Beaumont Hospital is offering a new online resource with audio tracks to help people relax and reduce stress. The new online Mindfulness and Relaxation Centre is a place to learn about how and why to practice relaxation and mindfulness exercises. Relaxation and mindfulness training are helpful for managing stress as well as helping people cope with physical illness and ongoing medical treatment.
Category Archives: Mindfulness
Memory failure is a common occurrence yet scientists have not reached a consensus as to how it happens. However, according to a new study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is able to minimize forgetfulness by disrupting targeted brain regions as they compete between memories.
A new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, finds changes in brain activity after only five weeks of meditation training.
In an ongoing quest to map the brain, scientists have determined how the brain works to understand others. According to a new study, the brain generates empathy in one manner for those who differ physically and in another method for those who are similar. In a paper published online by Cerebral Cortex, researcher Dr Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, suggests empathy for someone to whom you can directly relate — (for example, because they are experiencing pain in a limb that you possess) — is mostly generated by the intuitive, sensory-motor parts of the brain. However, empathy for someone to whom you cannot directly relate relies more on the rationalizing part of the brain.
The brain holds on to false facts, even after they have been retracted according to a report in Scientific American.
Psychologists have found that thought patterns used to recall the past and imagine the future are strikingly similar. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to show the brain at work, they have observed the same regions activated in a similar pattern whenever a person remembers an event from the past or imagines himself in a future situation. This challenges long-standing beliefs that thoughts about the future develop exclusively in the frontal lobe.
Many dementia patients being prescribed antipsychotic drugs could be better treated with simple painkillers, say researchers from Kings College, London, and Norway.
Brain damage can cause significant changes in behaviour, such as loss of cognitive skills, but also reveals much about how the nervous system deals with consciousness. New findings reported in the July 2011 issue of Cortex demonstrate how the unconscious brain continues to process information even when the conscious brain is incapacitated.
Years after a single traumatic brain injury (TBI), survivors still show changes in their brains. In a new study, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania suggest that Alzheimer’s disease-like neurodegeneration may be initiated or accelerated following a single traumatic brain injury, even in young adults.
As humans face increasing distractions in their personal and professional lives, University of British Columbia researchers have discovered that people can gain greater control over their thoughts with real-time brain feedback.
Scientists have shed new light on how older people may lose their memory. The development could aid research into treatments for age-related memory disorders and scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have pinpointed a reason older adults have a harder time multitasking than younger adults. Read about their discovery here.
Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain, according to new research published in the April 6 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.
And finally, five children in India have helped to answer a question posed in 1688 by Irish philosopher William Molyneux: can a blind person who then gains their vision recognise by sight an object they previously knew only by touch?
This week..how the brain corrects perceptual errors, how meditation and hypnosis change the brain’s signature, a new method for delivering complex drugs directly to the brain, the brain development of children, and how regular exercise helps overweight children do better at school.
New research provides the first evidence that sensory recalibration - the brain’s automatic correcting of errors in our sensory or perceptual systems – can occur instantly.
In Meditation, Hypnosis Change the Brain signature the Vancouver Sun reports that mindfulness training is ‘a valuable, drug-free tool in the struggle to foster attention skills, with positive spinoffs for controlling our emotions.’
Oxford University scientists have developed a new method for delivering complex drugs directly to the brain, a necessary step for treating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Motor Neuron Disease and Muscular Dystrophy.
A new study has found that a mother’s iron deficiency early in pregnancy may have a profound and long-lasting effect on the brain development of the child, even if the lack of iron is not enough to cause severe anemia.
Children with Tourette syndrome could benefit from behavioural therapy to reduce their symptoms, according to a new brain imaging study.
Regular exercise improves the ability of overweight, previously inactive children to think, plan and even do mathematics, Georgia Health Sciences University researchers report.
Image Credit: Photostock
This is the third part in this series on mindfulness and today we will be taking a look at our mental images and preconceived ideas, more on mindlessness, the power of imagination and the role of intuition in our lives.
We need to be careful not to hold on to outmoded opinions and attitudes – false frozen mental images – best exemplified in Ms. Havisham in Dickens’s Great Expectations – who continued to wear her wedding dress in which she was abandoned many years before and which hung in torn and faded threads over her aged body.
Even a child can fall into this trap – for instance by regarding all old men as grumpy after just one experience with a grumpy old man and this impression may even be carried into adulthood. In not bothering to change this perception in later life – a person can be locked into a false perception in later life that is likely to be reflected in their own experience – they will turn into an old grump too! - and this of course applies to other aspects of life.
Context is everything
Mindlessness results when people accept information without taking the context into account. However in mindfulness context is everything! In fact, psychologists argue that all pain is context dependent. Getting a bruise out on the football pitch will matter much less to us than if we sustain one at home.
