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Posts Tagged ‘Mindfulness’

Meditation Makes You More Creative

Posted by Sun on June 10, 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University, published 19 April in Frontiers in Cognition.

This study is a clear indication that the advantages of particular types of meditation extend much further than simply relaxation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we think and how we experience events.

Two ingredients of creativity

The study investigates the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity: divergent and convergent styles of thinking.

  • Divergent thinking Divergent thinking allows many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.
  • Convergent thinking Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular probem is generated. This method is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The particpants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’.

Analysis of meditation techniques

Colzato used creativity tasks that measure convergent and divergent thinking to assess which meditation techiques most influence creative activities. The meditation techniques analysed are Open Monitoring and Focused Attention meditation.

  • In Open Monitoring meditation the individual is receptive to all the thoughts and sensations experienced without focusing attention on any particular concept or object.
  • In Focused Attention meditation the individual focuses on a particular thought or object.

Different types of meditation have different effects

These findings demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. After an Open Monitoring meditation the participants performed better in divergent thinking, and generated more new ideas than previously, but Focused Attention (FA) meditation produced a different result. FA meditation also had no significant effect on convergent thinking leading to resolving a problem.

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Ladies, Step Away From the Wine

Posted by Sun on May 24, 2012

Last week, the Office of National Statistics reported that British women in white collar jobs drink 11.2 units of alcohol a week. That’s almost double what our blue collar counter-parts are drinking. Apparently there’s more drinking than sex in the city.

Why? I’m sure it’s for a number of reasons: a drinking culture at work, stress, and oh, let me think…um, stress?

Now, I won’t get on my soap-box. I’m a firm believer in (responsible) social drinking. If I’m honest, I want to be like those fabulous Italian mamas you see who are quite happily quaffing wine through a toothless grin with their husband by their side in their ’80s. (OK, maybe I don’t want to be toothless.)

Drinking is deceptive. First off it starts out as part of our social experience, possibly even a necessary part. Then it morphs into an enhancer of your experiences, something you have to have in order to have a good time. Then it turns into something you feel you deserve to have, nightly perhaps, because you need to relax.

The booze creates a fuzzy blur on life, distorting the picture. If you’ve allowed yourself to slip into the habit of drinking several nights a week to relax, de-stress and chill out, I’ve got news for you. You’re no longer a responsible, social drinker.

You’re a person who uses alcohol to handle your stress and to numb yourself after a hectic day.

Long term, it’s terrible coping strategy. Aside from the obvious and well-documented health implications, it’s like putting Polyfilla over the cracks that are being caused serious problems in the foundations.

There is a better way, and I work with my clients on this all the time – to create a menu of self-care activities that don’t involve alcohol.

Self-a-what-a-what?

Self-care, loosely defined here as a group of things you do that make you feel good and that recharge you.

Having a menu of things means you’ve got a list of things to pick from when you’ve had a rough day. It’s something that, the more you do, the more intuitive it becomes to you: you quickly start to learn what the fastest way is to more peace, less stress, and a feeling of calm. Think of self-care activities that can be grouped around all the different areas of your life: friends, family, health and fitness, relationship, home, spirituality, the list goes on.

Wondering where to even begin? Here’s a selection of things you can put into practice right away to start caring for yourself better, so you don’t feel like you have to reach for the rioja as soon as get home:

Chaos creates chaos

I don’t care what time of year it is, it’s always time for a spring clean. If your home is little more than an expensive storage unit for all your stuff, it’s unlikely it’s a relaxing environment you want to spend time in. Cleanse and clear out the junk and create a space that you love being in.

Chaos creates chaos

Oh, and I’m not done! The same goes for your mind. Even if you’ve made Evernote your bitch, I’m willing to bet you’ve got all sorts of ideas, projects, plans, things you keep reminding yourself you should do, but don’t. Take an hour and write all of it down – every single thing. Now, group them into themes like holidays, work, passion projects, hobbies, whatever. Next, decide if it’s something you want to tackle this month, this quarter or this year. Then get it on the calendar. If you don’t want to commit and schedule time to do it, you don’t want to do it. Simple.

Work out and eat real food

Yes, you’ve heard this before but for the love of God, do something you enjoy! Just hauling your butt to the gym and joylessly slogging it through a work out is hardly going to inspire you. Up the joy factor in your work out – take a class, run outside, or go with a girlfriend – just do something to up the fun factor. And when it comes to food, the rule is pretty simple: if your grandmother wouldn’t recognise even one of the ingredients listed as food, it’s not real food. If it took a lab to make it, it takes a lab to digest it. Real food, people, real food.

Practice mindfulness

It’s all the rage these days with good reason. It’s scientifically proven to be awesome (although that’s not how they report the results in the likes of the British Medical Journal). Mindfulness simply invites you to just be where you are now. You can try mindfulness out anywhere any time. Try mindfully drinking a cup of tea – really look at the steaming mug of rosie lee, really smell it, really taste it, really feel the heat of the mug in your hands. If your mind drifts off, just come back to the sensations of your cuppa.

My challenge to you in this post is not to get you to stop your drinking altogether, I just want to get you thinking about some other coping strategies to deal with the hectic nature of being a Square Miler that don’t involve hangovers and judgemental looks from the recycling man. Your body and your mind will thank you for it!

Source: http://hereisthecity.com

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Long-term meditation leads to different brain organization

Posted by Sun on May 24, 2012

People who practice mindfulness meditation learn to accept their feelings, emotions, and states of mind without judging or resisting them. They simply live in the moment.

