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Study finds a key ingredient in mindfulness training: Acceptance (not acquiescence)

Life can be stress­ful. Whether it’s the stress that comes with hav­ing too much work to do in too lit­tle time, ful­fill­ing care­giv­ing oblig­a­tions, or deal­ing with a major ill­ness or set­back, some­times it can be hard to cope.

In response to stress, many peo­ple today are turn­ing to med­i­ta­tion or mind­ful­ness apps (myself includ­ed). But not all mind­ful­ness prac­tice is equal­ly effec­tive for com­bat­ing stress Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) beat usual care for chronic back pain

behavioral healthStudy finds mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion offers relief for low-back pain (NIH release):

Mind­ful­ness based stress reduc­tion (MBSR) and cog­ni­tive-behav­ioral ther­a­py (CBT) may prove more effec­tive than usu­al treat­ment in alle­vi­at­ing chron­ic low-back pain, accord­ing to Read the rest of this entry »

Does mindfulness meditation work? (Hint: First, define “work”)

meditationscienceHow con­vinc­ing is the sci­ence dri­ving the pop­u­lar­i­ty of mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion? Brown Uni­ver­si­ty researcher has some sur­pris­ing answers (tri­cy­cle):

Giv­en the wide­spread belief that med­i­ta­tion prac­tice is sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly cer­ti­fied to be good for just about every­thing, the results of a recent major analy­sis of the research might come as some sur­prise…

(Ques­tion) As a sci­en­tist and as a Bud­dhist, what do you make of the AHRQ report? (Answer) The report sounds pret­ty fair. This review—and pret­ty much every one before it—has found that Read the rest of this entry »

Meditation can Change the Structure of the Brain

(Editor’s Note: We are pleased to bring you this arti­cle by Jason Marsh, thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)

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I con­sid­er myself some­thing of a prospec­tive meditator—meaning that a seri­ous med­i­ta­tion prac­tice is always some­thing I’m about to start… next week. So for years, I’ve been mak­ing a men­tal note of new stud­ies show­ing that med­i­ta­tion can lit­er­al­ly change our brain struc­ture in ways that might boost con­cen­tra­tion, mem­o­ry, and pos­i­tive emo­tions.

The results seem entic­ing enough to make any­one drop into the full lotus position—until you read the fine print: Much of this research involves peo­ple who have med­i­tat­ed for thou­sands of hours over many years; some of it zeroes in on Olympic-lev­el med­i­ta­tors who have clocked 10,000 hours or more. Pret­ty daunt­ing.

Well, a new study offers some hope—and makes the ben­e­fits of med­i­ta­tion seem with­in reach even for a novice like me. The study, pub­lished in Jan­u­ary in the jour­nal Psy­chi­a­try Research: Neu­roimag­ing, sug­gests that med­i­tat­ing for just 30 min­utes a day for eight weeks can increase the den­si­ty of gray mat­ter in brain regions asso­ci­at­ed with mem­o­ry, stress, and empa­thy. Read the rest of this entry »

Meditation on the Brain: a Conversation with Andrew Newberg

Dr_Andrew_NewbergDr. Andrew New­berg is an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Radi­ol­o­gy and Psy­chi­a­try and Adjunct Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Reli­gious Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia. He has pub­lished a vari­ety of neu­roimag­ing stud­ies relat­ed to aging and demen­tia. He has also researched the neu­ro­phys­i­o­log­i­cal cor­re­lates of med­i­ta­tion, prayer, and how brain func­tion is asso­ci­at­ed with mys­ti­cal and reli­gious expe­ri­ences. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez inter­views him here as part of our research for the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

Dr. New­berg, thank you for being with us today. Can you please explain the source of your inter­ests at the inter­sec­tion of brain research and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty?

Since I was a kid, I had a keen inter­est in spir­i­tu­al prac­tice. I always won­dered how spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and reli­gion affect us, and over time I came to appre­ci­ate how sci­ence can help us explore and under­stand the world around us, includ­ing why we humans care about spir­i­tu­al prac­tices. This, of course, led me to be par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in brain research.

Dur­ing med­ical school I was par­tic­u­lar­ly attract­ed by the prob­lem of con­scious­ness. I was for­tu­nate to meet researcher Dr. Eugene D’Aquili in the ear­ly 1990s, who had been doing much research on reli­gious prac­tices effect on brain since the 1970s. Through him I came to see that brain imag­ing can pro­vide a fas­ci­nat­ing win­dow into the brain.

Can we define reli­gion and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty ‑which sound to me as very dif­fer­ent brain processes‑, and why learn­ing about them may be help­ful from a pure­ly sec­u­lar, sci­en­tif­ic point of view?

Good point, def­i­n­i­tions mat­ter, since dif­fer­ent peo­ple may be search­ing for God in dif­fer­ent ways. I view being reli­gious as par­tic­i­pat­ing in orga­nized rit­u­als and shared beliefs, such as going to church. Being spir­i­tu­al, on the oth­er hand, is more of an indi­vid­ual prac­tice, whether we call it med­i­ta­tion, or relax­ation, or prayer, aimed at expand­ing the self, devel­op­ing a sense of one­ness with the uni­verse.

What is hap­pen­ing is that spe­cif­ic prac­tices that have tra­di­tion­al­ly been asso­ci­at­ed with reli­gious and spir­i­tu­al con­texts may also be very use­ful from a main­stream, sec­u­lar, health point of view, beyond those con­texts. Sci­en­tists are research­ing, for exam­ple, what Read the rest of this entry »

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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