The Truly Mindful Workplace: A Reality Whose Moment Is Arriving

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Christy Cassisa, J.D.

Christy Cassisa

By Christy Cassisa, J.D.
Director of WorkLife Integration
UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness

If you follow workplace mindfulness in the news, you’ve had quite a bit of reading material in the last few years. Businesses of all types have embraced the fact that the wellbeing of their employees improves the health of the company.  One quarter of large US companies have launched stress reduction programs of some sort, and many of those are also incorporating mindfulness and meditation trainings.  Many well-known names such as Google, Aetna, General Mills, AOL Time Warner and Target have brought mindfulness and meditation to their people.  Mindfulness is being hailed as the next great thing in the efforts to improve the performance, health and overall wellbeing of employees and leadership alike.

Mindfulness In Leadership
Both formal studies and informal self-reports show that leaders who practice mindfulness have more mental clarity and flexibility, are able to listen better and as a result, make better decisions.  Enhanced emotional resiliency and self-awareness arise as a natural byproduct of mindfulness practices, and these in turn can lead to more effective and inspirational leaders.

One such program you may have read about in the Financial Times (The Mind Business) was developed at General Mills.  Janice Marturano, deputy general counsel, phrased it this way: “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected. That compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us- our colleagues, customers- that’s what the training of mindfulness is really about.” More than 400 employees and 250 executives have participated in the GM program, and the results are amazing:  83% of participants reported increased personal productivity and of the senior executives who took the course, 80% reported improved decision-making and 89% reported that they had become better listeners.

For executives, learning to do nothing to achieve more is counter-intuitive. But what they often find once they begin to look is that the very drive that has lead them to success thus far blinds them to the next steps to progress further. And this clouded vision is precisely what mindfulness meditation can clear.

Employee Well-Being
When it comes to employees, the benefits are also well-documented. Company-wide stress reduction programs are nothing new, but with the addition of mindfulness and meditation, employees have shown dramatic improvements in stress levels and overall wellbeing.  Meditation programs have shown employee results such as:

  • Reduced anxiety and increased overall sense of calm
  • Enhanced ability to bounce back from emotionally charged situations
  • Enhanced coping abilities related to everyday stress as well as severe or acute stress encounters
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved memory
  • Increased focus (staying on task longer)
  • Improved teamwork, increased respect and support for colleagues
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Lowered blood pressure

And these results are simply the performance and health-related measures. At Google, employees reported improved marriages, reversed decisions to leave the company, and more. The benefits to the employee far exceed those measured by standard health and productivity scores.

Return on Investment
What, you say, is the value of this kind of program?  What does my bottom line expect to get in return for the outlay of time money and effort into a mindfulness meditation program?

According to the Gallup Business Journal, wellbeing is an employer issue. By the numbers, they reported:

  • People who have thriving wellbeing have a 35% lower turnover rate than those who are struggling; in a 10,000-person company, this represents $19.5 million.
  • Employees with high wellbeing have 41% lower health-related costs compared with employees who have lower wellbeing. In a firm that has 10,000 employees, this difference amounts to nearly $30 million​

So incorporating these measures, your ROI of each benefit may be measured as so:

  1. Stress Reduction:  As a result of reducing the stress of your employees, look for a reduction in health care costs and absenteeism rates.
  2. Improved Employee Well-being: As a result of investing in your people, look for increased retention rates, improved employee satisfaction and overall engagement measures.  And as an interesting additional measure, you might look to your customers’ experiences as a result of this investment in your employees’ health and well-being: look for increases in sales and improved customer satisfaction surveys.
  3. Strengthened Leadership: Leadership Development programs have many measures to use to evaluate the effectiveness of executives, ranging from 360 evaluations to overall company performance. When executives are operating more effectively, the entire company benefits in innumerable ways.

In case you have not been immersed in the news of mindfulness in the workplace, I’ve summarized many of the recent articles below.  Please comment on this post to contribute additional articles as you find them so that other readers can have access to all the latest information and resources!

Note: Christy Cassisa is a former attorney, who has recently been appointed as the Director of WorkLife Integration for the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. As she notes, “With all of the excitement surrounding mindfulness in the business community, we feel it is time to opt in. In this effort, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness WorkLife Integration Program.  Now you can bring the Center’s expertise to your office with a program or workshop tailored for your business or group. If you have an interest in learning more, contact Christy via the Center for Mindfulness at cfmworklife.ucsd,edu. 

