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From the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, researcher Diana Winston created this short guided meditation video to help work with life’s difficulties. Whether it’s difficult emotions, body sensations, or stressful events, mindfulness meditation can help with calming and focussing the mind to cope with life more effectively.
Did you know that a 3 minute meditation or deep breathing exercise can give strength both to your body and mind? To be mindful is to nourish awareness of the present moment; to be tuned-out of the "automatic pilot" trance of life. Meditation is the act of "intentionally paying attention, to a particular object for a particular purpose" (41).
Different forms of meditation, for the most part, have not been shown to produce different results. Mindfulness-based eating awareness training (MB-EAT) has been successful in “decreasing binge episodes, improving one’s sense of self-control with regard to eating, and diminishing depressive symptoms.” As I talked about in my Tips to Eat Less article, some of us lose awareness of our satiety cues, so we eat beyond what it takes to fill us up.
There are a multitude of studies highlighting mindfulness meditation's effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression. Five weeks of meditation was found to be as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in treating anxiety symptoms (10).
Specific meditation exercises such as loving-kindness meditation or compassion meditation have been revealed through neuroimaging studies to increase activation of brain regions involved in emotional processing and empathy.
A study of 553 undergraduates concluded that mindfulness promotes physical and psychological health in college students (28, 34). Note: not all studies supported meditation’s ability to increase awareness of the inner body. The default mode network (DMN) encompasses the regions in your brain that are active when you are not focused on the external environment - you are "inside your head" envisioning the future, recalling memories, or letting your imagination run wild.
On the other hand, your executive mode network (EMN) encompasses the parts of your brain that are active during goal-oriented activity or when you need to take action. One study found that the default and executive modes were both recruited when mind wandering, suggesting that mind wandering is a peculiar mental state which allows networks that normally operate in opposition to work together (5). Mind wandering is defined as “engaging in cognitions unrelated to the current demands of the external environment.” In other words, shifting attention away from the primary task at hand.
It was found that experienced meditators had stronger neural connectivity between the “posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices,” which are regions in the brain associated with self-monitoring and cognitive control (12).
Meditators were shown to have greater coupling within the medial prefrontal cortex area (even when not meditating!), suggesting that long term meditation leads to lasting changes in brain regions related to attention (13).
8 weeks of mindfulness meditation has shown to improve connectivity within auditory and visual networks of the brain that reflects improved “attentional focus, enhanced sensory processing, and reflective awareness of sensory experience” (37). According to the University of Hong Kong, stressors don’t cause tension themselves, rather stress results from our perception and reaction to these stressors. A fascinating study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, suggests that mindfulness meditation can slow the rate of cellular aging by reducing stress. Ask any professional bodybuilder, and they will preach to you the importance of the mind-muscle connection. 44 college students (30 women) with sexual dysfunction underwent a 12-week mindfulness meditation course. Mindfulness meditation leads to changes in how you deal with life events (your attitude), and thus your character.
A cool study showed that both yoga and mindfulness meditators experienced a significant decrease in the magnitude of optical illusions compared to non-meditators.
When you catch yourself absorbed in thought, don't judge yourself or react emotionally - just calmly return awareness back to your breath. This does not mean meditation shouldn't be relaxing - it should induce a relaxation response. Alex Spotnitz is not responsible nor liable for any injury, loss or damage to any party as a result of undertaking any exercise or nutrition advice provided on this site. Whether you like it or not, being human comes standard with feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Checkout this recent Elephant Journal post from Toni Bernhard on physical suffering and how using a mindfulness meditation practice can help a person to disengage from the accompanying thoughts that keep a person attached to their discomfort. If you've been around meditation for a while you know that it's helpful with a lot of things. With Labor Day around the corner, school-aged children from all around the country are either back in school or quickly preparing for a return to the classroom. I'm not sure why, but most people are reluctant to admit they would like to increase their overall happiness.
