Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and other stress management techniques

We have explained before how men­tal stim­u­la­tion is impor­tant if done in the right sup­port­ive and engag­ing envi­ron­ment. Stanford’s Robert Sapol­sky and oth­ers’ have shown that chron­ic stress and cor­ti­cal inhi­bi­tion, which may be aggra­vat­ed due to imposed men­tal stim­u­la­tion, may prove coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Hav­ing the right moti­va­tion is essen­tial.

A promis­ing area of sci­en­tif­ic inquiry for stress man­age­ment’ is Mind­ful­ness-Based Stress Reduc­tion (MBSR).’ You may have read about it in Sharon Begley’s’ Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain’ book. An increas­ing num­ber of neu­ro­sci­en­tists (such as UMass Med­ical School’s Jon Kabat-Zinn and Uni­ver­si­ty of Wisconsin-Madison’s Richard David­son) have been inves­ti­gat­ing the abil­i­ty of trained med­i­ta­tors to devel­op and sus­tain atten­tion and visu­al­iza­tions and to work pos­i­tive­ly with pow­er­ful emo­tion­al states and stress through the direct­ed men­tal process­es of med­i­ta­tion prac­tices. And have put their research into prac­tice for the ben­e­fit of many hos­pi­tal patients through their MSBR pro­grams.

A Stan­ford psy­chol­o­gist and friend recent­ly alert­ed me to a sim­i­lar pro­gram orga­nized by the Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion. She writes that “there are some real­ly inter­est­ing sci­ence find­ings. The main one is that: cor­ti­sol lev­els decrease after prac­tic­ing the Sudar­shan Kriya (the breath­ing tech­nique you will learn) and, over time, the base­line cor­ti­sol lev­els keep decreas­ing so, some­one who has been prac­tic­ing for a num­ber of years, for exam­ple, walks around with much low­er cor­ti­sol lev­els than a reg­u­lar per­son.’ Also, stud­ies on patients with can­cer and depres­sion have shown a marked increase in self-report­ed well-being. The course is now being taught in places of trau­ma such as Iraq and hard-core pris­ons in the US and all over the world.”

Some recent research we haven’t had the chance to go over yet:

For any­one inter­est­ed, they have an event in San Fran­cis­co in mid-March. More info here.

The more quan­ti­ta­tive­ly dri­ven can check yet anoth­er stress man­age­ment approach:’ Heart Rate Vari­abil­i­ty as an Index of Reg­u­lat­ed Emo­tion­al Respond­ing. You can find here 2 devices that mea­sure (and that you can use for train­ing pur­pos­es too) HRV: Stress Man­age­ment Pro­grams: Freeze Framer and emWave.

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