When Science Meets Mindfulness

Intriguing article from the Harvard Gazzette

Researchers study how it seems to change the brain in depressed patients

BY Alvin PowellHarvard Staff Writer

DATEApril 9, 2018SHARE 

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First of two parts

In 2015, 16.1 million Americans reported experiencing major depression during the previous year, often struggling to function while grappling with crippling darkness and despair.

There’s an arsenal of treatments at hand, including talk therapy and antidepressant medications, but what’s depressing in itself is that they don’t work for every patient.

“Many people don’t respond to the frontline interventions,” said Benjamin Shapero, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Depression Clinical and Research Program. “Individual cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful for many people; antidepressant medications help many people. But it’s also the case that many people don’t benefit from them as well. There’s a great need for alternative approaches.”

Shapero is working with Gaëlle Desbordes, an instructor in radiology at HMS and a neuroscientist at MGH’s Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, to explore one alternative approach: mindfulness-based meditation.

In recent decades, public interest in mindfulness meditation has soared. Paralleling, and perhaps feeding, the growing popular acceptance has been rising scientific attention. The number of randomized controlled trials — the gold standard for clinical study — involving mindfulness has jumped from one in the period from 1995‒1997 to 11 from 2004‒2006, to a whopping 216 from 2013‒2015, according to a recent article summarizing scientific findings on the subject.

Studies have shown benefits against an array of conditions both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But some of those findings have been called into question because studies had small sample sizes or problematic experimental designs. Still, there are a handful of key areas — including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety — in which well-designed, well-run studies have shown benefits for patients engaging in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to other existing treatments.

“There are a few applications where the evidence is believable. But the effects are by no means earth-shattering,” Desbordes said. “We’re talking about moderate effect size, on par with other treatments, not better.

Continued….

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/

How to Stop Thinking and Live in the Moment!

How do we stop thinking and live in the moment? We don’t have to look very far to realize that many people are trying to give us answers. These questions and answers provide a great starting place to explain what Sahaja Yoga meditation is and what makes a daily Sahaja Yoga practice special. In the next few articles we will look at this meditation in detail, but we’ll begin with a quick overview of four of the internet’s common answers to stop thinking.

Let’s take a look at the question first. How do you learn to stop thinking? Isn’t that just one more thing to think about? Can we even think about how not to think? Can we plan to avoid over-planning? How far can we get by worrying about how to stop worrying? Difficult questions for sure, and many people are looking for answers.

One thing is clear, to stop thinking we will need some different approaches to get around our mind’s usual habits. The current popularity of mindfulness and meditation might be part of something healthy, perhaps even something necessary for humankind’s progress, but there is just so much different information! To make things simpler and to save time, we surveyed the internet for the most common answers, tips and “life hacks” on the subject.

via How to Stop Thinking and Live in the Moment! Part One — Freemeditationtv

 

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