If you pay attention to yourself and those around you, more often than not you will find that most of us suffer from a closed heart. The truth is that we live in a society that consciously or unconsciously promotes the belief that if people can change their outsides that their insides will follow suit. For those parents of school-aged children, all you have to do is think back to when you were in school to appreciate how anxiety ridden the whole schooling process can be.
If you're anything like me, on a daily basis you come into contact with people and situations that, well cause you to become frustrated.


Although the word charka is foreign to most people, put simply, it represents an energy vortex found in the body that helps to regulate mental, physical, and spiritual health. The reasons for meditation are as diverse as those who practice this ancient healing technique. Are you the type of person that stops to smell the roses, or are you a person that charges down life's path attempting to see as many of them as possible?
For those who don't know, one of the main purposes in getting a good night's sleep is to allow your brain the opportunity to go into an alpha wave state.
When it comes to stress and anxiety, most know that unless addressed through practices like meditation, these two silent killers can ultimately lead to physical and emotional distress.
If you're like most people, your days are spent running around doing sometimes odd, sometimes purposeful things that hopefully amount to a life well-lived.
With regard to health and well being, truth be told, I haven't yet found anything closely resembling the magic pill.
I don't know about you, but when I was a kid you could go out and play and no one could find you until you were good and ready to come home. Of all the meditation techniques practiced, one of the more challenging is Vipassana meditation. Begin your journey of personal transformation in this powerful 8-week course that takes a fresh approach to meditation.  -Rediscover your creativity -Increase resilience -Develop healthy, empowering habits -Set the stage for positive and meaningful growth!
Event details may change at any time, always check with the event organizer when planning to attend this event or purchase tickets. Frequency of meditation has the greatest impact on well-being, rather than the type of meditation. In a study of treatment-seeking smokers, mindfulness actually reduced neural activity in the craving-related region of the brain (shown through MRI scans). Emotions are your subjective (mental) interpretation of whatever physiological (physical) response you are feeling within your body.
Meditation may prove useful in strengthening our “emotional muscles” (20), it has specifically shown to enhance empathy (24). One study found no evidence that meditators were superior to nonmeditators in detecting their heartbeat at rest (32). This model suggests there are four divisions to the cognitive cycle: mind wandering, awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention, and sustained attention (4).
The DMN is active during mind wandering, which is often experienced intermittently during sustained attention tasks (4, 6). The EMN is active when shifting attention from mind wandering, and during sustained attention (4). Activation in both the default mode and executive network regions was strongest when subjects had no awareness (they lacked meta-awareness) that their mind was wandering (5). When your mind wanders, your performance in the primary task will suffer and your perception of the external environment will not be as realistic (i.e. Disengaging attention from your sensory perception is referred to as perceptual decoupling, and being aware of your consciousness is known as meta-awareness.
Compared to a control group, the meditators saw changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions “involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking” (33)!
Mindfulness accounts for changes in mood and perceived stress, which improve sleep quality (27). What better way to alter our perception and reaction than to meditate mindfully and remain present to the moment? Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, and their length has been related to chronic stress and depression (14). At the end of the trial, female participants showed significant improvement in their physiological response to sexual stimuli, their self-judgment, and anxiety, all of which are psychological barriers to healthy sexual functioning (15).
It takes a great deal of discipline and willpower to continue a habit (especially a mental one) during the initial beginning period of a couple weeks, where you might not see immediate results. And while many of them can be quite pleasant, the truth is that a majority of us tend to focus on the seemingly bad ones.
According to Bernhard, the benefit of this is that by practicing mindfulness a person can calm and steady the mind so as to not add mental suffering to it, thereby making things worse.
This is beneficial because when we’re experiencing physical discomfort, our minds often churn with stressful emotions and thoughts, but they’re a muddy blur—we can’t sort them out.
For most, the practice involves grabbing a cushion, plopping oneself down with eyes closed, and turning one's focus within. Emotional challenges, physical problems, and spiritual maladies are just some of the things that meditation can help provide both relief and insight into. Unfortunately, this view on how to cultivate peace and happiness is focused in the wrong direction.
Some use it to relieve stress and anxiety, while others use the practice to tap into their creative center.