Several studies have shown that this type of meditation may have beneficial effects on long-term emotional stability and, consequently, on disorders such as anxiety and major depression. A new study reveals that this mind training has an influence on the default brain network of experienced meditators when they are at rest. Differences in the brain indicate that meditation contributes to better concentration and more objective self-thought.

“We studied the brains of 13 meditators with over 1,000 hours of practice and 11 beginners by analyzing functional connectivity,” says Veronica Taylor, the lead author of the study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access in March 2012.

Functional connectivity refers to the synchronization between two or more brain regions that changes over time during a specific task or at rest. This method of analysis can be applied to data from functional magnetic resonance imaging. “Participants remained in a CT scanner for a few minutes and were asked to do nothing,” explained Taylor, who is currently completing her Ph.D. in psychology under the supervision of Professor Pierre Rainville.

These analyses enabled the researchers to identify subjects’ default brain network, i.e., the set of regions activated at rest when the person is not performing a particular activity.

“We wanted to assess whether the effects of mindfulness meditation persisted beyond the practice,” said the doctoral student. “We hypothesized that the default brain network of meditators is structured differently. The default network is associated with daydreaming and self-thought when one is doing ‘nothing.’ In fact, we thought we would find a different organization because these individuals are used to being in the moment, and their thoughts do not go in all directions when at rest.”

Indeed, the results show weaker synchronization between the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex. “The dorsal part is involved in cognitive processes associated with the self, while the ventral part is associated with emotional self-evaluation,” says Taylor. Because these areas are less interrelated, it shows that these people think about themselves more objectively.” She adds that the more participants had experience with meditation the weaker the connection, which, according to her, “gives weight to the results.”

A curious and interesting fact: the subjects had greater synchronization between areas that all converge in the right parietal lobe. This area is known for having a role in attention, suggesting perhaps a long-term beneficial effect of meditation, but which remains to be proven by research specifically studying attentional processes,” says the student.

Although the subjects were tested at rest, Taylor has first-hand knowledge of the tangible benefits of mindfulness meditation in everyday life. “I have practiced meditation for several years and have noticed that my attention is longer and steadier when I concentrate.”

“There is still much to discover about the power of meditation,” she says. In the meantime, she suggests everyone take it up. “It doesn’t cost anything and you can meditate anywhere and anytime… and the benefits are real. ”

This article was translated from a text originally written in French by Marie Lambert-Chan.

Source: http://www.healthcanal.com

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Hypnosis and Mindfulness training

Posted by Sun on March 26, 2012

 By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Hypnosis is a useful tool in mindfulness training, and mindfulness training is helpful in working with hypnosis.  Both involve altered states of being.  In these states, a person is less subject to emotional or mental reactivity, and better able to focus and concentrate in everyday interactions.  There are many ways hypnosis and mindfulness might interact, or aid one another, particularly in achieving a deeper understanding of the self, and issues that cause pain, disruption, and even disease.  Ultimately, hypnosis can be used as a tool for clearing obstacles to mindfulness practice. 

Buddhist scholar, Thomas Kiernan, describes mindfulness as “ the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness”.  Simply put, mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment.  It is a process in which a person is engaged.  In Buddhism, meditation is the primary method used to develop mental clarity and engage in mindfulness.  (Please note that there are many types of meditation, all of which seek to move past the mind’s chatter.  So, for the purposes of this article, I will use the term in a general sense of quieting the mind unless otherwise indicated.) 

When a person enters into a meditative state, they are entering an altered state of consciousness.  As the practitioner develops his ability to maintain presence and concentration in the meditative state, he is then better able to maintain presence and concentration in everyday situations, hence mindfulness.   One way to describe mindfulness in action is that it brings the peacefulness of the meditative state into everyday interactions. 

In much the same way that meditation seeks to quiet the chatter of the mind, hypnosis also seeks to bypass the grip of the conscious mind.  And like meditation, there are many different kinds of hypnosis.  The most popular form of hypnosis is suggestion hypnosis in which the client enters an altered state, much like a meditative state, and then the practitioner repeats suggestions meant to overcome whatever issue the client may be experiencing.  For many people, suggestion hypnosis works, particularly for issues of habit abatement, addiction, etc.  However, there are other types of hypnotherapy that take the client into a deeper understanding of what is causing the issue, and then provide the client with the opportunity to change the deeper issue. This is where Depth Hypnosis, in particular, can be of help in a mindfulness practice.  This particular form of hypnotherapy is designed to aid the client in addressing issues as they arise.  In this way, blocks to consciousness can be cleared, and mindfulness is then easier to maintain.

Being aware of the present moment requires dealing with any issues that come up.  Not just meditating into oblivion the deeper seated issues that cause us to suffer.  Once the mind has been quieted, often referred to as Samantha meditation, the opportunity to do deeper work is presented via vipassana, or insight meditation.  This is the reflective state achieved once the mind is quieted.  It is important to use this time to transform unresolved issues that are easier to access in this state.  The mistake of some Buddhist practitioners is to think that because they have reached this state, there is nothing more to do.  In Depth Hypnosis, this state is achieved, and it is in this state that both the client and practitioner engage in identifying and transforming issues that arise for the client. 

So, from the standpoint of hypnosis, having a meditation practice makes it easier to achieve altered states in a hypnotherapeutic situation.  And hypnotherapy, particularly a form of hypnotherapy like Depth Hypnosis, aids the mindfulness practitioner in clearing blocks that arise and might inhibit his practice.  In this way, hypnosis offers an opportunity for the practitioner to deepen his ability to be conscious with all things, and all states of being.  The more conscious he becomes, the more he is able to clear within himself. 