Workplace Mindfulness Articles

Developing Mindful Leaders– Harvard Business Review, Dec 2011

Meditation Makes You More Creative– Science Daily, April 2012

OK Google, Take a Deep Breath– New York Times, April 2012

How to be Happier at Work– Inc., May 2012

How to kill a thought in a good way– Forbes, June 2012

Meditation Can Keep you More Focused at Work– USAToday, July 2012

Be more mindful for a better workplace– Chicago Tribune Aug 2012

Mindfulness is not a Cure, it’s Better– HuffPost, Aug 2012

The Mind Business– Financial Times Magazine, Aug 2012

Mindfulness-based stress reduction effects on moral reasoning and decision makingJournal of Positive Psychology, Sept 2012

A Guide to Mindfulness at Work– Forbes Oct, 2012

Mindfulness Helps you become a better leader –Harvard Business Review Oct 2012

Multitasking Loses its Cool: Mindfulness is Now In – Investors.com, Oct 2012

The ROI of Practicing Mindfulness at Work– Under30CEO.com, Nov 2012

Meditation finds an ommmm in the office– Globe & Mail, Nov 2012

Mindful Multitasking– Levy, U Washington

Why Mindful Breathing Works– Huffington Post, Nov 2012

Lead by Achieving Nothing.  Seriously. Forbes, Nov 2012

Practicing Mindful Leadership– Training & Development Magazine, March 2013

Mindfulness can improve leadership in times of instability– The Guardian, Aug 2013

WorkLife Changing Tools: Key Wellness Tips for Busy Executives

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By Jennifer Martella

Worklife Integration Program Photo Jennifer Martella recently participated in our MBSR program and is Owner and Founder of Strategic Wellness Concepts. Contact her at info@strategicwellnessconcepts.com for  more information about sustainable wellness and personal/professional balance.

To inquire about our UCSD Center for Mindfulness WorkLife Integration Programs please contact Program Director, Christy Casissa,JD at christy.cassisa@gmail.com. 858-334-4633

 

After spending over fifteen years in corporate America, I understand the challenges that face busy, success-motivated executives.  I spent many years on the corporate treadmill trying to “make it all work,” only to find that my personal health and wellness suffered as a result.  Determined to find a better way, I finally turned the corner by discovering a few simple tools that changed my life – both personally and professionally – and helped me find balance.    The solution is easier than you might think.

 Overall wellness

·      Invest your time wisely.  One of the biggest hurdles we face on the path towards improving health and wellness in our lives is time.  There is never enough at the end of the day, and ironically, the one item that typically suffers is our personal well-being.  The solution?  Time management and prioritization.  Carve time into your daily schedule just for you.  Whether you use this time for exercise, spending time with a friend, reading a chapter out of your favorite book or enjoying a carefree walk, calendar it, prioritize it and make it happen!

·      Mindfulness.  Learning to live in the moment is key.  Corporate America thrives on multitasking.  Although at times it may be necessary, too much can lead to inefficiency, decreased productivity, frustration and exhaustion.  As often as possible, focus on the “now.”  That is, the task at hand or the person you are with, and particularly when exercising or spending time with family and friends.  The benefits are far reaching!

·      Unplugand lose the iPhone.  Ok, not literally, but take time each day to “let go,” unplug and unwind.  Our brains need a vacation – especially from the Smartphone!

·      Do at least one “selfless” thing each day.   Each day, do something for someone else – even a complete stranger.  For example, thank someone for their patience, buy lunch for someone, or tell someone they made your day.  Random acts of kindness and generosity are the moments when you are truly living!

A few words about exercise

·      Keep it simple.  No time for the gym or a run outdoors?  How about a fifteen minute walk around the block?  Take the stairs back to your building?  Walk to your lunch meeting instead of opting for a cab?  While you are at it, think about your surroundings – how your muscles feel – it may sound odd, but this practice of mindfulness will actually give your brain the ability to refuel, recharge and refresh!

·      Have fun.  If the treadmill isn’t your thing, that makes two of us.  Find out what is, and enjoy it.

·      Exercise that pays the most dividends.  Less is often more, and variety is key.  It’s the quality, not necessarily the quantity that counts.

