisoners frequently suffer from attention deficit disorder. So, prisoners are often ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison.

 

Yet prison provides a great deal of time for reflection and self-exploration. This is an opportunity for growth and development. So, contemplative practices are well suited to this environment.

Yoga and meditation teach skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, they put the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. They improve present moment awareness and help to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. They’ve been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. They also relieve stress and improve overall health and well-being. Finally, these practices have been shown to be useful in treating depression, anxiety, and anger.

 

So, yoga and meditation would appear to be ideally suited to addressing the issues of prisoners. Over the last several years there have been a number of yoga and meditation programs implemented in prisons. In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation in Prison: Effects on Psychological Well-Being and Behavioural Functioning”

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Auty and colleagues summarize the research literature that has studied the effectiveness of these programs. They found that the research suggested that these programs are effective in a wide range of locations, from the UK and US to India and Taiwan, with a wide variety of ethnicities and ages, and with both males and females.

 

They found that the yoga and/or meditation programs almost universally produced improvements in psychological well-being in the prisoners. The magnitudes of the effects were significant and moderate, suggesting that these practices produce meaningful psychological changes. They also found that the longer term programs produced greater change than the shorter, more intense programs.

 

In addition to the psychological effects the yoga and/or meditation programs the research reports significant improvements in behavioral functioning. Overall, the magnitudes of the effects were significant and smaller than those found for psychological well-being. But, nevertheless the results suggest that these practices produce meaningful behavioral changes. These effects were particularly large for prisoners who had substance abuse problems.

 

This literature summary suggests that yoga and meditation programs are quite effective in prisons, improving the psychological health and well-being of the prisoners and improving their behavior while in prison. There are some suggestions in the literature that these programs decrease recidivism. It is to the benefit of society to assist the prisoners while incarcerated to improve their skills for dealing with themselves and others, as this would make them easier to deal with in prison and make it more likely that they would successfully transition back into society upon release.

 

So, yoga and meditation programs should be employed broadly in prisons for the benefit both of the prisoners and of society.

 

“With the barrage of negativity in prisons, they are unyielding breeding grounds for intense suffering, chaos, noise, overcrowding, violence, ineffective medical care and poor food. But occasionally, every so often, friendship, kindness, compassion and programs of meaningful substance come along. The Yoga program is a life-sustaining and meaningful one that I nurture and value because it is not only positive, it supports my growth and success as a young man. Yoga helps me navigate my life as a good and successful person. This practice is life-changing and will continue to enhance my life.” K.L.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Stop Criticizing Yourself and Feel Better

 

Being self-critical is good; being self-hating is destructive. There’s a very fine line there somewhere, and I walk it carefully.– Daniel Radcliffe

 

It can be useful to constructively criticize yourself as long as your realize that you’re human and are not, and will not ever be, perfect. You can then use the self-criticism to try to improve, not become perfect, but a little better. But, when self-criticism becomes extreme it can lead to perfectionistic thinking where you are never happy with yourself. This can lead to great unhappiness and psychological distress.
Mindfulness has been thought to help prevent perfectionism from producing distress. In support of this mindfulness has been found to improve self-esteem (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/why-dont-we-like-ourselves-mindfulness-as-an-antidote/) and a healthy self-esteem is counter to perfectionism. It’s difficult to be happy with oneself and critical of yourself as less than ideal at the same time. There is clearly a need to better understand the relationships between theses variables.

 

In today’s Research News article “Self-criticism as a mediator in the relationship between unhealthy perfectionism and distress”

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James and colleagues obtained measures of self-criticism, perfectionism, mindfulness and psychological distress with an on-line questionnaire. They found that self-criticism and unhealthy perfectionism were positively related to psychological distress. In other words the higher the level of self-criticism and unhealthy perfectionism the greater the distress.

 

In addition, they found that unhealthy perfectionism was positively related to self-criticism which in turn increased psychological distress. So unhealthy perfectionism increased psychological distress both by directly increasing distress and also indirectly through increased self-criticism which in turn increased distress. Present moment awareness was negatively related to unhealthy perfectionism; that is the higher the level of mindfulness the lower the level of unhealthy perfectionism.