Source: http://www.hypnotherapyarticles.com

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Habits, Mindfulness, and Behavioral Change: Interesting Research

Posted by Sun on March 23, 2012

Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, speaks to the San Francisco Habit Design Meet-Up, a group of enthusiasts and professionals interested in behavior change, motivation, healthcare, social media, and technology. This talk was designed to challenge assumptions about whether habit design and gamification are the most effective ways to create lasting change for issues ranging from obesity to addiction.

When people want a change in their life, it’s usually because they experience a problem. They want an aspirin, so to speak, so any effort to change also needs to incorporate a more holistic view of motivation, benefits, costs, habits, patterns, and options for new perspectives. Cognitive science tells us our ROI will be higher by being mindful about the path we want to choose as that allows us to use the part of our brain focused on logic and decision making. Habits come from the part of our brain that is primal and automatic; its core purpose is safety and immediate gratification.
The research is showing that creating positive habits for low effort tasks can produce long term behavioral change (i.e., flossing your teeth). However, long term, more demanding behavioral change like weight loss is more likely if we engage in a conversation with ourselves about the higher order state of being we’d like to see for ourselves: physical health, deeper emotional connections with others, openness to change, etc. This mindfulness elevates your decisions away from your habits, so to speak, allowing you to access compassion and introspection for yourself and your efforts around change. Balancing these higher order aspirations with goals for yourself can be excellent, provided you don’t burn out your long term motivation at the expense of achieving a goal. In other words, pace yourself, don’t freak out if you have a set back, and be curious about what you’re learning as you move down a new path.

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3 Tiny Habits to Enhance Your Mindfulness Practice

Posted by Sun on March 19, 2012

by 

All the hype around mindfulness — being aware of the present moment, on purpose and without judgment, has gotten many people interested in giving it a try. The big challenge for most has been how to sustain their practice past the initial excitement. Too many factors in our busy, task-oriented way of life conspire to deprive us from the time, energy and intention that are necessary to cultivate mindfulness. This is where modern behavioral psychology can be very helpful. After all, we are talking about how to facilitate adoption of new behaviors such as sitting still for a few minutes every day.

Dr. BJ Fogg, a social scientist at Stanford University, has spent the past 18 years researching the psychology of behavior change. I just finished participating in “3 Tiny Habits,” a new program that BJ Fogg designed to help people create new behaviors in their lives. The 3 Tiny Habits program is a clever elaboration on the common notion of baby steps.

BJ Fogg’s believes the tinier the habit, the easier it is to take on for good. New habits also need to be set up right. In fact, the trick is all about how to design the habits so that they are a source of positive emotions, leading to automatic behaviors. Tiny habits are things you can do at least once a day, in less than 30 seconds, and with little effort. Tiny habits must take place after a solid habit that always happens in your life. And you must learn to declare victory after each successful completion of a tiny habit. This is how you will rewire your brain to associate the new tiny habit with positive emotions, hence reinforcing yourself.

I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see if I could enhance my mindfulness practice with the addition of several new habits. Of particular interest were three habits I had tried before with various degrees of success, habits which I felt could make a huge difference in the quality of my practice. The first one was to set the intention to be mindful first thing before even getting up. The second habit was to meditate first thing in the morning. And the third one was to practice loving kindness before going to bed. All three habits were inspired by Vipassana teacher Ayya Khema’s teachings on mindfulness in daily life.

I realized my three mindfulness habits were too big and too vague. I needed to shrink them into three tiny habits. I also needed to provide them with some context based on my already existing every day routines. As pointed out by BJ Fogg, each new tiny habit needs to be attached right after an already existing habit. This is what my three tiny mindfulness habits looked like during the five-day 3 Tiny Habits experiment:

1. Right after I open my eyes, and before getting out of bed in the morning, I state my intention to be mindful for the day. I appreciate my intention.

2. Right after I finish getting dressed in the morning, I sit on my meditation chair, and I practice mindfulness for a few seconds. I appreciate myself for making it to the chair.

3. Right after I turn off the light at night, I do 30 seconds of loving kindness practice, wishing myself and other beings well. I appreciate myself for remembering to practice.

So easy, so simple, and almost impossible to not do. After only five days of performing those three tiny habits, I have set in motion a whole new way for my daily mindfulness practice. BJ Fogg is confident, tiny habits eventually lead to big habits, in this case:

1. Starting the day off on a mindful note, not giving mind a chance to go with its habitual, mindless ways. I can then add another tiny habit, that of noticing the general feeling upon waking up. Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Left unchecked, that initial feeling can set the tone for the whole day. And simply knowing gives one the freedom to decide. I can also add the practice of resting in the breath for a few seconds before waking up. Three tiny habits strung along…

2. Meditating first thing in the morning, while the mind is still fresh and not encumbered with too much reactivity to outer events. Getting myself to the chair guarantees that my sitting practice will not be brushed aside by other “more important things.” It is also known that the hardest thing is to get oneself to the chair and to start sitting. Once there, it is easy to keep going and make it to the full recommended 30 minutes.