Chew on this

·      Eat mindfully.  Have you ever finished a meal or snack and moments later not even realized what you were eating, let alone that you were eating?  I spent years eating most meals at my desk while multitasking (reading the WSJ, scanning emails, preparing for the next deadline) and never even tasting my food.  Each day, try to eat at least one meal mindfully – that means doing nothing else but enjoying the meal, thinking about what you are eating and taking the time to chew.  You just might find yourself satiated sooner and in a much more positive frame of mind! 

·      Plan ahead.  No time for lunch?  Another vending machine or coffee day?  Bring almonds, walnuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, even a protein powder or shake to sustain you until you can actually sit down for a meal.

·      There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Do the research, listen to your body and find out what works best for you!


“Our brains are evolving to multitask,” not! The ill-usion of multitasking

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I recently overheard a proclamation, which has become somewhat of a mantra, recited by today’s college students. A student proudly making the following declaration regarding their ability to pay attention to multiple digital screens at once said, “Our brains are evolving to multitask!” That simple yet profound statement left me wondering could this really be true? How in one or two computerized generation of human beings could our brains evolve so dramatically? Is there such a thing as multitasking, and how is our performance affected when we are concurrently attending to computers, smart phones, and tasks? Recent research in neuroscience has shown that our brains are capable of forming new neural connections; known as neuroplasticity, but this student’s assertion seems to be pointing towards a rapid leap in evolution that goes well beyond that. Through my work in the field of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) I have come to regard, that what we commonly refer to as multitasking, does not exist, and that the level of our ability to perform tasks suffers as we shift our attention from one task to another. In fact the empirical data from studies in the field neuroscience is proving that there is no such thing as multitasking!

The online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines multitasking as, “the concurrent performance of several jobs by a computer,” and “the performance of multiple tasks at the same time.” These two definitions delineate multitasking into two distinct categories. The first definition refers to performing multiple tasks simultaneously, such as driving while talking on speaker phone, listening to the radio, while at the same time trying to remember directions. The second definition is pointing towards moving from one task to another such as, text messaging, followed by shifting to doing homework on a computer, and shifting again to grab a hurried bite from a late dinner; over and over, again and again. Now consider that all of us, especially college students given their current digital computer screen oriented lifestyles, are doing more and more of this, all the time. If this is true, and I believe it is, we can see why it is good for our psyche’s to think we are evolving to do it.

So what exactly is the data derived from recent research into the field of multitasking showing? In the PBS Frontline presentation, digital_nation, by Douglas Rushkoff, and Rachel Dretzin, Dr. Clifford Nass is interviewed about his studies at Stanford University, on the performance levels of extreme multitaskers. “These are kids who are doing 5, 6, or more things at once all the time” (Nass, Webb). Contrary to the fact that most multitaskers think they are extremely good at it, the results of Nass’s first of its kind studies are troubling.

“It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking! They get distracted constantly. Their memory is very disorganized. Recent work we’ve done suggests that they’re worse at analytic reasoning. We worry that it may be we’re creating people who may not be able to think well, and clearly.” (Nass, Web)

Some people might argue that these studies are being done on extreme multitaskers, and that most people can juggle two or three tasks at once. However, there is research showing that performing even several tasks at once can affect a person’s performance. In the Myth of Multitasking, Christine Rosen, writes, “In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard, and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers” (Rosen, Web).

Taking a step back from the profound statement, “our brains are evolving to multitask,” let’s look at the question, are students developing new skills and competence that facilitates multitasking? In Electronic Media Use, Reading, and Academic Distractibility in College Youth, by Dr Laura E Levine, et al, findings are reported to show a correlation among college students between instant messaging, and reading skills. “The findings suggest that the amount of time college students spent instant messaging had an increased effect on their levels of distractibility in performing academic tasks, and that the amount of time they spent reading books reduced their levels of distractibility” (Levine, Web). For those that feel multitasking is not a bad thing the article concludes with the concession that there may be some positive new teaching methods that will emerge to hold the attention of students, such as, the use of video games to facilitate learning. Even with a few positive changes on the horizon the adverse effects of multitasking continue to be seen. In Multi-Tasking Adversely Affects the Brain’s Learning Systems by Russel Poldrack, he reports,

“The best thing you can do to improve your memory is to pay attention to the things you want to remember. Our data support that. When distractions force you to pay less attention to what you are doing, you don’t learn as well as if you had paid full attention. Tasks that require more attention, such as learning calculus or reading Shakespeare, will be particularly adversely affected by multi-tasking.” (Poldrack, Web)

In my experience there is a fundamental common sense to all this. If you focus all of your attention on one task at a time it seems logical that the results would be better than if your attention is divided or distracted by other tasks. Our children may argue they are evolving to move beyond this, yet the data supports what our mothers and generations before us always knew as they gave advice such as, “Finish what you are doing!”