 

Mindfulness appears to help the individual by reducing unhealthy perfectionism. This doesn’t mean that the mindful individual does not strive to excel. Rather, it suggests that the mindful individual can work toward excellence but does so in a psychologically healthy way.

 

So, practice mindfulness and overcome unhealthy perfectionism.

 

“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ― Louise L. Hay

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Resolve Mental Conflict with Mindfulness

 

There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.Phil Knight
We experience conflicting information all the time. These occur frequently in human interactions where words and body language may be presenting completely opposite messages. They occur shopping where a products quality and price may be affecting our decision to buy in opposite directions. They occur while driving a car where another driver’s turn signal may be on but the car shows no sign of slowing down to make the turn. They occur while surfing the web where interesting information and enticing ads coexist on the same page each calling for your attention.

 

These kinds of conflicts are presented to us many many times each day. It is up to our cognitive, thought, processes to resolve the conflict so that we can make an appropriate decision or take reasoned action. Mindfulness practices have been shown to help improve our cognitive processing of information (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/25/alter-your-thinking-with-meditation-for-mental-health/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/mindfulness-improves-mental-health-via-two-factors/). Perhaps mindfulness training might improve our ability to resolve these ubiquitous daily information conflicts.

 

In today’s Research News article “Time course of conflict processing modulated by brief meditation training.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4490222/

Fan and colleagues employed the Stroop task to assess mental conflict. https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1099257073431551/?type=3&theater

In this task participants are asked to name the ink color of a word when the word itself names a different color. Typically it takes a lot longer to name the color when the word and color interfere than when the word and ink color are the same. They found that a brief (5-hr) mindfulness training significantly reduced the participants’ susceptibility to the interference, showing faster responding and less difference between the interference trials and the non-interference trials.

 

Fan and colleagues also measure brain responses during the task and found that neural responses mirrored the behavioral responses in that the mindfulness training produced quicker brain response and less interference. Other brain activity suggested that the training produced a more efficient allocation of attentional resources.

 

Mindfulness training improves attention (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/31/treating-adult-adhd-with-mindfulness/) and appears to make the brain more efficient in processing information (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/03/make-the-brain-more-efficient-with-meditation/). These effects of mindfulness alone or together could account for the improvement in the ability to deal with conflicting information.

 

These results suggest, but do not demonstrate, that mindfulness training may help the practitioner to better deal with the myriad of everyday information conflicts that are encountered. But, more research is needed to see if these laboratory findings translate to real world information conflicts.

 

So, practice mindfulness and be better at resolving mental conflicts.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Calm your Mind and Brain with a Mantra

 

“Chanting a mantra at the beginning of your meditation helps you clear the mind and takes you deep within the self. Chanting a mantra at the end of meditation helps you seal the meditation. It helps you bring the awareness of the meditation down into your daily life.” – Rama

 

Mantras are a very common component of many contemplative practices. Transcendental Meditation for example emphasizes mantras. Mantra is a Sanskrit word for “sound tool.” It is literally a tool employing sounds used in contemplative practice. It is a sound, e.g. “om”, or a phrase, e.g. “Love is the only miracle there is” that is repeated over and over and over during a contemplative practice.

 

Mantras are claimed to be helpful in contemplative practice and to help improve physical and mental well-being. But, there is very little empirical research on mantras or their effectiveness. One problem in studying mantras is that they are embedded in a contemplative practice. It is difficult then to separate the effects of the mantra from that of the overall practice. So, it is important to study mantras while extracting them from the practices.

 

In today’s Research News article “Repetitive speech elicits widespread deactivation in the human cortex: the “Mantra” effect? Brain and Behavior”

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Berkovich-Ohana and colleagues do just this. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4511287/

They study the effects of repetitive speech, devoid of its spiritual or meditative context, on the activity of the brain. They simply had participants repeat the word “one” over and over again for 8-minutes while resting in an f-MRI scanner. They found that during repetitive speech there was an overall reduction in brain activity. In studies of meditation it has been reported that there is a reduction of activity in some areas and an increase in others. So, it is remarkable to observe a reduction without an increase elsewhere.