3. The last habit is a good way to wrap up the day and take care of one’s heart. Relaxing the heart with a feeling of loving kindness for oneself and others, smoothing out what may have gone wrong during the day and preparing oneself for the night. A good way to ease into sleep. Again, such tiny habit paves the way for a more extensive loving kindness practice. Not just a few seconds, but maybe a few minutes, or longer even…

During his experiment, BJ Fogg acted as virtual coach and dispensed daily encouragements in response to our stated successes. There is something to be said for such acknowledgment from another person. I suggest you find a friend to practice your three tiny mindfulness habits with. Email, text, or call each other at the end of each day during the first five days, and give each other high fives for your respective successes.

3 Tiny Habits. So easy and powerful, and the best way I have found so far to painlessly habituate the brain to the daily practice of mindfulness.

Give it a try and let me know!

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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Cultivating Mindfulness to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Posted by Sun on March 12, 2012

A HELPGUIDE.ORG Educational Supplement from Harvard Health Publications

It’s a busy world. You fold the laundry while keeping one eye on the kids and another on the television. You plan your day while listening to the radio and commuting to work, and then plan your weekend. But in the rush to accomplish necessary tasks, you may find yourself losing your connection with the present moment — missing out on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Did you notice whether you felt well-rested this morning or that forsythia is in bloom along your route to work?

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment — and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness.

Ancient roots, modern applications

The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, but most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique that helps shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life.

Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine and demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.

Mindfulness improves well being

  • Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life.
  • Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.
  • By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

Mindfulness improves physical health

If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered the benefits of mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can:

  • help relieve stress
  • treat heart disease
  • lower blood pressure
  • reduce chronic pain
  • improve sleep
  • alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

Mindfulness improves mental health

In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:

  • depression
  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • couples’ conflicts
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences — including painful emotions — rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance.

It’s become increasingly common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This development makes good sense, since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.

Mindfulness Techniques
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
Basic mindfulness meditation Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
Body sensations Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.”Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
Urge surfing Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.

Meditation and other practices that foster mindfulness

Mindfulness can be cultivated through mindfulness meditation, a systematic method of focusing your attention.

You can learn to meditate on your own, following instructions in books or on tape. However, you may benefit from the support of an instructor or group to answer questions and help you stay motivated. Look for someone using meditation in a way compatible with your beliefs and goals.

If you have a medical condition, you may prefer a medically oriented program that incorporates meditation. Ask your physician or hospital about local groups. Insurance companies increasingly cover the cost of meditation instruction.

Getting started on your own

Some types of meditation primarily involve concentration — repeating a phrase or focusing on the sensation of breathing, allowing the parade of thoughts that inevitably arise to come and go. Concentration meditation techniques, as well as other activities such as tai chi or yoga, can induce the well-known relaxation response, which is very valuable in reducing the body’s response to stress.

Mindfulness meditation builds upon concentration practices. Here’s how it works:

  • Go with the flow. In mindfulness meditation, once you establish concentration, you observe the flow of inner thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judging them as good or bad.
  • Pay attention. You also notice external sensations such as sounds, sights, and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion, or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead you watch what comes and goes in your mind, and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of well-being or suffering.
  • Stay with it. At times, this process may not seem relaxing at all, but over time it provides a key to greater happiness and self-awareness as you become comfortable with a wider and wider range of your experiences.

Practice acceptance

Above all, mindfulness practice involves accepting whatever arises in your awareness at each moment. It involves being kind and forgiving toward yourself.

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Gently redirect. If your mind wanders into planning, daydream, or criticism, notice where it has gone and gently redirect it to sensations in the present.
  • Try and try again. If you miss your intended meditation session, you simply start again.

By practicing accepting your experience during meditation, it becomes easier to accept whatever comes your way during the rest of your day.

Cultivate mindfulness informally

In addition to formal meditation, you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing your attention on your moment-to-moment sensations during everyday activities. This is done by single-tasking — doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention. As you floss your teeth, pet the dog, or eat an apple, slow down the process and be fully present as it unfolds and involves all of your senses.

Exercises to try on your own

If mindfulness meditation appeals to you, going to a class or listening to a meditation tape can be a good way to start. In the meantime, here are two mindfulness exercises you can try on your own.

Practicing mindfulness meditation

This exercise teaches basic mindfulness meditation.

  1. Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
  2. Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
  3. Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and your ideas.
  4. Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.

Invest in yourself

The effects of mindfulness meditation tend to be dose-related — the more you do, the more effect it usually has. Most people find that it takes at least 20 minutes for the mind to begin to settle, so this is a reasonable way to start. If you’re ready for a more serious commitment, Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends 45 minutes of meditation at least six days a week. But you can get started by practicing the techniques described here for shorter periods.

Learning to stay in the present

A less formal approach to mindfulness can also help you to stay in the present and fully participate in your life. You can choose any task or moment to practice informal mindfulness, whether you are eating, showering, walking, touching a partner, or playing with a child or grandchild. Attending to these points will help:

  • Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body.
  • Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.
  • Now breathe out through your mouth.
  • Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation.
  • Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation.
  • Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor every sensation.

When you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment.

Source: http://helpguide.org

I am medical doctor and hypnotherapist with more than 17 years experience. Feel free to send me email (guide.rehab@gmail.com) to discuss your situation.

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Functional MRI Shows How Mindfulness Meditation Changes Decision-Making Process

Posted by Sun on March 8, 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2011) — If a friend or relative won $100 and then offered you a few dollars, would you accept this windfall? The logical answer would seem to be, sure, why not? “But human decision making does not always appear rational,” said Read Montague, professor of physics at Virginia Tech and director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

According to research conducted over the last three decades; only about one-fourth of us would say, “Sure. Thanks.” The rest would say, “But that’s not fair. You have lots. Why are you only giving me a few?” In fact, people will even turn down any reward rather than accept an ‘unfair’ share.