The power of imagination
Imagination is the key to perceiving things differently. The Birdman of Alcatraz stuck in his prison cell for over 40 years managed to make his life a rich one by taking care of injured birds. The message is simple – you can put up with anything as long as it is within a positive context – and with a personal vision everything can be put into perspective. In the famous words of Nitzche “If you have a WHY you can put up with almost any HOW”.
It’s not what you do – it’s the way that you do it!
Another key characteristic of mindfulness is a focus on process before outcome - doing rather than achieving. We look at a text book and assume that the author must be a genius …but this is a faulty comparison. With rare exceptions most successes in life are the result of years of work that can be broken down into stages. Before you face any task no matter how daunting – ask not ‘can I do it? – But – HOW can I do it?’ This type of approach sharpens your judgment and leads to increased self confidence.
Intuition is effortless and it works!
Sometimes it’s good to drop old habits and expectations and try something that may go against reason. Intuition is an important path to mindfulness. It may surprise you to know that the best scientists are intuitive – many spending years methodically validating what appeared to them in a flash of intuitive truth.
Intuition is achieved by escaping the heavy single minded striving of everyday life. It is believed to occur on those rare occasions when both hemispheres of the brain – the logical left side and the holistic right side – have a brief uninterrupted conversation. Intuition gives valuable information about our survival and success – ignore it at your cost.
The mindful person will go with what works even if it doesn’t make sense!
In summary, the beauty of mindfulness is that it is not work. It leads to greater control of your own thinking and can create a sense of quiet excitement about what is possible.
Try it and see for yourself!
Set Your Brain To Meditate
The Buddhist understanding holds that meditation is a mindful state that leads to ‘right action’. When combined with mindfulness it has the same effect not just for the health of the individual but also for greater society.
Our tendency to look at the negatives, to put outcomes ahead of actually doing things and by making faulty comparisons with others can leave us like feeling like robots at the mercy of daily events. In essence mindfulness is about preserving our individuality – through openness to the new, reclassifying the meaning of our knowledge and experience and by an ability to see our daily actions in a bigger consciously chosen perspective.
When good categories turn bad
Rather than always look at things afresh and anew – we create categories – and let things ‘fall into them’. We do this for the sake of convenience. These categorisations can be small such as defining a flower as a rose, a person as a boss – or a wider categorization – such as a religion or a political system. These categories help to give us psychological certainty and save us from the effort of constantly challenging our own beliefs. In this way we define animals as ‘livestock’ or ‘pets’ so that we can feel OK eating one and loving the other.
Shhhh….there’s a secret to being a genius
Mindlessness is when we accept these categories without really thinking about them. In contrast, mindfulness is about questioning old categories and creating new ones. In fact ‘genius’ has been described as perceiving things afresh, in a non habitual way.
Let me leave you with a quote from Marcel Proust’s great novel In Search of Lost Time Past to illustrate what I mean and check back in later this week for Part 3 of this meditation series.
We commonly live with a self reduced to its bare minimum; most of our faculties lie dormant, relying on habit; and habit knows how to manage without them.
I was delighted to host the Fourth Annual University of Limerick Medical School Research Forum last Wednesday, 19 January, where over twenty researchers from the University of Limerick and local teaching hospitals made presentations on topics ranging from pharmaceuticals, biomedical devices, medical technology, community health, gastrointestinal and vascular surgery, psychiatry and communications.
A leading clinical psychologist and Director of Psychosocial and Bereavement Services at Blackrock Hospice, Dublin, Ms Ursula Bates, delivered the keynote address “Mindfulness Based Interventions in Oncology and Palliative Care and Bereavement-Research Advances”.
Ursula’s talk has prompted me to explore in more detail the nature of mindfulness and how its practice can lead to improved brain function and mental health.
Let’s start by taking a look at the latest scientific research which has shown that the practice of meditation actually changes the shape of the brain, allowing specific areas in the brain to grow or change. This finding has established a new field of contemplative neuroscience - the brain science of meditation – and helps to explain how meditation acts to improve brain function and mental health.
Mindfulness and mindlessness
Have you ever written a cheque in January with the previous years date? …for most of us the answer is probably yes. Scientists now know that these small mistakes are actually the tip of a mindlessness iceberg! Mindfulness harnesses one of the great themes in all self help literature - the need to be free of unconsciously accepted habits and norms.
Five qualities of a mindful person
- Ability to create new categories
- Openness to new information
- Awareness of more than one perspective
- Attention to process (i.e. ‘doing’) rather than outcome or results.
- Trusting in one’s own intuition
Over the coming week we will explore these points in more detail and look at ways in which we can learn to break free from the trap of mindlessness.