Shinrin-Yoku

I’ve loved hiking in the woods ever since my Aunt Ree took me on my first walk in the woods as a small child. It felt like I entered a brand new world – a magical world of trees, moss and animals. A world apart from my normal everyday life, which was far from magical and far from peaceful. I still remember having my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her on a stop along the trail. It was the most peace I had ever felt. Still today, I find solace in the woods, and hike as often as possible. 

Tomorrow I am taking a class in Shinrin-Yoku –  or “forest bathing”.  I already KNOW how great I feel after being in nature, hiking, kayaking, walking – but I’m excited to learn more about the health benefits of forest bathing from a scientific standpoint. Below is a great article written by Karin Evans and published in the Greater Good Magazine.

I’ve also added a quick 1 minute video (scroll down to the bottom) for those who don’t have the time to read the article; i.e. those of you that would probably benefit from a great forest bath  😉

Why Forest Bathing Is Good for Your Health

From the Greater Good Magazine – Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_forest_bathing_is_good_for_your_health#thank-influence

Though any kind of nature can enhance our health and happiness,
there’s something special about being in a forest.

BY KARIN EVANS | AUGUST 20, 2018

“Nature deficit disorder” is a modern affliction. With more people living in cities, working in high-rise office buildings, and becoming addicted to their innumerable electronic devices, many of us are indeed experiencing a nature deficit. This is true for children and adults alike.

In his new book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qing Li presents some sobering statistics: By 2050, according to the United Nations Population Division, three quarters of the world’s people will live in cities. Even now, the average American spends 93 percent of the time indoors, and some ten hours a day on social media—more than they spend asleep.

The Kumano Kodo trail in Japan

In Japan, there’s enough awareness about this deficit that Li heads up an organization called The Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, which promotes research on the therapeutic effects of forests on human health and educates people on the practice of forest bathing. His book—a companion to the center he runs—explores research on these benefits, while offering a number of techniques we can use to enhance them.

“Some people study forests. Some people study medicine. I study forest medicine to find out all the ways in which walking in the forest can improve our well-being,” writes Li.

The history of forest bathing

Japan is a country that is both urbanized and heavily forested. Trees cover two-thirds of the island’s landmass, and yet a majority of Japan’s people live in crowded city conditions. Li himself lives in Tokyo, a city he describes as “the most crowded city in the world.”

Perhaps that’s why the art of “forest bathing”—shinrin-yoku—began there. Forest bathing involves slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, and enjoying the benefits that come from such an excursion.

In 1982, Japan launched a national program to encourage forest bathing, and in 2004, a formal study of the link between forests and human health began in Iiyama, Japan—a place particularly known for its lush, green forests. Now, each year upwards of 2.5 million people walk those forest trails as a way to ease stress and enhance health.

Li’s interest in forest research began when he was a stressed-out medical student. He went away for a week of forest camping, and found it restored his physical and emotional health. That inspired him to begin researching the benefits of forests on human health and well-being. In 2004, he helped found the Forest Therapy Study Group, aimed at finding out why being among trees makes us feel so much better.

The healing power of the forest

<a href=“http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/052555985X?ie=UTF8&tag=gregooscicen-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=052555985X”><em>Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness</em></a> (Viking, 2018, 320 pages)

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness (Viking, 2018, 320 pages)

After years of careful study, Li has found that spending time in a forest can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger; strengthen the immune system; improve cardiovascular and metabolic health; and boost overall well-being.

“Wherever there are trees, we are healthier and happier,” writes Li. And, he adds, it isn’t about exercising—like hiking or jogging—it’s simply about being in nature.

Why would this be? It’s long been recognized that humans have a biological need to connect with nature. Some 20 years ago, American biologist E. O. Wilson noted that humans are “hardwired” to connect with the natural world, and that being in nature had a profoundly positive effect on human health.