Unless they are Buddhist meditators, in which case — fair or not — more than half will take what is offered, according to new research by Ulrich Kirk, research assistant professor with the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech; Jonathan Downar, assistant professor with the Neuropsychiatry Clinic and the Centre for Addition and Mental Health at the University of Toronto; and Montague, published in the April 2011 issue of Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience.

Their research shows that Buddhist meditators use different areas of the brain than other people when confronted with unfair choices, enabling them to make decisions rationally rather than emotionally. The meditators had trained their brains to function differently and make better choices in certain situations.

The research “highlights the clinically and socially important possibility that sustained training in mindfulness meditation may impact distinct domains of human decision making,” the researchers write.

The research came about when Montague wondered whether some people are capable of ignoring the social consideration of fairness and can appreciate a reward based on its intrinsic qualities alone. “That is,” he said, “can they uncouple emotional reaction from their actual behavior?”

Using computational and neuroimaging techniques, Montague studies the neurobiology of human social cognition and decision-making. He and his students recruited 26 Buddhist meditators and 40 control subjects for comparison and looked at their brain processes using functional MRI (fMRI) while the subjects played the “ultimatum game,” in which the first player propose how to divide a sum of money and the second can accept or reject the proposal.

The researchers hypothesized that “successful regulation of negative emotional reactions would lead to increased acceptance rates of unfair offers” by the meditators. The behavioral results confirmed the hypothesis.

But the neuroimaging results showed that Buddhist meditators engaged different parts of the brain than expected. Kirk, Downar, and Montague explained that “The anterior insula has previously been linked to the emotion of disgust, and plays a key role in marking social norm violations, rejection, betrayal, and mistrust. In previous studies of the ultimatum game, anterior insula activity was higher for unfair offers, and the strength of its activity predicted the likelihood of an offer being rejected. In the present study, this was true for controls. However, in meditators, the anterior insula showed no significant activation for unfair offers, and there was no significant relationship between anterior insula activity and offer rejection. Hence, meditators were able to uncouple the negative emotional response to an unfair offer, presumably by attending to internal bodily states (interoception) reflected by activity in the posterior insula.”

The researchers conclude, “Our results suggest that the lower-level interoceptive representation of the posterior insula is recruited based on individual trait levels in mindfulness. When assessing unfair offers, meditators seem to activate an almost entirely different network of brain areas than do normal controls. Controls draw upon areas involved in theory of mind, prospection, episodic memory, and fictive error. In contrast, meditators instead draw upon areas involved in interoception and attention to the present moment. …This study suggests that the trick may lie not in rational calculation, but in steering away from what-if scenarios, and concentrating on the interoceptive qualities that accompany any reward, no matter how small.”

Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com

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Stress Reduction and Mindful Eating Curb Weight Gain Among Overweight Women

Posted by Sun on March 8, 2012

ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2011) — Many dread gaining weight during the holiday season, but there may be hope for those who find that stress causes them to reach for yet another helping of holiday goodies.

In a study by UCSF researchers published online in the Journal of Obesity, mastering simple mindful eating and stress-reduction techniques helped prevent weight gain even without dieting.

Women in the study who experienced the greatest reduction in stress tended to have the most loss of deep belly fat. To a greater degree than fat that lies just under the skin, this deep abdominal fat is associated with an elevated risk for developing heart disease or diabetes.

“You’re training the mind to notice, but to not automatically react based on habitual patterns — to not reach for a candy bar in response to feeling anger, for example,” said UCSF researcher Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. “If you can first recognize what you are feeling before you act, you have a greater chance of making a wiser decision.”

Daubenmier led the current study with UCSF psychologist Elissa Epel, PhD. The study, published online in October, is part of ongoing UCSF research into how stress and the stress hormone cortisol are linked to eating behavior, fat and health.

Recognizing Sensations of Hunger, Fullness and Taste Satisfaction

The women who participated were not on calorie-counting diets. Instead, 24 of the 47 chronically stressed, overweight and obese women were randomly assigned to mindfulness training and practice, and the other 23 served as a control group. Although no diets were prescribed, all participants attended one session about the basics of healthy eating and exercise.

The training included nine weekly sessions, each lasting 2 1/2 hours, during which the women learned stress reduction techniques and how to be more aware of their eating by recognizing bodily sensations — including hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction. At week six they attended an intensive seven-hour, silent meditation retreat.

They were asked to set aside 30 minutes daily for meditation exercises and to practice mindful eating during meals. Researchers used a scientifically tested survey to gauge psychological stress before and after the four-month study, and recorded the women’s fat and cortisol levels.

The UCSF researchers looked for changes in the amount of deep abdominal fat and overall weight. They also measured secretion of cortisol shortly after awakening, a time when cortisol peaks in those under chronic stress.

Cortisol secretion runs in a daily cycle and normally ramps up when we awaken. But secretion also is triggered by both real and perceived threats. If we wake up, anticipate the day’s events, and experience these thoughts as stressful, cortisol secretion may spike even higher, Daubenmier said.

On Average, Mindful, Obese Women Did not Gain Weight in Study

Among women in the treatment group, changes in body awareness, chronic stress, cortisol secretion and abdominal fat were clearly linked. Those who had greater improvements in listening to their bodies’ cues, or greater reductions in stress or cortisol, experienced the greatest reductions in abdominal fat.