 

They found that the reduction in brain activity was particularly focused on a set of structures that has been labelled as the default mode network (DMN). The DMN has been found frequently in the past to be the areas that are active during mind wandering and internalized self-referential activity. In support of this, they obtained reports of the participants experience during repetitive speech and found that there was a marked reduction in thoughts and sensations experienced. Hence it appears that the repetitive speech reduced brain activity in association with reduced mental activity.

 

These results clarify why mantras are so often used in contemplative practices. They quiet the mind and they quiet the brain. This is exactly the initial goal of contemplative practice. So, mantras can be of great help in establishing the exact mental and physical state desired in contemplative practices.

 

So, incorporate mantras in your contemplative practice and calm your mind and brain.

 

“You are a cosmic flower. Om chanting is the process of opening the psychic petals of that flower.”  ― Amit Ray

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain with Mindfulness

“I wake up tired, I stay up tired, I go to bed tired. I wake up in pain, I stay up in pain, I go to bed in pain. I wake up with hope, I stay up with hope, I go to bed with hope.” – FibroColors

 

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder whose causes are unknown. It is characterized by widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, and fatigue that lead to psychological distress. Fibromyalgia may also have morning stiffness, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, headaches, including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, thinking and memory problems, and painful menstrual periods.

 

Fibromyalgia is very common affecting over 5 million people in the U.S., about 2% of the population. The vast majority of fibromyalgia sufferers are women, roughly 7 times more prevalent than in men. Although it is not itself fatal, suicide rates are higher in fibromyalgia sufferers. The symptoms are so severe and debilitating that about half the patients are unable to perform routine daily functions and about a third have to stop work.

 

There is no cure for fibromyalgia and the treatments are aimed at symptom relief. Drugs from simple pain killers to antidepressants are used and can help. There is a need for other treatment options. In a previous post it was discussed how mindfulness practice can be effective for the symptoms of fibromyalgia (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/mindfulness-the-pain-killer/). There are a number of other complementary and alternative therapies that might also be effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Overview of Reviews for Complementary and Alternative Therapies in the Treatment of the Fibromyalgia Syndrome”

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Lauche and colleagues review the literature on the use of complementary and alternative therapies such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, homeopathy, etc. for the treatment of fibromyalgia. They found that the published research indicates that tai chi, yoga, meditation and mindfulness-based interventions, hypnosis or guided imagery, biofeedback, and hydrotherapy were consistently effective while homeopathy and phytotherapy produced very inconsistent effects.

 

It is interesting that mind body techniques in general appeared to have positive effects especially on pain and, importantly, tended to be more effective than the usual treatments for fibromyalgia. A common feature of these practices is that they tend to calm the sympathetic nervous system which is involved in physiological activation. It is possible that this is a key to producing some relief of fibromyalgia symptoms.

 

But, mind body therapies have a large number of effects that may underlie their usefulness for fibromyalgia. They tend to promote emotion regulation, allowing the individual to experience their emotions but not overreact or react inappropriately to them. Since, fibromyalgia tends to produce emotional distress, the improved emotion regulation produced by mind body therapies could be a key to relieving the symptoms.

 

In addition, mind body therapies are known to alter the nervous system processing of pain stimuli, reducing the intensity of pain and the reactions to pain. This effect of these therapies directly affects a central symptom of fibromyalgia, pain. There are also other effects of these therapies such as improved attention and increased focus on the present moment that may also have effects on the symptoms by reducing worry and rumination. It remains for future research to clarify the most important consequences of mind body therapies for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

 

So, practice mindfulness and improve fibromyalgia symptoms.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

 

 

Spirituality for Depression

 

Our Generation has had no Great war, no Great Depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.”- Chuck Palahniuk
Depression is widespread and debilitating. It is the most common mental illness affecting about 4% of the population worldwide. Unfortunately, the word depression is used in everyday language to mean both the clinical disorder and simple sadness. So, someone who for example is grieving about the death of a loved one is often labelled as depressed. That is simply not the appropriate use of the term.

 

Depression is not rooted in an event, a situation, or a characteristic. Sometimes the depressed individual will point to something as the cause, but the tipoff that it’s depression is that once that something goes away or is fixed, the depression still remains. Hence, the permanence of depression in the face of an improving environment suggests that it is more physically than environmentally based. But what to do for the legions of depressed people?