Li’s research seems to corroborate this. For example, one of his studies looked at whether forest bathing could improve sleep patterns among middle-aged Tokyo office workers who tended to suffer sleep deficiency due to high levels of stress. During the study, participants walked the same amount of time in a forest that they usually did in a non-forest setting on a normal working day. After a walk in the forest, participants were significantly less anxious, slept better, and slept longer. In addition, researchers found that afternoon walks were even more beneficial than morning walks.

“You sleep better when you spend time in a forest, even when you don’t increase the amount of physical activity you do,” reported Li.

To further assess the effects of time spent in a forest, Li measured people’s moods before and after walking in the woods or in an urban environment. While other studies have shown that walking anywhere outdoors reduces depression, anxiety, and anger, Li found that only the experience of walking in a forest improved people’s vigor and reduced fatigue.

The health secrets of trees seem to lie in two things—the higher concentration of oxygen that exists in a forest, as compared to an urban setting, and the presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides—natural oils that are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi. Exposure to these substances, says Li, can have measurable health benefits for humans. Physiological stress is reduced, for example, and both blood pressure and heart rate are lowered. Evergreens—pine, cedar, spruce, and conifers—are the largest producers of phytoncides, so walking in an evergreen forest seems to have the greatest health benefits.

How to do forest bathing

So, is there a specific art to forest bathing? Or is it just as easy as a walk in the woods?

Connecting with nature is simple, writes Li. “All we have to do is accept the invitation. Mother Nature does the rest.” Here are some of his suggested steps.

Find a spot. Depending where you are, find a good source of nature. One doesn’t need to journey deep into a forest for these benefits. Just look for any green area. It could be an urban park, a nature preserve, or a trail through suburban woods. Forests with conifers are thought to be particularly beneficial.

 “Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you,” Li says. Some people will respond to sunny glades, others to shadier places. Listen to your own wisdom. For people who don’t have access to a forest, or can’t get outside for some reason, infusing essential tree oils in your home can provide benefits, too.

Engage all your senses. “Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet,” says Li. Actively listen, smell, touch, and look. “Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm.”

Don’t hurry. Slow walking is recommended for beginners. And it’s good to spend as much time as possible. You’ll notice positive effects after twenty minutes, says Li, but a longer visit, ideally four hours, is better.

Try different activities. Try doing yoga in the woods, or Tai chi, or meditation. Take a picnic. Write a poem. Study plants. You can venture alone, or with a companion. In Japan, forest walking therapists are even available.

Appreciate the silence. One of the downsides of urban living is the constant noise. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a wooded area that’s free from human-produced sound. Silence is restorative, and a forest can have its own healing sound—rustling leaves, a trickle of water, birdsong. Spend a few quiet moments with a favorite tree. If nothing else, when we connect with nature we are reminded that we are part of a larger whole. And that, Li notes, can lead us to be less selfish and to think more of others.

Li’s book, which includes illustrations and a map of “40 Beautiful Forests Across the World,” is an invitation and an inspiration to take a walk in the woods, wherever you are.

VIDEO:  What is Japanese Forest Bathing and How Can It Improve Your Health?

Not to Miss!! – Mindful’s Top 12 Posts of 2017 (and… 2016) and Top 10 Guided Practices

Get your coffee, tea or water. Put your pj’s and some soft music on, sit back and relax. You’ve taken care of everyone else – this is your time.

If you don’t subscribe to Mindful Magazine yet – I highly recommend it!      Kindwhile….

Here are the top 12 most popular stories from Mindful.org in 2017:

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 Free Mindfulness Apps Worthy of Your Attention
Mindfulness apps are trending in a big way. Here are five we’re happy we downloaded.

 

lungs illustration

Your Breath is Your Brain’s Remote Control
A new study has found evidence to show that there is actually a direct link between nasal breathing and our cognitive functions.

 

illustration two heads one with a thunderstorm in the mind and one with a rainbow

How to Fight Stress with Empathy
Psychologist Arthur Ciaramicoli argues that empathic listening may be the key to reducing stress in our lives.

 

Two Lessons on Blame from Brené Brown
An animation featuring Brené Brown sharing a story about why she identifies as a blamer, as well as research and insights about this toxic behavior.