In our culture there is certainly a perception that people can successfully multitask, and a belief that the more that we do it the more efficient at it we become. After all, most of us would say we are multitasking many times during the day. So what are the motivations behind all our multitasking? In her blog article Beyond Simple Multi-Tasking: Continuous Partial Attention, Linda Stone makes a distinction between simple multitasking, and what cognitive scientists refer to as complex multitasking, to explain her theory of Continuous Partial Attention (CPA). In simple multitasking each task is given the same priority. One task may even be routine like stirring pasta while talking to our spouse. Stone claims the driving force in simple multitasking is to be more productive. In complex multitasking the motivation is not to miss anything by maintaining a field of CPA. “In the case of continuous partial attention, we’re motivated by a desire not to miss anything. We’re engaged in two activities that both demand cognition” (Stone, Web). One of these cognitive tasks may also seem more important than another requiring our brains to be focused on it while remaining alert to the several other less important cognitive tasks requiring our attention. Stone continues, “ When we do this, we may have the feeling that our brains process multiple activities in parallel. Researchers say that while we can rapidly shift between activities, our brains process serially” (Stone, Web)

Stone’s theory of CPA is supported in the article Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers, by Eyal Opher, et al. The abstract of their study states the following surprising findings, “that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set.” It is important to note Stone’s CPA is not multitasking, rather she is referring to the kind of attention we hold while we are complex multitasking. Keeping our attention in this state of hyper-vigilance is keeping our fight or flight response activated. According to Stone some people will feel a feeling of being alive, on top of things, and connected. She concedes this can serve us well at times. However, Stone claims the shadow side of being on continuous continuous partial attention (CCPA) is a constant activation of the fight or flight response. The complex multitasker is in a continuous state of overstimulation, with a perpetual feeling of lack of fulfillment that can lead to stress related diseases. This holds true with my own experiences of hearing about and seeing the conditions that create stress in the lives of participants in MBSR programs.

Indeed, neuroscientists are discovering that different parts of the brain are switching on and off resulting in the serial processing that Stone references. This switching happens so fast that it appears we are performing multiple tasks simultaneously. We can conclude that contrary to the first definition of multitasking, “the concurrent performance of several jobs by a computer,” that our brain does not process tasks concurrently. Regarding the second definition of multitasking, the performance of multiple tasks at the same time,” we see we are not really performing tasks at the same time, but instead switching back and forth between them, and some of us are experiencing being in an unfulfilled state of continuous partial attention. In an NPR Morning Edition story, Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again, Jon Hamilton quotes, Earl Miller, a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT; “that for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. What we can do is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed. Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time when in fact you are not.” Many naysayers may try to say this is simply a semantic argument, and to some degree, I would agree. Words are divisive by nature and often fall short in truly representing what they are meant to describe. Perhaps it is time to throw out the word multitasking, as the definitions no longer fit and invent words that better represent our current scientific understanding of the way our brains function. How about serialtasking or taskswithcing?

If we identify that our lives have sped up to a point that may be causing us physical harm, and have a desire to do something about it, there are several antidotes to our cultural addiction of the illusion multitasking. This will require a change that most people may be resistant to make. In the article Mastering Multitasking by Urs Gasser, and John Palfrey the authors suggest, “ We have to embrace and master it, while providing limits from time to time to create contemplative space for young people” (Gasser, Web). We can focus more on individual tasks by bringing a strong mindful awareness to our actions while performing them. By taking breaks and time outs we can shift our attention back to our senses. In one sense I’m hopeful as I see a cultural shift, perhaps as a backlash, to all the stimulation, to embrace mindfulness. Alternatively letting go of even one aspect of mutitasking, like text messaging, can be painful for some people let alone shutting down and going offline.