 

The most common solution is drugs. But they have troublesome side effects, are not always effective, and even when they are, can lose effectiveness over time. So, there is a need for other solutions. A number of contemplative practices have been shown to be effective in relieving depression. These include  mindfulness training (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/15/spiraling-up-with-mindfulness/), mindfulness based cognitive therapy (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/dealing-with-major-depression-when-drugs-fail/)  and yoga  (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/09/03/keep-up-yoga-practice-for-anxiety-and-depression/).

 

It has long been reported that spirituality and religiosity are useful in treating depression. In today’s Research News article “Effects of religiosity and spirituality on the treatment Response in Patients with Depressive Disorders”

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Kim and colleagues studied depressed patients before and after undergoing 6-months of anti-depressant drug treatment. They found that the personal importance of religion and particularly spirituality were excellent predictors of successful treatment outcome. In other words, being high in spirituality was associated with better treatment response and lower depression at the end of treatment.

 

These results are interesting and potentially important, but how can spirituality improve anti-depressant drug treatment outcomes for depression? If we consider depression as biologically based, then the drug treatment may be addressing the core problem. But, years of depression produces a negative outlook on life that is so entrenched that it continues even after the core brain chemistry problem is addressed. The formerly depressed patient still maintains an expectation of a negative future. Spirituality, by way of giving a positive purpose to life may well be an antidote to the dour expectations of the formerly depressed patient. It provides hope for a better future.

 

Regardless of the mechanism it is clear that spirituality assists in recovering from depression.

 

“Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry or hard-done by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. 
It is also insane.” 
― Eckhart Tolle

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Concepts are not the solution. They’re the problem

 

“The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences.” – Saint Augustine

 

Human beings rely on thinking. It’s responsible for human race’s ability to create the tools that have allowed us to dominate our planet and reshape it to suit our wants and needs. Much of thinking is conceptual. It is a mental manipulation of ideas and thoughts represented by concepts which are represented by words. We are reliant on our concepts to process information. This is and effective but very limited strategy.

 

We need these concepts because our minds are not capable of working with large amounts of information at the same time, as computers can. In fact, it’s been estimated that we are only able to work with about seven pieces of information at a time. That doesn’t give us much to work with unless we can somehow compress the information. In psychology this compressed information are called chunks. Words and concepts are examples of chunks.

 

There are many varieties of these chunks from the concrete, like ‘car’ to the abstract variety like ‘justice’. The word ‘chair’ is a concept, a chunk. It represents a wide range of different entities that have a common purpose to allow humans to sit comfortably. They range from solid wood hardback chairs, to patio chairs, to reclining chairs, etc. If we wish to think about chairs we are not capable of holding all the different kinds of chairs in our mind at once, so the concept chair is used instead and only comprises one piece of information. This frees the mind to consider other pieces in information along with the chair in processing information.

 

The use of these concepts has worked wonderfully for our everyday and scientific purposes. But, unfortunately they are interpreted as real, rather than the useful tools that they are. Concepts have no reality unto themselves. They are simply symbols. In fact they are always inherently incorrect. There are many, many, different objects that we call chairs, but the concept chair doesn’t really accurately describe any of them fully. There are many, many, different forms of actions or outcomes that we call justice, but the concept justice doesn’t really accurately describe any of them fully. So, the concept, although convenient, is never truly accurate or comprehensive.

 

These concepts can prove obstacles for creative thinking as they so compartmentalize things as to make it difficult to see them as something else, or reconfigure the concept to include or exclude various objects. The concepts themselves tend to separate things and thereby make it more difficult to see a wooden chair in the same category as a wood boat even though they are both objects created out of wood. We were once on a camping trip and ran out of gas. We had lots of camp stove fuel, but were unable for over an hour to realize that it was gasoline and could be used to fuel the vehicle. Once we broke through our conceptual fixatedness we filled the tank with camp stove fuel and drove off.

 

Concepts also freeze things in time which does not accurately portray the actual nature of the thing. This is most obvious with perishable items, like fruits and vegetables, although actually true for all things, they are impermanent and every changing. So, a lemon is soil and water, it’s a seed, it’s a tree, it’s a bud, it’s an unripe fruit, it falls from the tree, it is a ripe fruit, it begins to rot, it transforms back for simple chemicals, soil and water. The lemon is all of these things at some point or another. But the concept neglects the dynamic ever changing nature of the lemon and its connection to all other soil and water derived things.