 

Being with Stressful Moments Rather Than Avoiding Them
When we use mindfulness to get rid of stress, we’re no longer being mindful. Try this practice for being with and reimagining stressful moments

 

mindfulness

How to Practice Mindfulness
Becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.

 

illustration person in a labrynth

What to Do When You Feel Stuck in Negative Emotions
According to a new book, the key is “emotional agility”: being less rigid and more flexible with our thoughts and feelings.

 

woman sitting cross-legged reading

6 Books to Get You Unhooked from Bad Habits
Food cravings, telling off grumpy colleagues: some habits are hard to avoid even on our best days. We’ve rounded up these mindful books on the science and practice behind habit-formation.

 

How to Stop Your Stories From Running Your Life
Research suggest we not only have the capacity to pay attention to and stop the chatter of our stories, but we can also reduce our stress and reinvent our relationships by responding to them differently.

man walks through forest

A Daily Mindful Walking Practice
Take a break and boost your mood with this 10-minute walking meditation.

 

ICYMI

In case you missed it: Stand-out pieces from the past year you might want to know about.

The Future of Education: Mindful Classrooms
Creating a safe place for our kids to learn might begin with creating some space for them to breathe. Here’s an in-depth look at the research and best practices for bringing mindfulness into schools.

 

doctor looking at person meditating under microscope

Meditators Under the Microscope
The benefits of meditation have been hard to show in concrete terms. Today, however, as the scientific world delves into the study of mindfulness, the capacity of the brain to transform under its influence inspires nothing short of wonder.

illustration of scientists climbing into person's head

10 Mindfulness Researchers You Should Know
Key insights from leading researchers spotlight what we know, what we don’t know, and what the future holds for the science of mindfulness.

Honorable mention: Getting Started with Mindfulness, for most visits per month.

Mindful’s Top 10 Guided Practices of 2017

Listen to guided meditations from mindfulness experts on how to work with difficult emotions and weave mindful moments into your daily life.

By  

Mindful’s Top 12 Posts of 2016

These 12 articles contain expert advice on how to work with your mind, understand your emotions, and practice being your authentic self.

By Mindful Staff 

 

Simon Sinek – Millennials and more – Absolutely worth the watch!

This is a must see video! Not only about “Millennials” but about relationships, addiction, depression and how our brains become hard-wired to reach for technology instead of relationships…
It’s absolutely worth the entire 18 minute commitment. 

The BodyTalk System – Part 1 – What is BodyTalk?

Enjoy Part 1 of What is BodyTalk?

presented by BodyTalk’s founder Dr. John Veltheim.

 

The 8 Essential Foundations of Mindfulness

Reblogged from Mrs. Mindfulness ~ Check out her blog!

The 8 Essential Foundations of Mindfulness

When building a house, the foundation is a crucial element. Without a stable foundation, all your hard work is at risk of cracking and crumbling down around you.

In mindfulness the attitude that you bring to your practice is your necessary foundation.  Get this part right and you can build your ability to relax, find mental clarity and abide in inner peace.

These eight foundations will create a strong stable foundation in your mindfulness practice.

1.  Non-judging

In mindfulness practice, aim to develop the attitude of an impartial witness to your experiences. If you spend some time paying attention to the thoughts that dart in and out of your mind all day, you may be surprised to see just how often you pass judgment about things, people and situations.

The mind tries to sort and file everything into neat compartments. I like, I dislike, I want, I am, he is, she is, good, bad and so on.

It does all this quickly and automatically, so flash judgments about all that we encounter become habitual, even automatic. Often, we’re not even aware we’re doing it, but this unyielding flow of judgmental thoughts makes it difficult to find any peace within ourselves.

To experience mindfulness, you need to become aware of the mind’s habit of judging and step back from it.

Suspend judgments, labels and categorizing. What does that mean? It means we simply see our judging thoughts as just that – thoughts. We don’t have to believe them or buy into them and we don’t take them all that seriously.

2.  Patience

If a young child finds a cocoon, he may be tempted to try to break it open in his eagerness to see the butterfly emerge.