The empirical evidence supports the hypothesis that there is no such thing as multitasking. Multitasking is a misnomer. The word points to something that at best can be looked at as individual tasks being performed through a very rapid switching back and forth in the way our brains function, or through performing tasks with continuous partial attention. Research particularly in the field of neuroscience is compiling data that shows multitasking can negatively affect performance, and lead to increased levels of stress. We are all part of one big current cultural experiment where we are the scientists, the laboratory, and the results, and it is not a trivial matter. The quality of our lives and health, may depend on our ability to truly understand, and wisely manage the effects of our perceptions, beliefs, and actions, surrounding our illusion of multitasking.

Works Cited

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-webster.com. Apr. 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2011

Dretzin, Rachel. Rushkoff, Douglas. “digital_nation life on the virtual frontier.” pbs.org Frontline. Feb. 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.

Rosen, Christine. “The Myth of Multitasking.” The New Atlantis thenewatlantis.com. Spring 2008. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.

Levine, Laura E. Waite, Bradley M. Bowman, Laura L. “Electronic Media Use, Reading, and Academic Distractibility in College Youth.” Cyber Psychology & Behavior Vol. 10 Issue 4 Aug. 2007. EBSCOhost. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.

Poldrack, Russell. “Multi-Tasking Adversely Affects the Brain’s Learning Systems.” psych.ucla.edu. Jul. 2006. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.

Stone, Linda. “Beyond Simple Multi-Tasking: Continuous Partial Attention.” Lindastone.net. Nov. 2009. Wen. 14 Apr. 2011.

Hamilton, Jon. “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again.” npr.org. NPR Morning Edition. Oct. 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.

Ophir, Eyal. Nass, Clifford. Wagner, Anthony D. “Cognitive control in media multitaskers.” PNAS.org. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Jul. 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.

Gasser, Urs. Palfrey, John. “Mastering Multitasking.” Educational Leadership Mar 2009: Vol. 66, Issue 6. EBSCOHost. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.

About The Author

Allan Goldstein is an experienced MBSR teacher, facilitating group programs, personal coaching, and mentoring in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction through Mindful Coaching. He assists the UCSD CFM in business development and social media marketing…one task at a time.

Got Sleep? If not, choose Mindfulness.

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By Cindy Gross

Cindy Gross

Do you often lie in bed unable to fall asleep? Do you regularly wake up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning? If so, you are not alone. About 1 out of every 10 adults has chronic insomnia. Insomnia causes daytime problems like feeling fatigued or being unable to concentrate. Insomnia is associated with accidents, low productivity and serious health problems.  It is also an important risk factor for depression. The most common treatment for chronic insomnia is sleeping pills. People regularly take these pills for years, despite troublesome side effects, and without addressing the underlying problems that cause or perpetuate their insomnia. Our findings published in the March/April 2001 issue of EXPLORE (Gross et al., 2011) indicate that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for chronic insomnia, providing sleep benefits comparable to medication, without the side effects.

Mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment in particular way, is hypothesized to improve sleep by calming the body and stopping mind-racing. The impact of mindfulness training on arousal and poor sleep habits is discussed in Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn,  the text which introduced the Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program.   Approaches to improve sleep through mindfulness include establishing a mindful pre-sleep routine, not spending time awake in bed (e.g., getting up and doing yoga or something enjoyable if unable to sleep), and switching attention from wakefulness by focusing on the breath or practicing a meditation technique.  In this way, mindfulness is hypothesized to facilitate disengagement from the concerns of the day, and enable falling asleep.   Although studies by our group and others have frequently shown that mindfulness training improves sleep quality, the impact of MBSR training on patients with insomnia had not been tested. Therefore, we decided to conduct a small clinical trial to investigate MBSR’s potential as a treatment for chronic insomnia.

 The purpose of our study was to determine if mindfulness training would enable adults with chronic insomnia to obtain clinically meaningful improvements in sleep, comparable to the sleep benefits they might have obtained using an FDA-approved sedative. Thirty adults with primary chronic insomnia were randomized 2:1 into two groups: MBSR or pharmacotherapy.  Mindfulness training was provided by a skilled MBSR teacher, Terry Pearson, in the standard format of 8 weekly two-and-half hour classes plus a retreat. The pharmacotherapy group was prescribed 3mg of eszopiclone (LUNESTATM) nightly for 8 weeks, followed by 3 months of use as needed.  A 10-minute sleep hygiene presentation (i.e., do not watch television in bed, keep the bedroom dark at night, etc. ) was given to all participants by study staff at the start of the study, and staff contacted everyone weekly so they could report any side effects.