This physical "re-wiring" of your brain increases attention, focus, and concentration, as well as reduces stress and cortisol levels, improves sexuality and mood states, slows aging, enhances empathy, improves emotional intelligence, as well as treats addiction, anxiety, and depression. The more days per week you meditate, the greater mindfulness and lower stress you produce (23).


This suggests that mindfulness can help reduce other cravings – such as sweets and other unhealthy, fattening foods (2)! The greater your awareness, the more “in sync” your subjective and physiological experience of the emotion is. When viewed from a mindful state, the emotional intensity perceived from the stimuli was reduced.
Think of when you catch yourself daydreaming in class or work - your DMN is especially active. Research has shown that perceptual decoupling hinders your ability to process sensory information (8).
Sometimes your mind might wander for over 10 minutes before you snap back to reality, and other times you’ll catch yourself after only a minute or two (8). Gray matter routes sensory stimuli to the central nervous system to create a response to the stimulus (38). The mind-muscle connection is your ability to efficiently recruit the desired body part through the entire range of motion of the specific exercise. At first meditating with open eyes can be too distracting, so if you are a beginner meditator, I recommend practicing with your eyes closed first, and then gradually work towards meditating with open eyes. A study of 48 university students found that meditating in a mindful state resulted in more insight. But if you remain patient and persist in engraining the habit into your daily routine, the habit will become automatic. The question is, how can a person navigate through life while not being consumed by the inevitable physical and emotional pain and suffering that comes with being human?
With mindfulness, the “mud” settles so we can see more clearly which allows us to identify what emotions and thoughts are present in our minds at the moment. The past is simply memories of previous present moments, and the future is anticipated present moments. Positive results have been observed on the short-term: a two-week meditation experiment resulted in a significant decrease in resting pulse rate and blood pressure (systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial bp) (1). The study concluded that “long-term practice of mindfulness leads to emotional stability by promoting acceptance of emotional states and enhanced present-moment awareness” (29). Those who practice meditation are more aware of when their mind is wandering, and are better able to shift their attention to the task at hand and sustain that attention.
The main nodes of the default mode network were found to be relatively deactivated in experienced meditators (12, 29).
So, when a thought completely independent of the immediate external environment arises, your ability to interpret sensory information pertaining to that environment is weakened. Good news is, you can improve your meta-awareness through mindful meditation; mindfulness meditation improves your ability to concentrate (22). A mindfulness-based meditation program has shown to decrease stress in low-income older adults, who deal with stressors such as growing older, physical pain, financial strains, and having grandchildren with significant hardships (be it mental, legal, physical, or financial) (30). You can meditate standing, seated, or on the floor (in an "indian-style", cross-legged position).
The percentage of alpha waves (indicative of mental relaxation) was negatively correlated with insight (16). The present moment can be painful and dreary, so we look to the future or past in avoidance of the present.
Mindfulness meditation is purposefully paying attention (to the breath) for no other reason than to be completely present to the moment.
They are conscious of the emotion as it is happening and are better able to interpret what emotion it is that they are experiencing.
For example, thinking about surfing while in math class will handicap your ability to grasp the mathematical concepts. With enhanced focus and a greater ability to stay present to the moment, your mind-muscle connection will improve.
It's important to get comfortable within the first minute of meditating and "lock in" that position; so if ten minutes into meditating you start to feel uncomfortable, ignore the urge to change your posture.
Yoga and Tai-Chi are actually forms of meditation, and these movement-based meditations can increase mindfulness (27). Meditation reduces stress, which in turn decreases the body’s level of the stress hormone cortisol (your worst enemy for making gains). The more you meditate, the less your mind will wander, and the longer you'll be able to focus on your breath without becoming distracted.
For the sake of this article, mindfulness meditation will refer to a simple breathing meditation (which will be explained further at the end of the article). Eventually, you might slip into a very peaceful, zen-like state of no thought - which makes all the practice worth it!
The goal is not to achieve a state of no-thinking, the goal is to be continually aware of the present moment and react mindfully.



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