An adult though, knows not to touch the cocoon. He knows it can’t help the butterfly—and in fact, it will sabotage its transformation.

The adult knows that the wise action is to have patience. To let things unfold in their own way, in their own time. With patience, the butterfly will eventually emerge. Likewise, with patience, your mindfulness practice will improve in time. There is no need to try to force it or rush it; we can simply allow the process of any kind of improvement to unfold.

There is no hurry to get anywhere or achieve anything— there is no goal or finish line ‘out there’ in the future. The goal is to be fully present, in the moment and to be fully engaged in only whatever is presenting itself in the here and now. Any idea of striving for some future goal will only impede your practice.

You may have come to mindfulness practice in the hopes to achieve certain results (like more happiness or health), but let go of these desires during your practice and simply allow this moment and where you’re at to be enough.

3.  Beginner’s Mind

Too often we let our thinking and beliefs about what we “know” prevent us from seeing things as they really are. If you’ve ever caught yourself tuning someone out while they were talking because you were already sure you knew better, then you know that attitude. You’re sure you’re right, so you’re really not giving their point of view a chance.

As they speak, instead of paying attention to their words, you’re forming your counter-argument. We’ve all done it, and when we’re doing this we’re not open. We’re rigid and closed-off.

In contrast, a beginner’s mind is open and receptive, willing to experience everything as if it were the first time. It does not try to guess what the other person is going to say or assume it already knows better. It reserves judgment. Try this next time you find yourself wanting to judge what someone is telling you: listen and think, ‘hmmmmm, isn’t that interesting?’

Likewise, when cultivating a beginner’s mind with our own thoughts and experiences, it opens us to beauty and richness of the present moment.

When being mindful, ‘listen’ with an open mind, free of expectations of what you think is supposed to happen. Allow yourself to experience what presents itself as if it were the first time, without expectations of what it should be like.

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them. ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

4.  Non-Doing

Normally, we go through our daily lives and everything has a purpose. We do things to accomplish something, to get something or to go somewhere. This attitude is bred into us from childhood— to do things purposefully and have an outcome—but in practicing mindfulness this attitude can be an obstacle.

Mindfulness is unlike our other activities—it’s the opposite of doing. It’s non-doing. In a way it does take work and energy, but of a different kind.

Mindfulness is simply being. Being with ourselves and being in the moment—with whatever arises. When you take time out to practice mindfulness and make plans like ‘I’m going to get more relaxed now,’ ‘I’m going to manage my pain,’ or ‘I’m going to be a happier because of this, you’re already undermining the practice.

You’ve already set goals and made plans, you’ve already determined what you should be doing or where you should be—which is telling yourself the present moment is not okay.

When you’re practicing mindfulness it’s counter-productive to strive for any result in particular.

See if you can let go of that subtle desire for a better future. Instead, you simply start focusing on this moment, and accepting this moment just as it is.

5.  Acceptance

Acceptance is seeing things as they are in the present, and having an attitude of allowing life to be as it is. In mindfulness practice we cultivate acceptance by taking each moment as it comes and being with it fully.

We try not to impose our ideas about what it should be, or what we should be feeling, or what should be happening. Instead, we are just open to whatever is. We accept it—as is– because it is the now.

Having an attitude of acceptance in your daily living practice of mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to be passive. You can still take action or make changes. You just do it from a place of acceptance.

For example, if your car breaks down on a deserted road you can resist what is happening. You can cry, scream it’s unfair, or you may begin to panic. You can slam doors and kick tires. The reality is this, though: you don’t have a problem – the car has a problem. The car is no longer moving. That’s what is.

You also don’t have to resign yourself, sit down on the side of the road and do nothing.

You can recognize fully that you want to have the car fixed and get to your destination. But you can narrow your life down to the moment; accept what is, and take action from there. Maybe you call the NRMA or flag down another car, but you do it from a place of allowing instead of resisting.