Sleep was measured three ways. First, sleep patterns were objectively measured by actigraphy, a wristwatch-like device that measures movement. Second, participants kept daily entries in a log book called a sleep diary. Third, participants completed questionnaires containing widely-used, validated sleep scales including the Insomnia Severity Index and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.  Sleep measures were obtained before the interventions, and at two and five month follow-ups.   The study participants were 21 to 65 years old (mean age 49) and mostly women (73%).  Most (66%) had been using sleeping pills prior to enrolling in this trial.  Twenty-seven out of 30 patients completed their assigned treatment.

By the end of the 8 week program, MBSR participants significantly reduced the time it took them to fall asleep (-8.9 minutes), as measured by actigraphy. Based on sleep diaries, they fell asleep an average of 22 minutes sooner, and increased their total sleep time by about 34 minutes a night by 5 month follow-up.  All standardized sleep scales showed large, statistically significant improvements from before MBSR to all follow-ups.  No significant differences were found between the sleep outcomes of the MBSR and pharmacotherapy groups, although our sample size was not sufficient to establish that treatment effects were equal.

To evaluate clinical importance, rates of recovery from insomnia were examined. Before treatment, all participants met criteria for insomnia and poor sleep on the Insomnia Severity Index and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.  By month five, half of the patients randomized to MBSR met stringent criteria for recovery from insomnia. Moreover, none reported adverse events and treatment satisfaction scores were high (averaged 8.8 on a 1 to 10 scale).  Although patients in the pharmacotherapy group obtained similar benefits to sleep outcomes, their treatment satisfactions scores were not high (average 6.1), most continued using sleeping pills to the end of trial, and several reported adverse events.  Although sleep outcomes following MBSR compared favorably with conventional pharmacotherapy, the fact that only half of the patients in this study met criteria for recovery at follow-up suggests that there is still room for improvement in insomnia treatments.

This study provides initial evidence of the efficacy of mindfulness training as a treatment for chronic insomnia.  Strengths included a randomized design and verification of the diagnosis of primary insomnia by psychiatric screening and examination by a sleep physician.   Given the absence of side effects and the positive potential benefits of mindfulness that extend beyond sleep, we encourage people with chronic insomnia, particularly those unable or unwilling to use sleep medications, to consider mindfulness training with MBSR.

Funding was provided by a UMN AHC Faculty Development grant to Cynthia Gross and colleagues .

Reference: Gross CR, Kreitzer MJ, Reilly-Spong M, Wall M, Winbush NY, Patterson R, Mahowald M, Cramer-Bornemann M. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs. pharmacotherapy for primary chronic insomnia: A pilot randomized controlled clinical trial. Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing. Explore. 7(2): 76-87, 2011. PMID: 21397868

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) & Meditation Studies Show Brain-Changing Results

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Are you more aware of the “here and now?” Do you feel your developing enhanced learning skills, and your memory is improving?

If so perhaps you have participated in one of our MBSR Programs. Recent studies of MBSR participants are showing these benefits along with an increased ability to regulate emotions.

In the article from the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail, “Meditation alters your grey matter, studies show,” Adrianna Barton reports on these finding, and more.

This article includes insights from Dr. Zindel Segal, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, who developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to treat depression, along with resources for MBSR programs in cities across Canada.

Find information relevant to our own upcoming MBSR classes, special events, upcoming all-day sessions, and other things of interest to people practicing, or inquiring about mindfulness at UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

New Study Highlighted in New York Times Points Again to Meditation’s Effect on the Brain

How Meditation May Change the Brain is the title of an article by Sindya Bhanhoo that appeared today in the New York Times highlighting a study conducted by Britta Hölzel, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and her colleagues that looked at changes due to the practice of meditation. Here’s an excerpt of the article referencing the study that will be appearing in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging:

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

As the evidence mounts for measurable changes in the brain from practicing mindfulness meditation, and we already know that people report feeling differences (improved mood, less anxiety, better quality of life, reduced pain, etc) from practicing, and there is emerging evidence for other physiological effects arising out of meditation practice, the big question remains:

What still gets in the way of you practicing regularly?