 

If you follow this reasoning deeply you can begin to see that concepts and categories are artificial and, in essence, all things are the same thing. Not only is the lemon soil and water but so is the chair, and so is the car, etc. It is this problem with concepts that causes us to miss the oneness of all things. This is the cornerstone of enlightenment. Enlightenment experiences are highly varied, but they all have the common strain of an experience of the oneness of everything. Under normal conditions we miss this completely due to the operation of our compartmentalizing (dualistic) concepts.

 

The Buddha realized this and taught about it extensively. The “Diamond Sutra” is entirely concerned with how concepts can deceive and prevent you from attaining enlightenment. He stated that “the living beings to whom you refer are neither living beings nor not living beings. Why? Subhuti, all the different kinds of living beings the Buddha speaks of are not living beings. But they are referred to as living beings.” He is clearly recognizing that the concept ‘living beings’ can be seen in many different ways and just sticking to the actual concept itself is a deception or as he would say, a delusion.

 

To see the world as a Buddha you must fully understand a thing in all its glorious forms, varieties, and stages before the concept can be used appropriately. To see the world as a Buddha, concepts are the problem, not the solution.

 

“Thought can organize the world so well that you are no longer able to see it.”  ― Anthony de Mello

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Healthier Behaviors Come with Mindfulness

“The evidence cannot be overlooked: secondhand smoke kills, secondhand smoke harms, and secondhand smoke has no safe limit of exposure.” – Dr. Len

 

Mindfulness is known to promote physical health. Many of its benefits are attributed to the physical effects of mindfulness on the nervous system, the immune or the stress hormone systems. But many of the health issues in a modern society result from the individual’s behaviors. These include a poor diet, lack of exercise, cigarette smoking, drinking in excess, etc. Fortunately, mindfulness can assist with these problems also, affecting health by altering health related behaviors such as a healthy diet or exercise. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to produce healthier eating habits, reducing overeating and binge eating (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/26/eat-mindfully-for-obesity/). Mindfulness can also help the individual deal with problem drinking (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/28/kick-the-drug-habit-with-mindfulness/).

 

It has been well established that second hand cigarette smoke is dangerous. Since 1964, it has been estimated that 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. About 34,000 heart disease deaths and that 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year are produced by breathing secondhand smoke. Obviously, an important but rarely studied health related behavior is the avoidance of secondhand smoke.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness, Physical Activity and Avoidance of Secondhand Smoke: A Study of College Students in Shanghai”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1097112870312638/?type=3&theater

Gao and colleagues studied the relationship between college students’ levels of mindfulness and their avoidance of secondhand smoke and their activity levels. They found that the higher the level of mindfulness the higher the level of avoidance of secondhand smoke. In addition, higher levels of mindfulness were associated with higher activity levels. Interestingly, being male made it much more difficult to avoid secondhand smoke.

 

These results support the notion that mindfulness improves health and well-being not only directly through effects on the physiology but also indirectly by altering the types of behaviors that are associated with health. It both increases behaviors that tend to improve health, exercise, and decreasing behaviors that can lead to poor health, breathing secondhand smoke.

 

So, practice mindfulness and be healthier.

 

“The doctor of the future will give no medicines, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the causes and prevention of disease”. ~Thomas Edison

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Mindful Drivers are Better Drivers

“Mindful living is an art. You do not have to be a monk or living in a monastery to practice mindfulness. You can practice it anytime, while driving your car or doing housework. Driving in mindfulness will make the time in your car joyful, and it will also help you avoid accidents. You can use the red traffic light as a signal of mindfulness, reminding you to stop and enjoy your breathing.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

Driving a car is the most dangerous thing that most people do. That danger is increased many fold if the individual is not paying attention or is distracted. Over 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries per year have been attributed to distracted driving. There are no lack of ways to distract yourself while driving including texting, using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, and adjusting a radio, cd player, or mp3 player. Any and all of which could prove fatal.

