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Recently my Dr mentioned a new group they were thinking of forming to deal with anxiety, depression, etc, based on a “new” therapy that was proving effective with a low level of recidivism.    It’s called Mindfulness, based on Taoism philosophic principles.  She thought with my taking tai chi and my interest in psychology etc that I might be helpful in the group.  I told her that I already use one of the techniques – observing my flow of thoughts and feelings without identifying with them.  I consider my life-long interest in psychology and health to be helpful in living with PD, as it’s provides me insight into both – and first-hand experience of the relation between mind and body.


After thinking about Mindfulness relating to PD and sickness in general  I thought it could be very helpful -   but I can only see it being helpful to people who believe  that there is more to life than meets the eye --   whether  it be religion, philosophy, cosmic forces or whatever. For without this belief I can’t see how or why anyone would derive satisfactory meaning (or reason) from observing their negative and painful experience of anything.....


Since my Dr mentioned it I have noticed more articles on mindfulness...

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Research has shown mindfulness and meditation-based programs to hold promise for treating a number of psychiatric conditions, including depression,anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Adding to this, a recent study by Harvard researchers soon to appear in Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging will report that participating in an eight-week mindfulness mediation program actually appears to make changes in the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The study validates that reported improvements are not just a result of people spending time relaxing but of actual changes in brain structure.


Since this is too significant to ignore, it raises the question for many as to how to understand mindfulness and meditation in a way that makes a first step possible. If you are confused and a bit hesitant – you are not alone.


Clinicians inviting people to try mindfulness or meditation report that people are often confused with the difference between mindfulness and meditation. Many can’t quite conceptualize techniques that seem so abstract. Some resist because they assume that to try meditation they have to change their beliefs to embrace Buddhism. Some report they are too anxious to sit still much less focus their thinking.


Having heard many of these same questions and doubts, I invite you to consider a simple clarification of mindfulness and meditation and two concrete options that may make first steps possible.


What is Mindfulness?

The basic definition of mindfulness is being aware,“ present to” what you are thinking and doing. It involves noticing your emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. Mindfulness is coming off autopilot. It is awareness without judgment.


What is Meditation?

Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. Just as there are many ways to stay fit – there are many ways to meditate.


Concentration Meditation is a well-known form of meditation. Concentration meditation involves focusing the mind on a single point. It often begins with a focus on your breathing. It can involve repeating a single word or manta, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong or counting beads. In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the

chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. It cultivates the capacity to focus and manage attention.


Mindfulness Meditation is another form of meditative practice.

  • As compared to being mindful in your daily life, Mindfulness Meditation is a more formal use of mindfulness techniques.  Referred to as “ insight meditation,” it involves observing wandering thoughts as they drift through our mind–not concentrating on a chosen object as in Concentration Meditation.
  • The goal of Mindfulness Meditation is to cultivate a stable and nonreactive awareness of one’s internal (thoughts, feelings and sensations) and external (social-environmental) experiences.
  • A prime benefit is that mindfulness meditation practice leads to a capacity for suspending habitual patterns of reactivity that trigger negative reactions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
  • Essentially one becomes able to respond in a more mindful way that allows for self-regulation and healthy changes on physical, emotional and neurophysiological levels.

A Concrete Example of Mindfulness

Whether or not you are ready for Mindful Meditation, it is valuable to understand how you might try using mindfulness.

  • Negative self-thoughts plague most of us. Triggered by events like negative feedback at work, an argument with your partner, or an overdue bill, you may have thoughts like “ I’m a loser” “Who would love me?” “ It just isn’t fair.”  Such thoughts can ruin a day, lower self-esteem or start a downward slide to depression.
  • Elisha Goldstein, author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion offers an important example of mindfulness.
  • Goldstein suggests that a basic example of mindfulness is the awareness of having a negative thought about yourself.
  • Such mindfulness provides a space between an upsetting stimulus and a habitual negative reaction.
  • If there is an awareness or mindfulness of your negative thought…then you may be able to use self-compassion to apply what Goldstein calls a fact check – Is this thought true? Is it absolutely true 100% of the time? How does this thought make you feel? What would your days, week and months ahead be if you no longer had this thought? Who would you be without this thought?
  • The different and wiser choice starts with a small step of mindfulness.