During mindfulness or meditation practice, there may be all kinds of emotions, impulses and thoughts– both negative and positive. With an attitude of acceptance, you don’t resist them and you also do not cling to them. You allow them to be—whatever they may be. You’ll find that when you don’t resist impulses and feelings, they tend to subside more quickly.

6.  Non-Attachment

Imagine if you were holding onto a large balloon that was being filled up with helium. As it grows, it threatens to lift you off your feet into the air. Your first instinct may be to hold the balloon tighter and resist the tug, but the only way to truly free yourself of the struggle is to let go.

In mindfulness practice it’s essential to cultivate an attitude of non-attachment—the ability to simply let go of thoughts. As we pay more attention to what’s going on inside of our own heads, we begin to discover the mind often clings to, buys into and follows certain thoughts and feelings, or we may try to suppress or wrestle with them.

In mindful awareness, aim to simply watch thoughts and objectively observe them. Non-attachment means neither resist nor cling to thoughts. Think of your thoughts and feelings like little clouds floating through the vast sky of your awareness.

Observe them arising, floating through and then disappearing. There is no need to try to hold them back or control them. If you have trouble letting go of the thoughts, then observe your ‘non-letting go’.

As we learn to no longer attach to thoughts or feelings, over time they lose their hold over us. That is, we are able to choose whether or not to ‘play them out’ or simply let them go.

7. Curiosity

In your practice, aim to foster a sense of curiosity. How do you feel emotionally? What kind of thoughts are going through your head? What does your body feel like at the moment? What happens when you focus all your attention in the present moment? How does that change how you feel?

When we were children were had a natural curiosity about everything.  Children are born scientists who aim to explore, question and understand what’s around them.

Aim to take the attitude of a curious child. Note that this is a light and open attitude – not a serious or heavy one. For a wonderful mindfulness practice you can make it a habit to regularly ask yourself, “‘what’s going on inside me right now?’ and then take a moment to truly tune into your state of mind, body and being.

Whatever experience you notice, investigate it with a curious mind.

Curiosity doesn’t condemn. It simply watches.

8.  Present Moment Awareness

The secret of awakening into mindfulness is to be fully present in this moment and to unconditionally accept this moment as it is. That means to pay attention to only what is present now– just this breath, just this step, what you see and feel.

Welcome this moment as it is – go into it deeply. Mindful awareness can only be realized in the now. Time is a source of enormous noise making activity in the mind.

Take away time from the mind and it loses its hold over us and starts to become more still. Too often our minds have us caught up in planning for, and always looking for our fulfillment in the future. This idea that one day we’ll ‘make it’ when we get ‘there’ creates so much mental chatter.

We’re always chasing a happiness that is just around the corner. When it comes to the past, the mind constantly brings up all our old conditioning and history, judgments and resentments regrets and the whole story of ‘me and my life’- Also the source of much inner noise.

You can drop all of that in an instant by becoming immersed in your present moment experience.

Life is only ever happening in the now. Everything that’s going on, all of your experiences and thoughts and emotions are happening now. If you ignore the now, you are short changing your life. When practicing mindfulness – bring awareness to the present moment, whether walking, hugging a loved one, meditating or doing some mundane chore like the dishes.

Because the great majority of our mind chatter is derived from thinking about the past and future, you may notice that the mind becomes very still and calm, yet very much alive, when you’re living in the present moment. After all, you can only exist in one moment at a time— why waste any of them?

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.

– Eckhart Tolle

I hope these tips help you to discover and deepen mindfulness in your own life! I wish you all the best.

Love Melli

Mindfulness and Addiction

Extinguish Addiction with Mindfulness

Addiction. It’s baffling, mysterious, and powerful.

We are all exposed to addiction directly or indirectly, one way or the other. Your brother, cousin, wife’s father, co-worker… perhaps even you suffer yourself from some form of addiction. Some experts say we can even be addicted to anger, fighting, chaos, and unhealthy relationships because we can get a high from it. The reality is that not all addictions are equally harmful. Although there are a lot of opposing views on this topic, we can all agree on is that all addictions weaken the human experience. Some even kill.

