Here is a quick reference to my favorite meditation method, Autogenic Training. Invented by a couple of German doctors, it is easy to learn and easy to use.
Mindfulness is very helpful. I don’t mean, at least right now, the traditional Buddhist meditation, but rather Mindfulness as defined by Harvard psychologist, Ellen Langer. Her book, Mindfulness, is a fascinating read. Here is a short video:
Langer teaches that the most simple way to develop mindfulness is a default feeling (i.e., a habit you cultivate and build) of curiosity. She reports that people with an attitude of curiosity are able to notice small differences and learn critical lessons.
Here is Langer herself, worth watching.
More Langer, on Counterclockwise, her most famous study.
Cultivate your own sense of curiosity. “What can I learn from this stressed-out feeling?”
(Some are fearful that without stress they won’t have the energy to change the unjust forces in society. I disagree. Calm people are always best at creating change. If that isn’t true to you, you haven’t lost anything. You can always go back to freaking out. But I think that you will find that calm and creative creates lasting change. Take a look at the handout below.)
What is going on in your body and your brain when you are relaxing? We will address that topic here but we can’t possibly cover everything that is known. It is a huge area. I do think that after this lesson, you will have enough solid information so as to motivate you to do this work for yourself. Nothing beats just getting into it!
Bear in mind that only 1 / 4 or 1 / 5 people stick with meditation, and anything I can do to raise that success rate is worth while.
So after you go through this, reflect. Does that information inform and motivate? Give me feedback!
I am old. As a Baby Boomer, I am interested in how to get myself back to feeling young, energetic, and healthy. I am grateful to live in this amazing world and want to stick around and continue to contribute.
Meditation is turning out to be one of the best ways to improve and enhance my life. I use Autogenic Training and try to do 15 – 20 minutes every day at noon. I have been doing that for thirty years, more the past few years. You can get my audio file on how to do Autogenic Training here.
There are lots of other ways to meditate. YouTube has many many good videos.
Richie Davidson is perhaps the premier researcher on meditation and the brain. Here is a new article on his findings:
Here is a short link: http://bit.ly/k9sUcg
The core finding is that while most training develops a specific part of the brain, meditation seems to grow the entire brain. So learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument develop those particular parts of the brain that are involved, they do no good for other parts.
Here is an excerpt: “To summarize, mental training of cognitive skills as cultivated by FA and OM meditation has been associated with changes in brain structure and function, as well as improved task performance. These findings provide initial support for the idea that systematic mental training of cognitive skills, as cultivated by meditation, can improve performance on external tasks that call upon the trained skills, and hence can strengthen specific cognitive processes. These findings also add to a growing body of literature demonstrating plasticity in the adult brain, and may provide initial insights into the basic mechanisms that underlie cognitive process-specific learning.”
Tackle this report. Read it yourself and ponder. I so appreciate open source publishing, where I can download the whole report and read it.
ANOTHER RECENT REPORT: While many reports on meditation tell us it makes us happier (higher energy in the left prefrontal lobe, the happiness center), usually subjects meditate for an hour a day for eight to twelve weeks. Lots of practice. Many expert meditators have ten thousand hours or more of practice.
A new report is “Frontal Electroencephalographic Asymmetry Associated With Positive Emotion Is Produced by Very Brief Meditation Training.” by Christopher A. Moyer, Michael P. W. Donnelly, Jane C. Anderson, Kally C. Valek, Sarah J. Huckaby, Derek A. Wiederholt, Rachel L. Doty, Aaron S. Rehlinger, and Brianna L. Rice.
The findings tell us that 5 – 16 minutes a day for five weeks produce a significant increase on the left prefrontal activity, and that means increased happiness. In only five weeks! This is very encouraging.
There are lots of ways to meditate. They all work. I use Autogenic Training. I have never been associated with Buddhists. But all these mental disciplines help grow your brain and make you happier and more effective. Whatever model you want to follow, develop your brain, develop your capacity. You won’t be sorry.
You can request a copy of this article from the first author. Christopher A. Moyer, University of Wisconsin-Stout, 220 10th Ave. East, Menomonie, WI 54751 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
When you are fasting, like when you get up early in the morning and haven’t eaten since your evening meal, your blood glucose should be under 100. If you consume any kind of food, especially food high in sugar, that glucose level should rise.
If the blood glucose is low and if it doesn’t go up a lot after you eat, that suggests a healthy state. The person’s body is metabolizing the sugar well, and the tissues are able to take up the sugar easily.
Contrary, if your fasting blood glucose is higher that one hundred and if it shoots up after you eat, your body has become resistant to insulin. That means you are on a path toward type two diabetes, what used to be called “adult onset” diabetes.
Sadly, today it is not an adult disease. Even our children are at considerable risk. Our bodies become resistant to insulin by eating too much sugar and by not maintaining a high level of physical exercise. The pancreas is forced to pump out more and more insulin, which in turn, makes the tissues less and less responsive to insulin.
Ted Wilson and colleagues have shown that relaxation breathing, such as breathing in to a count of three and out to a count of six, emphasizing diaphragmatic breathing, reduces blood sugar. This could be a useful clinical tool to help people manage blood sugar. It wouldn’t allow us to eat sugary foods, and it doesn’t eliminate the need to exercise vigorously, but it is a help.
Here is the study abstract: http://tinyurl.com/mlmx852 This is one of those “subscribe to get the article” sites, but you can see Wilson’s email address and write to him for a reprint.
The majority of my readers are in the mental health field. The reason this blood glucose finding might be important to you is because Malcom Peet, a British psychiatry researcher, has shown that the more sugar a population consumes, the more depression and schizophrenia rises. That study is here: http://tinyurl.com/lsrsprk
That link takes you to the abstract. Unfortunately, the link to the full text is broken. The point is that blood sugar can apparently influence our mental health.
You see, inflammation can trigger symptoms in some people, and a high level of sugar intake raises your inflammatory response. In everyone, higher inflammatory states (high levels of c-reactive protein, cortisol, and other markers of inflammation) makes us more irritable and emotionally reactive.
Relaxation breathing also lowers blood pressure. As I am writing this, my blood pressure is 133 / 78, a bit on the high side. After two minutes of relaxation breathing, the blood pressure is 122 / 74. I am a bit distracted because Ruby The Dog is dropping tennis balls in my lap, and that may have boosted the BP a bit.
(We are dog-sitting. To learn more about the Amazing Ruby The Dog, please go to http://enjoylifebook.com and watch the video.)
Bottom line: Breathing in a meditative or mindful manner, what Wilson et al. call Relaxation Breathing, has many benefits. It doesn’t take long, and it easy to learn. Hard to see how you go wrong with that.