A Concrete Example of Meditation

Or a regular basis people report to me that they can’t stop worrying about the people they love. Since I have often found myself caught in that same trap, I suggest a meditation that is easy to do, concrete and comforting.


It comes from Ride of Your Life, by Ran Zilca. In his quest for inner peace, Ran takes a solo coast-to-coast motorcycle trip. Along the way, one of the experts he interviews is Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity who shares with him the “ Loving Kindness Meditation.” I recommend it.


“Loving Kindness Meditation”

Think of someone you love and focus on these phrases of love and kindness:

“May you be safe, May you be happy, May you be healthy and May you live with ease.”

By repeating and staying focused on these thoughts—you start


Loving Kindness Meditation”

Think of someone you love and focus on these phrases of love and kindness:

“May you be safe, May you be happy, May you be healthy and May you live with ease.”

By repeating and staying focused on these thoughts—you start to have these feelings yourself— A simple mediation is a surprising alternative to worry and stress.


Listen in to hear authors, Dr. Elisha Goldstein and Ran Zilca on Psych UP





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How Mindfulness Is Revolutionizing Mental Health Care




01/23/2015 1:38 pm EST




More than 350 million people globally suffer from depression, and 1 in 13 people around the world have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Overall, the World Health Organization estimates that roughly 450 million people suffer from some form of mental or neurological disorder -- and that roughly one in four people will be affected at some point in their lives.


These numbers are staggering. With the rise of mental illness and the increasingly pressing need for effective treatments, there's never been a more important moment for mindfulness -- the ability to cultivate a focused, non-judgmental awareness on the present moment. Research has shown mindfulness and meditation-based programs to hold promise for treating a number of psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.


As research has mounted in recent years, mindfulness has migrated from spiritual retreat centers to medical facilities. Now, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) -- the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research on the understanding and treatment of mental illness -- is getting serious about investigating mindfulness as a complementary treatment for a range of mental health conditions.


On Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson and NIMH director Tom Insel joined a conversation hosted by NPR science correspondent Joe Palca about how mindfulness affects the brain and might lead to improved clinical applications for the treatment of a range of mental health conditions.


Check out the video below to watch the full conversation.


So what exactly is mindfulness, and how can it improve psychological well-being?

"Mindfulness is about being fully aware in the present moment," said Davidson. "It's about bringing our attention back to the present moment and not getting carried away by our thoughts."


Attention is highly trainable through various mindfulness practices like meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), according to Davidson. "We can actually educate our attention," he said.

Mindfulness helps to train individuals in bringing back the attention time and time again when it has wandered. And it is precisely through helping individuals to not get carried away by their thoughts that mindfulness has been shown to be so effective for conditions like anxiety and depression. In fact, a landmark recent study from researchers at Lund University showed a group mindfulness treatment to be as effective as traditional talk therapy for treating anxiety and depression.


Evidence of the efficacy of these mindfulness-based treatments continues to grow. According to Insel, there are now nearly 500 scientific studies on mindfulness/meditation and the brain in the National Institute of Health's PubMed database.

Mindfulness makes a whole lot of sense as a therapeutic intervention for these conditions.


"When they're depressed, people are locked in the past. They're ruminating about something that happened that they can't let go of," said Insel. "When they're anxious, they're ruminating about the future -- it's that anticipation of what they can't control."

In contrast, when we are mindful, we are focused on the here and now. Mindfulness trains individuals to turn their attention to what is happening in the present moment.


On a neurological level, we're beginning to have a better understanding of the brain changes that underlie the improvements in psychological well-being and reduction of mental health symptoms that have been documented with mindfulness trainings.

Importantly, research has shown mindfulness to increase activity in brain areas associated with attention and emotion regulation.


Mindfulness also facilitates neuroplasticity -- the creation of new connections and neural pathways in the brain.

"What we call meta-cognitive learning -- learning to watch your own mind and to be introspective in that sense -- does have an impact on brain pathways long-term," said Insel.


This knowledge about the neurology of mindfulness could one day lead to improved clinical treatments.