One idea that I will invite you to consider is that humans are varied in nature and deeply nuanced creatures, and therefore we posses the capacity for varied and nuanced expressions of addictions. At the same time, not everything that is done in a compulsive or obsessive fashion is an addiction.

Mindfulness Helps Treat Addiction and Alcoholism
Read more at http://www.mindfulmuscle.com/mindfulness-treats-addiction-alcoholism/#ubH4ChSGXGi8lqrV.99

In the latest version of the DSM (the book that classifies mental disorders) there was a lot of debate over what to include as an addiction or not. The discussion was productive in that it prevented us from pathologizing every habitual behavior as an addiction, such as constantly checking our smartphones etc. But that doesn’t mean that addictions are limited to the widely discussed ones such as alcohol, tobacco, substances etc.

In today’s world it would be unwise to limit “addictions” to the commonly studied ones, but it demands a more personal, introspective approach. As physician and Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan Howard Markel recently said in a New York Times article on the DSM changes:

The conclusion to draw here is that though substances like cocaine are very effective at triggering changes in the brain that lead to addictive behavior and urges, they are not the only possible triggers: just about any deeply pleasurable activity — sex, eating, Internet use — has the potential to become addictive and destructive.” Howard Markel, M.D., University of Michigan [7]

Marc Gafni, author and spiritual teacher from the mystical/Kabbalistic tradition of Judaism offers what I think is a very fitting analogy for our “everyday addictions.” Avoidance. A-void-dance. For every one of us, at the core of our existence there is a mystery when it comes to answering the questions:

  • “Who am I really?”
  • “What’s the purpose of life?”
  • “Do I matter?”
  • “Am I good enough?”

Those questions can be a terrifying proposition for many of us, even if we don’t like to admit to it. This is that uncomfortable emptiness that philosophers and thinkers across the ages have referred to as the void. Those in a 12-step program would relate to this sense of a void as part of their fundamental problem.

So, the quick fix in our fear-based society (which is offset by being pleasure-based) is to numb out. And, we have and 1001 ways to make that happen, which creates a fertile environment for ever-growing addictions.

Addictions can be born out of a series of moments when we sense that void in the form of discomfort or anxiety and quickly reach for something to fill or numb it. That something could be a cigarette, a drink, sex, anger, food, energy drinks, pain pills, the Internet etc. Again, our behavior cannot always be generalized to pathology.

Each of us as an individual knows (when we look at ourselves honestly) what we turn to for a crutch, our way to avoid feeling the void. It is nothing to be ashamed of, it just makes us human.

Another theory about how addictions are born (in part) involve what’s known as the emotional painbody:

There is such a thing as old emotional pain living inside you. It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a “painbody,” an energy entity consisting of old emotion.

It lives in human beings, and it is the emotional aspect of egoic consciousness. When the ego is amplified by the emotion of the painbody, the ego has enormous strength still — particularly at those times. It requires very great presence so that you can be there as the space also for your painbody, when it arises. [8]

Unfortunately, our addictions can often disrupt or destroy our lives, relationships, and personal self-growth. The void isn’t going anywhere. So how can we make sure we don’t continually dance around it, and instead gradually begin to sit with it and grow from what we learn?

So far, modern medicine hasn’t found a cure for the disease of addiction as it pertains to substance abuse. But mindfulness has been consistently proving to increase our chances of extinguishing and overcoming addiction. How? Through increasing our brain’s plasticity and ability to adapt the way we perceive and react to triggers/cravings in life. [36]

One population that has been targeted for these studies are former prisoners dealing with addiction-normally to alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine who are re-entering society. Much of the time, this population is the fringe that shows us what can happen when addiction begins to take over our lives. A recent study split a number of re-entering individuals into one control group, which received standard addiction treatment after release from prison, and a second group who instead were enrolled in a 6-week Vipassana meditation course (Buddhist mindfulness training). Those who completed the mindfulness course showed significantly decreased alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine use in comparison to those who completed the treatment as usual. Furthermore, the mindfulness group ended up with far lower occurrence of long-term psychiatric issues and had a more positive psycho-social outcome. [1]

So mindfulness seems to have a positive effect, but what exactly is going on?