Among the subset of obese women in the study, those who received the mindfulness training had significant reductions in cortisol after awakening and also maintained their total body weight, compared to women in the waitlist group, who had stable cortisol levels and continued to gain weight.

The stress-reduction and mindful-eating techniques used in the study were adapted from methods developed three decades ago by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, the first director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a founding member of the Cambridge Zen Center. The mindful-eating techniques used in the UCSF study are part of a larger program of mindful eating developed by Jean Kristeller, PhD, of Indiana State University.

Ongoing Study of Pregnant Women

“In this study we were trying to cultivate people’s ability to pay attention to their sensations of hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction as a guide for limiting how much they eat,” Daubenmiersaid. “We tried to reduce eating in response to emotions or external cues that typically drive overeating behavior.”

Daubenmier said the small study is preliminary and must be confirmed in ongoing, follow-up research. Furthermore, when the entire study group was included in the analysis — overweight as well as obese women — the researchers found no significant differences in weight change between women who practiced stress reduction and mindful eating and those on the waiting list.

In a separate, ongoing study with lower-income, pregnant women who are overweight, Epel,Daubenmier and colleagues are teaching similar mindful-eating techniques. Pregnancy is a time when heavy women tend to gain an excessive amount of weight and later find it very hard to lose it. Furthermore, excessive weight gain during pregnancy can harm the baby’s health.

“We are intervening at a critical point, when the health of the next generation is being shaped,”Epel said. “We hope to improve the health of both the mothers and their babies.”

Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com

I am medical doctor and hypnotherapist with more than 17 years experience. Feel free to send me email (guide.rehab@gmail.com) to discuss your situation.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Understanding Mindfulness Meditation

Posted by Sun on March 8, 2012

ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2011) — In times of stress, we’re often encouraged to pause for a moment and simply be in the ‘now.’ This kind of mindfulness, an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions, has entered the mainstream as people try to find ways to combat stress and improve their quality of life. And research suggests that mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure, and enhanced cognitive function.

But how is it that a single practice can have such wide-ranging effects on well-being? A new article published in the latest issue ofPerspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, draws on the existing scientific literature to build a framework that can explain these positive effects.

The goal of this work, according to author Britta Hölzel, of Justus Liebig University and Harvard Medical School, is to “unveil the conceptual and mechanistic complexity of mindfulness, providing the ‘big picture’ by arranging many findings like the pieces of a mosaic.” By using a framework approach to understand the mechanisms of mindfulness, Hölzel and her co-authors point out that what we think of as mindfulness is not actually a single skill. Rather, it is a multi-faceted mental practice that encompasses several mechanisms.

The authors specifically identify four key components of mindfulness that may account for its effects: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and sense of self. Together, these components help us attend to and deal with the mental and physiological effects of stress in ways that are non-judgmental.

Although these components are theoretically distinct, they are closely intertwined. Improvement in attention regulation, for example, may directly facilitate our awareness of our physiological state. Body awareness, in turn, helps us to recognize the emotions we are experiencing. Understanding the relationships between these components, and the brain mechanisms that underlie them, will allow clinicians to better tailor mindfulness interventions for their patients, says Hölzel.

On the most fundamental level, this framework underscores the point that mindfulness is not a vague cure-all. Effective mindfulness meditation requires training and practice and it has distinct measurable effects on our subjective experiences, our behavior, and our brain function. The authors hope that further research on this topic will “enable a much broader spectrum of individuals to utilize mindfulness meditation as a versatile tool to facilitate change — both in psychotherapy and in everyday life.”

The article is tilted, “How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective.”

Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com

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Breast Cancer Survivors Benefit from Practicing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Posted by Sun on March 8, 2012

ScienceDaily (Dec. 29, 2011) — Women recently diagnosed with breast cancer have higher survival rates than those diagnosed in previous decades, according to the American Cancer Society. However, survivors continue to face health challenges after their treatments end. Previous research reports as many as 50 percent of breast cancer survivors are depressed. Now, University of Missouri researchers in the Sinclair School of Nursing say a meditation technique can help breast cancer survivors improve their emotional and physical well-being.

Yaowarat Matchim, a former nursing doctoral student; Jane Armer, professor of nursing; and Bob Stewart, professor emeritus of education and adjunct faculty in nursing, found that breast cancer survivors’ health improved after they learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a type of mindfulness training that incorporates meditation, yoga and physical awareness.

“MBSR is another tool to enhance the lives of breast cancer survivors,” Armer said. “Patients often are given a variety of options to reduce stress, but they should choose what works for them according to their lifestyles and belief systems.”

The MBSR program consists of group sessions throughout a period of eight to ten weeks. During the sessions, participants practice meditation skills, discuss how bodies respond to stress and learn coping techniques. The researchers found that survivors who learned MBSR lowered their blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. In addition, participants’ mood improved, and their level of mindfulness increased after taking the class. Armer says, for best results, participants should continue MBSR after the class ends to maintain the positive effects.

“Mindfulness-based meditation, ideally, should be practiced every day or at least on a routine schedule,” Armer said. “MBSR teaches patients new ways of thinking that will give them short- and long-term benefits.”

Armer says the non-pharmaceutical approach works best as a complement to other treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

“Post diagnosis, breast cancer patients often feel like they have no control over their lives,” Armer said. “Knowing that they can control something — such as meditation — and that it will improve their health, gives them hope that life will be normal again.”

The study, “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Health Among Breast Cancer Survivors,” was published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

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Addiction, Triggers, Urges, and Cravings – How Using Mindfulness and Urge Surfing Can Help Now!

Posted by Sun on September 11, 2011

Whether our addictions have to do with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, emailing, or shopping, the addictive behavior is often preceded by some triggering event that sets off a flurry of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and sensations, leading to cravings and urges to engage in the addictive behavior. An important part of recovery is being able to recognize our triggers and how cravings and urges manifest in our bodies and minds. The practice of Mindfulness gives us a unique tool to slow time down and bring awareness to the thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with the triggering event while it is occurring.

As soon as we bring awareness to the moment, we have stepped out of auto-pilot, giving the choice over our behavior back to us and in turn giving us the ability to gain back control of our behaviors and our lives. Often, cravings and urges are our longing for things to be different than the way they are in the moment. Dr. Alan Marlatt, the Director of the Addictive Behavior Research Center at the University of Washington, defines a craving as the desire to experience the effects of engaging in the addictive behavior, while an urge is a relatively sudden impulse to engage in an act such as drinking, shopping, or gambling – feeling the high.

Urges and cravings often feel like they strike without warning, but with a mindful lens, we can develop a sensitivity to the internal and external cues and an openness to the present-moment experience that counteracts our addictive behaviors. Dr. Marlatt proposes a few ways urges and cravings can be triggered. The first is through a lack of insight into the body-feeling state such as sadness, anxiety, or guilt that manifest as physical sensations in the body. The second is through defensive and distorted styles of thinking, such as denial, rumination, or catastrophizing. The third is through our automatic negative interpretations of events such as attributing a relapse to personal weakness. In practicing mindfulness, we are not trying to get rid of or avoid these difficult experiences, but instead instill an openness and curiosity about them, learning how to acknowledge them and relate to them differently, breaking the cycle of relapse. Take a moment right now to bring awareness to how your emotions, distorted thought styles, and automatic interpretations of events, can feed into cravings and urges.

In terms of emotions, a growing amount of research is pointing to an unquestionable connection between negative emotions and relapse. The internationally acclaimed Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks to the importance of being aware of our difficult emotions and even approaching them with compassion rather than suppressing them. It is the natural course of emotions to come and go as it is for thoughts, physical sensations, and just about everything else. Think about if you have ever felt the emotion of sadness or joy. Did the feeling eventually pass? However, with uncomfortable emotions we often try to ignore or avoid them. It is in this struggling and avoidance where we find our greatest suffering and in turn, our greatest triggers, cravings, and urges. Mindfulness gives us the ability to become aware of our emotions and as soon as this happens, we move from auto-pilot to the present-moment and regain the ability to be in control. As we do this, we increase our awareness of the impermanence of emotions, reduce cravings and urges, and become less fearful and more confident that we can do it again the next time without resorting to addictive behavior.So what do we do, how can mindfulness help?

In concert with the fundamental principle of impermanence found in mindfulness literature, Dr. Marlatt developed a technique called “urge surfing” which uses mindfulness and breath-focused meditation to help us ride out the urge. An urge to engage in an addictive behavior can be seen as an ocean wave in that it starts small, gets bigger, crests, and finally subsides. Urge surfing teaches us to use the focus of our breath as a “surfboard” for riding the wave of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and sensations rather than struggling or giving in to it. Although ideally it is best to be guided through this, here are a few steps you can try to get started:

  1. First do a brief practice where you sit, stand, or lie down and notice your breath coming in and out of your body. You can think of it as keeping your breath company. This is good initial practice so when an urge comes you’ll be more likely to remember to do this.
  2. As you have the urge, you can bring awareness to the breath and let it surf the wave of the sensations associated with the urge. Noticing the physical sensation of the impulse as it changes and intensifies in the body. You may notice sweating, salivating, tightening of the muscles, or constriction of the chest.
  3. Be aware of any thoughts that arise in the mind and also be aware how they come and go as well.
  4. Many people can testify to the idea that an intense urge only lasts about 20-30 minutes, so notice the urge as it eventually falls like a wave in the ocean.

As I mentioned earlier, it helps to be guided by a live person or a CD, but this is a good start.

May you be well, may you be at peace, may you be healthy, may you be free from suffering!

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a pioneer in the integration of mindfulness meditative techniques into the clinical therapeutic setting. He holds a private practice is West Los Angeles, is a public speaker, and a Consultant to Aliveworld. He is author of the audio CD “Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression”, co-author of the CD “Mindful Solutions for Addiction and Relapse Prevention” (http://drsgoldstein.com/CDs.aspx), co-author of the upcoming workbook “Mindfulness Stress Reduction” and co-author of the multimedia Guide and Community “Mindfulness, Anxiety, and Stress” found in Aliveworld (http://www.aliveworld.com) He also teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Elisha_Goldstein

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The Effects of Mindful Eating

Posted by Sun on August 5, 2011

It may come as a big surprise to learn that “mindless” eating, or eating without awareness, can have
negative health consequences. Scientists are beginning to evaluate and better understand the
complex role of the mind-body connection in eating behavior. It turns out that when our mind is tuned
out during mealtime, the digestive process may be 30% to 40% less effective. This can contribute to
digestive distress, such as gas, bloating and bowel irregularities.

Gas and bloating aside, overeating and obesity are perhaps the most significant health problems
caused, at least in part, by mindless eating. The mind-body connection plays a pivotal role in our
ability to accurately assess hunger and fullness.

While the precise mechanisms of hunger and fullness are not completely understood, we do know
that the brain and central nervous system receive signals from the body when food is desired or
needed. These signals can be caused by many triggers, including psychological states such as our
mood. Once eating is under way, the brain has a key role to send out a signal when fullness is
approaching. If the mind is “multi-tasking” during eating, critical signals that regulate food intake may
not be received by the brain. If the brain does not receive certain messages that occur during eating,
such as sensation of taste and satisfaction, it may fail to register the event as “eating”. This scenario
can lead to the brain’s continuing to send out additional signals of hunger, increasing the risk of
overeating.

How to Practice Eating Mindfully

Eating mindfully means eating with awareness. Not awareness of what foods are on your plate, but
rather awareness of the experience of eating. Mindful eating is being present, moment by moment,
for each sensation that happens during eating, such as chewing, tasting and swallowing. If you’ve
ever practiced mindfulness in any way, (such as meditation, relaxation or breathing exercises) you
are familiar with how easily our minds wander. The same happens when we eat. When you begin
to practice mindful eating, one important thing to remember is not to judge yourself when you notice
your mind drifting off the experience of eating. Instead, just keep returning to the awareness of that
taste, chew, bite or swallow. If this concept is new, try the following exercise.

Do this exercise with a friend. You will need one small slice of an apple for each person. One person
reads the instructions listed below while the other person completes the exercise.

  1. Take one bite of an apple slice and then close your eyes. Do not begin chewing yet.
  2. Try not to pay attention to the ideas running through your mind, just focus on the apple.
    Notice anything that comes to mind about taste, texture, temperature and sensation
    going on in your mouth.
  3. Begin chewing now. Chew slowly, just noticing what it feels like. It’s normal that your
    mind will want to wander off. If you notice you’re paying more attention to your thinking
    than to the chewing, just let go of the thought for the moment and come back to the
    chewing. Notice each tiny movement of your jaw.
  4. In these moments you may find yourself wanting to swallow the apple. See if you can
    stay present and notice the subtle transition from chewing to swallowing.
  5. As you prepare to swallow the apple, try to follow it moving toward the back of your
    tongue and into your throat. Swallow the apple, following it until you can no longer feel
    any sensation of the food remaining.
  6. Take a deep breath and exhale.

You may find it interesting to talk with your partner about your experience. What did you notice while
chewing? Why did you swallow? Was the food no longer tasty? Did it dissolve? Were you bored?

The point of this exercise is not to suggest all your meals be consumed this meticulously as this
experiment. Rather, by doing this exercise you may discover some things about your own eating
habits. Some people find value in doing a shorter version of this exercise with the first bite of each
meal. This helps set an intention of being mindful through the course of your meal. Listed below
are a few other suggestions for introducing mindfulness while eating. Try them and see what you
discover!

Simple first steps toward introducing mindfulness while eating:

  • Eat with chopsticks.
  • Eat with your non-dominant hand.
  • Chew your food 30 to 50 times per bite.
  • Eat without TV, newspaper or computer.
  • Eat sitting down.
  • Put the proper portions of food on your plate and try to make the meal last at least
  • 20 minutes.

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Mindfulness of Emotions

Posted by Sun on July 15, 2011

 Sometimes emotions make the life difficult even make it unbearable for some people. On the other hand, the life without emotions is tasteless, because, emotions give us experience of pleasure.

All addictions and most entertainments, communicates, projects, trainings, and therapies result from the efforts for achieving positive emotions or to avoid negative motions. Life is meaningless without emotions, but being dominated by emotions leads to more chaos and suffering too. Appropriate solution for emotional problems is the emotion management. One of the most effective tools to emotion management is mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?


Mindfulness is a tool that enables person to be aware his or her perceptions, feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and physical and mental processes in the present moment. Mindfulness based on Buddhist and Sufism principles, but there is no requirement to become Buddhist or Sufi to its practice. Today, physicians and therapists use mindfulness for reducing stress and preventing depression.

Mindfulness of Emotions


In my opinion, there are five basic aspects to practicing with emotions: Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, Non identification, Messenger.

Recognition


The first aspect of mindfulness of emotions is the recognition. Begin by bringing your attention to your breath. Place your hands on your belly while you slowly breathe in and out, and notice your breathing. Then, notice the feelings. Recognize what the emotion is then describe and name it. The more recognize about your emotions, the more you will become comfortable with them. When emotions are unknown, they become powerful and uncontrollable, but when you recognize and name them, they become controllable.

Acceptance


The second aspect of mindfulness of emotions is the acceptance. To accept the emotions does not mean that you agree with them. Do not deny the emotion that comes; you just observe and feel it without judging and reacting.

Investigation


The third aspect of mindfulness of emotions is the investigation. the investigation is awareness of bodily sensations occurring in the present moment.
How intense is your feeling?
How are you breathing in this moment?
What are you feeling in your body? Where do you feel it?
What is your posture?

Non-identification


The fourth aspect of mindfulness of emotions is the non-identification. We’re not our emotions. Our emotions are transient states which come and go, but we are use to identify with our emotions. I am depressed. We are happy. When we identify ourselves with our emotions, it is difficult to control them.

Messenger


The fifth aspect of mindfulness of emotions is the messenger. Rumi says your body is like guest house, every morning a new gust come to your guest house. Welcome him/her and receive him/her with a sweet smile, even if he/she is moody. In fact, each guest is a messenger that has a message for you!
Every emotion has a message for us, for example the message of depression may be to pause and ponder or changing lifestyle!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask

Source: http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/mindfulness-of-emotions

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