But it's important to note that the beneficial effects of mindfulness also extend to non-clinical populations. Anyone can stand to benefit from learning to cultivate a focused, non-judgmental awareness on the present moment -- particularly in our busy modern lifestyles that are often characterized by stress, sleep deprivation, multitasking and digital distractions.


Mindfulness research pioneer and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who was in the audience at Davos, stood up at the end of the conversation to share his thoughts on the mindful revolution in mental healthcare, which he noted has been well underway for several decades. As Kabat-Zinn explained, research and testimonials from patients and clinicians suggest that we can turn "the medication down and the meditation up."


"We've seen this in the clinical domain for many years. People, in concert with their physicians... actually going off their medications for pain, for anxiety, for depression, as they begin to learn the self-regulatory elements of mindfulness," said Kabat-Zinn. "They discover that the things that used to be symptomatically problematic for them are no longer arising at the same level."



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Hi lele

,This sounds interesting a good start in the right direction.One thing to keep in mind is about how habits play in to mindfulness.A simple random outburst usaly doesn't bring down the house.More like if we have a strong habit of outburst will be suffer greatly.the only way to break a habit is to train the muscles to curb impulses.You can control the impulses then you can control the thought.Knowing how gives us no help unless we train ourselves to 'TRAIN THE NERVE". ,one small part act   till we gain control.Habits of temper are ingrained and take a supreme effort to curb

I've been aware of the method for twenty years.if i don't take the method and use it daily in my life Will it be there to help me?

All the theories  are great but none will help unless we incorporate practice and training,

I struggle from time to time  and know that the next setback could be right around the corner.I better be ready,seriously

:-P  :-P  :-P

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Hi lele

,This sounds interesting a good start in the right direction.One thing to keep in mind is about how habits play in to mindfulness.A simple random outburst usaly doesn't bring down the house.More like if we have a strong habit of outburst will be suffer greatly.the only way to break a habit is to train the muscles to curb impulses.You can control the impulses then you can control the thought.Knowing how gives us no help unless we train ourselves to 'TRAIN THE NERVE". ,one small part act   till we gain control.Habits of temper are ingrained and take a supreme effort to curb

I've been aware of the method for twenty years.if i don't take the method and use it daily in my life Will it be there to help me?

All the theories  are great but none will help unless we incorporate practice and training,

I struggle from time to time  and know that the next setback could be right around the corner.I better be ready,seriously

:-P  :-P  :-P


   Yes, we get “scripts” in our mind – often made up from negative ideas or images – that we automatically repeat in various situations without thinking

Edited by lethe
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For those interested in Mindfulness and psychology, you may want to check out something called "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy" or "ACT", a good simple starter book is "The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris, MD.  

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Anyone been on any of these mindfulness/meditation retreats? Any recommendations for one?


  Create your own and cut out the middle man....  :)


 Begin wherever you are.

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“But man is an odd, sad creature as yet, intent on pilfering the earth, and heedless of the growths within himself. He cannot be bored about psychology. He leaves it to the specialist, which is as if he should leave his dinner to be eaten by a steam-engine. He cannot be bothered to digest his own soul.”




E.M. Forster


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Four Steps to Freedom from Negative Thinking

A number of years ago I created a free email-based program called “Daily Now Moments.”  Every day people get an email into their inbox that is meant to inspire a moment of mindfulness or give some practical guidance in the direction of emotional freedom and happiness.


One of the practices is called “The Freedom Practice” and I wanted to share it with you because it can be so useful in gaining freedom from styles of thinking that don’t serve us and keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression and even our addictive behaviors.


Sometimes I call these styles of thinking “Mind Traps.”


Mind traps are styles like catastrophizing, blaming, exaggerating the negative and discounting the positive or just your most common negative thoughts.


The Freedom Practice


When you first notice a mind trap or common negative thought, first stop, take an intentional deep breath and from this more mindful space, move through these next four steps (Name, Feel, Release, Redirect):

  1. Name it – Actually name the style of thinking or behaving that isn’t serving you in your mind or say it out loud (e.g., overeating, catastrophic thinking, grumpiness, etc.). This not only creates more awareness for you, but also has been found to bring more activity to the part of your brain that has to do with emotional regulation.
  2. Feel it – Recognize how this moment feels in the body. This grounds us to the reality of the moment and gives us access to a choice point.
  3. Release it – Practice this phrase in concert with the breath, “Breathing in, I acknowledge the feeling that’s here; breathing out, I release it.”
  4. Redirect it – Shift your attention to something that is healthier and/or more important to pay attention to.
  5. Bring this awareness into the moments of your day, dropping into what really matters.

This practice was inspired by my work with the evidence-based program, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which used to be offered in only select areas and MBCT is now offered live online so it doesn’t matter where you are in the country you can have access to it.


Remember, most importantly, this is a learning process. That  means don’t measure success by whether “it works” every time or not, instead you’re training your brain to name, recognize, release and redirect. 


Mastery is only created with a learning mindset. Like learning how to ride a bike, as you practice and repeat this over time, your brain will start making this more automatic.


As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Edited by lethe

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Mindfulness Isn’t a Depression Cure-All
By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor


A new study from the University of Oxford finds that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is just as effective as antidepressants for preventing a relapse of depression. In MBCT, a person learns to pay closer attention to the present moment and to let go of the negative thoughts and ruminations that can trigger depression. They also explore a greater awareness of their own body, identifying stress and signs of depression before a crisis hits.


The study is wonderful news because the relapse rate for major depression disorder is as high as 50 percent for persons who have experienced one episode and as high as 80 percent for people who have experienced two episodes of depression. As my psychiatrist said in our last session, it usually takes less medicine to keep someone well than to get someone well. So that means people can wean off antidepressants with a kind of security net under them, without the high risk of relapse.


However, I’m going to risk the backlash of readers and go against popular opinion when I say that I don’t think mindfulness is a cure-all for depression. It has gotten so much buzz lately that I fear that some severely depressed people out there may make the same mistake I did.


Last year this time, I was immersed in an eight-week intensive Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at Anne Arundel Community Hospital. The course was approved by and modeled from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s incredibly successful program at the University of Massachusetts. I was familiar with Zinn’s writings and had read about the many miracles that mindfulness had brought to his patients, from helping with diabetes and arthritis to heart disease and chronic pain. People with insomnia were sleeping through the night, and diabetics were improving their blood sugar.


I salivated over his pages.


I wanted a miracle, too.


I had been unable to break free of chronic “death thoughts” (“I wish I were dead”) for over five years, and was growing disillusioned with traditional psychiatry, as I had tried countless medication combinations that didn’t seem to do much beyond gift me with lovely side effects, and had been in therapy off and on for 20 years. The only thing that did help was aerobic exercise, so I was swimming more than 300 laps some days to escape the thoughts.


There were three people in our small group of 15 that were clinically depressed at the time, or at least were willing to talk about it. During the sixth class, when the instructor was talking about how to let your thoughts be, I became a little agitated and raised my hand. “Are there ever times when your thought process is so distorted that mindfulness and meditation can’t help you?” I asked.

“You can always shift to another object of attention, like from your breath to sound,” she replied.


“No, I mean, like sometimes if you simply get too frustrated trying to meditate, isn’t it better to go watch a movie or do something that will distract you?” I was thinking of the introduction to The Mindful Way Through Depression, when authors Kabat-Zinn, Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal write:


“It may be wise to not undertake the entire program while in the midst of an episode of clinical depression. Current evidence suggests that it may be prudent to wait until you have gotten the necessary help in climbing out of the depths and are able to approach this new work of working with your thoughts and feelings, with your mind and spirit unburdened by the crushing weight of acute depression.”


I finally quoted Zinn, the Dalai Lama of the MBSR world, to get my point across, and then she agreed with him. But I was relieved when one of my other classmates who had experienced the same kind of debilitating depression I had whispered to me, “I don’t think she has ever been depressed like we have.”


He confirmed what I was thinking during that moment and what has been my experience: mindfulness is better at keeping a person from getting depressed than from pulling a person out of depression.


I say this because I gave the program everything I had. I meditated everyday for 45 minutes for more than eight weeks, read everything I was supposed to for the class, went to a weekly three-hour class, and participated in a retreat. But, upon graduating from the program, I drove home still fighting those damn death thoughts.


I felt like a complete mindfulness and MBSR failure. What went wrong?


In hindsight, I wish there was more than one paragraph in Zinn’s book about when mindfulness isn’t the solution, about when it’s better to swim laps or ride your bike into town or call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. I still would have taken the course — and I do feel like I benefited immensely from it — but I would have been more forgiving of myself that it didn’t “work” like everyone else’s magic.


Today I am more aware of my stress reactions and am proactive about reducing my stress before I start wilting. I can identify the thinking patterns that lead to depression, like the inner critic and jumping to the future. Especially beneficial is locating tension in a certain region of my body and trying to relax it. All of this I learned from the class. And I still meditate — actually it has morphed into prayer, which is a more natural form of meditation for me, and more beneficial (for me).


Mindfulness and meditation may very well keep me from relapsing from depression, now that I am finally without the death thoughts.


I hope so anyway.


But I don’t attach to it the magical properties that I did before, and I think we need to be careful in our optimism.


There are many, many tools to help those of us who are at risk for depression relapse.


Mindfulness is one.


Join “Practicing Mindfulness” on Project Beyond Blue, the new depression community.

Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.


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“You’re not going to die. Here’s the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you’ll still be okay. If you lose the gig, the lover, the you’ll still be okay. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired…it’s not going to kill you. Ask anyone who’s been through it.”

Daneille LaPorte


“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.”
Deepak Chopra


“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”
Steve Maraboli


“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.”
Jodi Picoult


“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”
Hermann Hesse


“I’ts not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
Hans Selye



“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
Arthur Somers Roche



“Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.”
Astrid Alauda


“My need to solve the problem is the problem.”


“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”
Deepak Chopra


“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.”
Guy Finley


“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”
Thich Nhat Hanh


“Don’t try to steer the river.”
Deepak Chopra


“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’”
Eckhart Tolle


“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Corrie ten Boom


“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace.”
Joan Borysenko


“Anxiety is one little tree in your forest. Step back and look at the whole forest.”


“Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.”


“Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.”
Bryant H. McGill



“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
Thich Nhat Hanh


“If you gathered up all the fearful thoughts that exist in the mind of the average person, looked at them objectively, and tried to decide just how much good they provided that person, you would see that not some but all fearful thoughts are useless. They do no good. Zero. They interfere with dreams, hopes, desire and progress.”
Richard Carlson


“You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.”
Pearl S. Buck


“Stress is the trash of modern life — we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.”
Terri Guillemets


“Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That’s one of my favorite things to say. So what.”
Andy Warhol


We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
Joseph Campbell

“Said the river to the seeker, “Does one really have to fret about enlightenment? No matter which way I turn, I’m homeward bound.”
Anthoney De Mello


“Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path.”
Steve Jobs


“I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery


“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
William James


“You forgive yourself for every failure because you are trying to do the right thing. God knows that and you know it. Nobody else may know it.”
Maya Angelou



“Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
Kurt Vonnegut


“You can only lose what you cling to.”


“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.”
Tao Te Ching


If you’re struggling to come up with a great idea for a screenplay, or if you need motivation or  career coaching,  call for a free phone consult from a veteran screenwriter & therapist. 



    This post was last updated on 31 Aug 2015.

I studied psychology at Stanford University, filmmaking at USC. I have a private practice where I specialize in therapy & coaching for creative professionals, with addiction, anxiety, sex addiction, couples problems and trauma.

Please check out my website: davidsilvermanlmft.com

Are you an artist, writer, actor, designer, journalist, or in any Hollywood job? Need a therapist or coach? Call 1-310-850-4707.


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Great feature on 60 minutes last night about mindfulness! Check it out, if you are interested. 


   Thanks for pointing it out. Funny how it mentions "slow walking" as a meditation and not a word on tai chi.

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I try to use mindfulness and meditation but with the dyskinesia I have it is hard to focus

Any suggestions

Hi Noah,

The way I control my jerky movements is through concentration.I can sit here and type and not be bothered much until I stop,lol

 Do you think it will help your IM problem? How did you make out with DBS?

Hope you are well.


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How meditation can change your body's response to stress

CBCMay 14, 2017

How meditation can change your body's response to stress

You have to give a speech in 10 minutes, the study subjects were told — so get ready.

A video camera recorded each step as they walked to the microphone, under bright lights, while "evaluators" in white lab coats held clipboards, ready to judge.

Sounds stressful? That's the point. 

This was part of a randomized, controlled clinical trial, designed to send hearts racing, blood pressure rising, and stress hormones coursing through veins, to test how patients with anxiety disorder handled the scenario after eight weeks of treatment.

The treatment wasn't a drug — it was mindfulness meditation.

"If we could show they were better able to cope, that would really be a big bonus for the treatment of anxiety disorders where people are sometimes overwhelmed by stressful experiences in their lives," said Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, lead author of the study published recently in Psychiatry Research.

The meditators didn't just feel better in the anxiety-inducing scenario, compared to the control group. 

The difference could be measured in their blood.

Relaxation paradox

As we learn more about the dangers of chronic stress, calming down has arguably become a modern obsession, with mindfulness at the fore.

Of course, stress is part of life, and our bodies have an ancient response, to rise to the occasion. Faced with a threat, the brain sends signals to release stress hormones that trigger a cascade of changes throughout the body, from a racing heart to dilating pupils to slowed digestion.

This is quite helpful if you need to react quickly and, say, run from a lion. 

But the same cascade can be triggered by our own thoughts and worries — and when stress becomes chronic, it's linked to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke,obesity and other ills.

Mindfulness teaches to notice the intense feelings, without judgement, said Dr. Dzung Vo, a pediatrician who uses mindfulness to help struggling teens at B.C. Children's Hospital.

Trying to suppress the stress response doesn't work, he said.

"Paradoxically, the more we actually try to relax, the more we have something to achieve and to strive for, actually the harder it is to relax."

Not a 'magical intervention'

But as mindfulness enjoys a pop-culture moment — touted in products from meditation apps to colouring books  — backlash has come, including from academics who warn the hype may be outpacing the evidence.

"I think there's something here," said Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health, law and policy at the University of Alberta.

"But ... I think we need to be careful about the idea that mindfulness is good for everything, that it's some sort of magical intervention that will save the day."

A 2014 systemic review of mindfulness research, for example, found "moderate evidence" the practice helps with anxiety, depression and pain, but no evidence of effect on other things like mood, sleep and weight.

Caulfield also cautions about so-called "white-hat bias": because mindfulness seems both righteous and benign, he says the field hasn't faced enough scrutiny, even though it's become a billion-dollar industry.

"Just like 'big pharma,' there's big mindfulness."

What's needed, according to Caulfield and others, is more randomized, controlled clinical trials to know when mindfulness helps — and when it doesn't.


'Like a cloud over the sky'

That's what Hoge and her colleagues set out to do with the clinical trial described above, aiming to test a technique called "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction" the same way they'd trial a drug.

MBSR was developed more than 30 years ago by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and is now used in hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

Over eight weeks of classes and daily practice at home, the class learns breath awareness, a body scan, and gentle Hatha yoga, said Hoge.

"Pay attention to whatever arises in the mind," the participants heard, "with gentleness and non-judgement, and allow it to pass like a cloud over the sky."

The group that learned this meditation was compared to a control group. They took a different class with the same time commitment and homework, but learning to manage stress with diet, exercise and sleep, not meditation. 

After the training, the control group was actually more stressed, showing higher levels of stress hormone ACTH in their blood from the anxiety-inducing speech.

The meditators saw the opposite: ACTH dropped, as did pro-inflammatory cytokines — both markers of stress — suggesting the meditation had indeed made them more resilient.

"I treat patients with anxiety disorders with medication and psychotherapy, and I believe in both of those," said Hoge.

"But I think the thing that is special about meditation training is ... you're paying attention to your mind with kindness and gentleness. There's something that's very healing about that for some people."

Reporter Lisa Johnson is exploring the science and business of calming down in a special series, Keep Calm, with stories on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition and a national holiday special produced with Manusha Janakiram at noon on Victoria Day.


Edited by lethe
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We had a psychologist come to a PD support group to demonstrate this method.Sort of like meditation which in my view is limited.

She was fairly young and I asked her if she ever heard of Dr.Low.No was her reply.

In PD emotional discomfort a lot comes from the disease and  medications

.I have found control mostly  comes from my training 

A thought brings it on and a thought can take it away

Do the things you fear and hate to do

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