Luckily, there has been a recent surge in neuroimaging studies that are exploring how mindfulness manifests on our neurological pathways. Mindful Muscle and the world of science have already espoused the positive physiological effects of meditation: increasing focus/attention, greater body awareness, and regulation of our emotions. Now, neuroimaging is allowing us to see the impact this is physically having on the structures in our brain. [3]

A main region of the brain that has shown repeated measurable change through mindfulness in the insular region of the cortex. The insular region plays a major role in our own self-awareness, conscious emotional states, and autonomic functions such as heart rate, breath, and other autonomic functions. Through mindfulness meditation, our awareness of body functions rises and causes a physical change in the brain by increasing the connections and thickness in the insular cortex. The implication is that through prolonged mindfulness practice, our brain is rewiring in a way that leads to an increased self-awareness and well-being [4]. Furthermore, the insula’s role in emotional regulation is strengthened. This emotional regulation is synergistic with the emotional reduction of anxiety by the amygdala through mindfulness-based practices. [34]

In an fMRI study exploring mindfulness-based interventions in smoking cessation, a literal mind-body interaction was observed between mindful attention and functional connectivity in the brain. The study split into a control group and a mindfulness group. Each group was shown typical triggers for smoking, such as images of others smoking, and the fMRI focused on areas of the brain associated with craving. The area of the cortex in the brain related to cravings (abbreviated sgACC), showed reduced functional connectivity for participants in a mindfulness-based group when compared with the control group who were shown these cues. This coupled with their decrease in self-reported cravings as well. Again, mindfulness is not just psychologically making people stronger, it is rewiring their brains to be able to tolerate discomfort and reduce cravings over time. [5]

What does all this science mean for our own addictions and how mindfulness can help?

It all comes back to stopping our a-void-dance. In a literature review published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management, relapse prevention in conjunction with mindfulness was explored. Mindfulness was found to increase recognition of, and the ability to tolerate negative emotional states [2]. Notice, it is not saying that uncomfortable situations go away, or our anxiety magically disappears. In short, mindfulness gives us the strength psychologically and neurologically to sit in discomfort, to lean into the void, as opposed to avoid it and jump to our addiction.

mindfulness-helps-alcoholism

If we constantly try to avoid feeling uncomfortable with issues concerning our career, relationships, or the way we view ourselves, it is highly unlikely to find peace of mind through numbing ourselves to life.
Read more at http://www.mindfulmuscle.com/mindfulness-treats-addiction-alcoholism/#ubH4ChSGXGi8lqrV.99

If we constantly try to avoid feeling uncomfortable with issues concerning our career, relationships, or the way we view ourselves, it is highly unlikely to find peace of mind through numbing ourselves to life.

And unfortunately, our culture conditions us to turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or other substances, which can lead to a much more severe form of uncomfortable feelings. Addiction. If instead, we can learn to lean into our anxiety, sit quietly with it, and be patient enough to observe the deeper layers, we can build an emotional strength that serves us well.

Mindfulness is the vehicle we can use to achieve this.

Developing a mindfulness disposition through routine practice that expresses itself as an everyday state of being mindful, can intrinsically impact connections in our brain that are critical for mental self-exploration and emotional control. [6]

Can we overcome addiction without becoming more mindful of our thought patterns, behaviors, and emotions?

Not likely. So whatever addiction we may be dealing with, whether it is a major substance abuse issue, alcoholism, or an annoying habit of being hooked on social media, mindfulness is an invaluable tool to deal with these deficiencies.

If you, or someone you know is suffering from any form of addiction, I highly recommend practicing meditation or yoga. Mindful Strength is another great mindfulness practice that creates energetic and spiritual alignment, which serves as a powerful force in helping us cleanse the mind and body of “root causes” for our addictions.

Reposted from: http://www.mindfulmuscle.com/mindfulness-treats-addiction-alcoholism/

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