 

Mindfulness is the antidote to distracted driving. Mindfulness is being aware in the present moment of everything that is going on around you. This is exactly what you should be doing while driving. Unfortunately there is very little research on the topic. It is known that mindfulness predicts less texting while driving. But, much more research is needed to investigate if mindfulness could be used as a preventative measure against distracted driving.

 

In today’s Research News article “Assessing dangerous driving behavior during driving inattention: Psychometric adaptation and validation of the Attention-Related Driving Errors Scale in China”

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Qu and colleagues investigate, among other things, the relationship of mindfulness with driving.  They found that high mindfulness predicted low attention-related driving errors, cognitive errors, dangerous driving, emotional driving, aggressive driving, risky driving, and even drunk driving. In other words mindfulness was found to be predictive of good safe driving habits.

 

Mindfulness training strengthens attention, which is obviously critical to safe driving. It also increases emotion regulation, making the driver less susceptible to reacting in a dangerous or inappropriate way to the emotions that often accompany driving.  Finally, mindfulness decreases stress, making the driver better able to think clearly during difficult driving situations.

 

So, practice mindfulness and be a better safer driver.

 

“Texting while driving increases the risk of accident 23.2 times over unimpaired driving.” ~Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Mindfully Stop Compulsive Checking

 

“OCD is not a disease that bothers; it is a disease that tortures.”– J. J. Keeler

 

Have you ever returned to your home to make sure that you turned off the coffee pot, locked the back door, or shut off the sprinklers. That wouldn’t be unusual. We’ve all done it. But, now picture yourself doing it every time you leave the house and maybe even multiple times each leaving. Now that is when it becomes compulsive checking and is indicative of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In fact repetitive checking is the most common symptom of OCD.

 

An OCD sufferer has anxiety producing intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that result in repetitive behaviors to reduce anxiety (compulsions). For example, many are concerned about germs and are unable to control the anxiety that these thoughts produce. Their solution is to engage in ritualized behaviors, such as repetitive cleaning or hand washing that for a short time relieves the anxiety. But, the sufferer comes to not trust their own memory for what has been done previously, so the thoughts and anxieties and ritualized behaviors come back again quickly. The obsessions and compulsions can become so frequent that they become a dominant theme in their lives. Hence OCD drastically reduces the quality of life and happiness of the sufferer and those around them.

 

At any point in time about 1% of the U.S. population suffers from OCD and about 2% of the population is affected at some time in their life. Hence, the problem is widespread and there is a need for effective treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective and one component of CBT, cognitive restructuring, has been shown to be effective on its own. However, these methods are not always effective and relapse is common.

 

Research has demonstrated that mindfulness helps in overcoming the symptoms of OCD (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/mindfully-improve-psychological-wellbeing/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/25/alter-your-thinking-with-meditation-for-mental-health/).  One mindfulness based technique, Detached Mindfulness is designed to assist the OCD sufferer to look more mindfully and objectively at their obsessive thoughts as they arise. In theory, this should help them disengage from the biases underlying their thinking.

 

In today’s Research News article “Cognitive restructuring and detached mindfulness: Comparative impact on a compulsive checking task.”

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Ludvik and colleagues compared a no-treatment control to Cognitive Restructuring and to

Detached Mindfulness for their effectiveness in treating the thoughts underlying repetitive checking behaviors in OCD.  They found that both the Cognitive Restructuring and Detached Mindfulness were effective in reducing rechecking behaviors. The repeated checking behaviors in OCD produce distrust for the individual’s memories. Detached Mindfulness was shown to be superior to Cognitive Restructuring in relieving this distrust of memory. Thus, it appears that a simple mindfulness exercise can be effective in intervening in OCD thoughts and behaviors and improving the individual’s trust for their own memory.

 

It should be mentioned that these results occurred with a laboratory model of OCD employed with undergraduate students. It remains for future research to demonstrate the effectiveness of Detached Mindfulness in the real world treatment of OCD. But, it would seem reasonable that a technique that brought about a real time non-judgmental awareness of the obsessive thoughts would be of significant help in relieving the individual from the torture of OCD.

 

So, practice mindfulness and stop compulsive checking.

 

I have got this obsessive compulsive disorder where I have to have everything in a straight line, or everything has to be in pairs.” – David Beckham

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies