New Mindfulness Group Begins September 12, 2017

Mindfulness Training

Eight one and a half-hour group sessions

 Mindfulness practice is a wonderful opportunity to “wake up” to your life and to encounter emotions, thoughts in the mind and sensations in the body with curiosity and non-judgment.

Dr. Pamela Cappetta, LPC, LMFT, will be offering an eight-week group experience to explore your struggles, joys, confusion, depression and anxiety through the lens of mindfulness. She will teach you a variety of mindfulness practices for inclusion in your daily life.

Mindfulness—waking up to what is—is a non-judging awareness in the present moment.  Mindfulness arises when you pay attention on purpose in a way that is friendly and non-interfering.  It is possible to develop and to bring mindfulness into all activities of daily life, both internal and external.

Paying attention on purpose, carefully and with sensitivity, can be done as a formal meditation, or informally, as a way of noticing the flow of your daily life.  The benefits of mindfulness include lowering stress and increasing calmness in the mind and the body.  Developing insight and wisdom into the habits of judging, thinking and reacting that are at the core of stress reactions will be addressed.  Ultimately, by becoming more mindful, you will learn to make stronger and deeper contact with the moments of your life.  The growing medical research suggests that mindfulness developed as a meditation skill and practiced daily offers benefits that impact both psychological and physical conditions.

Each group will be limited to 8-10 people and each person is requested to commit to attending each session. High levels of confidentiality will be expected and a commitment to daily practice outside the group will be a piece of the commitment to the mindfulness training.

Please arrive early to find your seat and settle in.  You may bring beverages into the group room.  Please do not wear any perfumes or fragrances (lotions, hair products, etc.) due to the sensitivity of some of the group members.

Please Note:  If you are new to Dr. Cappetta’s practice, you would need to schedule an individual appointment with her before the start of the Mindfulness Training group.  This way she can get to know you and we can determine if your health insurance would cover the cost of the group.  Also, all people registering for the Mindfulness Training group are required to pay a $100.00 deposit (with check, cash or via PayPal) to hold their place in the group.  This deposit becomes non-refundable seven days prior to the first group session.  

When:  Tuesdays, 5:45 PM-7:15 PM

Dates: September 12-November 7, 2017 (we will not meet on October 24) 

Cost: $400.00 (check or cash, or under special circumstances we can bill your insurance company)

For more information or to register, please call

757-253-5708

Meditation – It’s like a bicep curl for your brain!

Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide Animation

Mindfulness and meditation are really not that hard! Sometimes we bring misconceptions and expectations to the experience that complicate what is really a simple process. Please enjoy this fun, animated meditation instruction:

Practicing “Stealth Mindfulness” All Day Long

Our culture today seems to almost deify disconnection. Young schoolchildren have the latest iGadgets, 2-year-olds are adept at smartphones, and it’s not unusual to see everyone at family gatherings ignoring each other while tapping on their devices.

Connecting with others, however, is an opportunity to practice mindfulness—speaking, listening and interacting—and we can do it all day long. Faculty and staff at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center even have a term for that kind of practice: It’s called taking mindfulness “off the cushion” and into the world of “relational mindfulness.” In my training, “off the cushion” is called the “informal mindfulness practice” with everyday interactions.

Why is it important to get metaphorically get off the cushion or practice informal mindfulness? Because, say Center researchers, busy people today feel as if they don’t have time to stop and practice mindfulness. How, then, can mindfulness be incorporated into our everyday lives? Try some of these ideas:

  • Stay deeply present. When feeling spaced out, gently bring yourself into the present moment. And when interacting with others, display authenticity and love.
  • Be a mindful listener. Often, we cut people off, jump in and try to “fix” people, or turn the conversation toward us. If you listen attentively, people feel seen and understood.
  • Notice your body. It might be your feet touching the ground, hands on your lap, or back against a chair. For most people, noticing a physical sensation serves as a reminder to come back to the present.
  • Speak skillfully. Use words with care and intentionality. Talk authentically from the heart.
  • Keep internal awareness alive. Cultivate an inner awareness when you’re speaking, noticing, for example, when your cheeks feel flushed or how tired you are. This allows you to learn more about yourself and what’s happening in the present moment, says Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at the Mindful Awareness Research Center. “It keeps an internal awareness alive.”
  • Practice when it feels right to you. Just be aware that you have opportunities 24/7.
  • Choose what you want to practice. It might be: listening, speaking authentically, or just putting away your phone to fully engage with the check-out person at the grocery store.

Finally, remember that no one needs to know what you are doing when you are practicing informal mindfulness because it’s a form of “stealth” mindfulness—mindfulness you can quietly practice all day long.

More information: https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-247/

Mindfulness Techniques Lessen Feelings of Anxiety, Isolation

Get “interconnected” with yourself, others, and the world.

Ever feel as if you’re living in a bubble, separate from everyone else? All of us have moments when we feel somewhat isolated from life. For some, however, this sense of isolation exacerbates anxiousness, creating feelings of despair, painful separation, and a longing to feel integrated with life.

Studies now indicate that two Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction practices can alleviate anxiety by helping sufferers get back in touch with themselves and the world around them.

 

Informal Reconnect Practice

This practice, which uses the power of interconnectedness, is designed to help you get a sense of being unified with your surroundings. “When you deeply reflect on the ripples of interconnection that pulse through your life, you can directly experience how you are never isolated,” says author and teacher Bob Stahl, Ph.D. “Recalling this unity can break through feelings of disconnectedness or isolation, bringing a sense of interconnection that can suffuse you, like the sun emerging from a cover of clouds.”

Do this simple practice as soon as you realize you’re feeling separate. It can be done in any position, but keep your eyes open and stay engaged.

Deepen awareness of your body. Become aware of the points of contact with the surface beneath you, a sense of weight as you rest in gravity, or a feeling of how you fully inhabit three dimensions. Relax any tension. Allow your vision to expand, and soften your gaze. Connect with your breath and your heart, be present, and actively bring kindness to yourself.

Engage your visual field and body awareness together. Open your peripheral vision so you’re aware of your hands on your lap, or more fully sense your entire body. Hear the sounds around you, feel sensations, and gently acknowledge any thoughts or feelings.

 

 

Formal Interconnection Practice

Set aside 20 minutes for this meditation practice. Do it seated, standing, or even lying down—just be comfortable and alert.

Pause to check in. Check in with yourself and acknowledge how you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. (Remember that mindfulness is a non-judging awareness in the present moment.)

Gently shift awareness to breathing. Be aware of naturally breathing in and out, tuning in to one inhalation and one exhalation at a time. Focus on your breath wherever you feel it most distinctly, like your chest, belly or nostrils. Let your awareness rest there… being mindful of breathing in and out. 

Feel your body’s connection. Feel the surface supporting you. Then notice how that surface is connected to the floor, which is connected to the building you’re in, which is connected to the Earth. Reflect on being in a safe place with nothing you need to do, nowhere you must go, and no one you have to be. “Just allow yourself to be held in the heart of the earth with kindness and ease,” says Stahl. 

Expand your awareness. Sense the connection of the Earth to the solar system, and then the vast universe. In this way, we’re all interconnected.

Feel the grace of this universe. Appreciate that you are an intrinsic part of this universe and can never be separated from it. Feel a sense of connection and interconnection; you are at home within your being.

Gradually return awareness to your breath. Feel how your entire body breathes in and out, from head to toe, to fingertips—unified, connected, and whole.  

View the article:

Feeling Separate When You’re Anxious: Two Mindfulness Practices to Reconnect

 

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

Praise for Dr. Pamm’s Mindfulness Group

Attendees of the Spring 2017 8-week Mindfulness Group had this to say about the experience:

Mindfulness has the potential to change your life for the better, and Dr. Pam Cappetta is a wonderfully caring and engaged teacher of the practice.

I too felt it was a fantastic group and will miss our shared experience. I found that participating in the mindfulness training was fulfilling at a personal and cerebral level, while also being applicable and useful in day to day living. Thank you for the wonderful class.

In my view mindfulness approach of thinking is best gained by being guided as opposed to being taught. Dr Pamm Cappetta does just that, she gently guides you through the very logical thought process which includes the seven pillars of mindfulness: non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.

See the calendar and call (757) 253-5708 to and sign up for the next group.

When Teachers Learn Mindfulness, Students Win

UVA Study: Mindfulness Improves Classroom Climate

It’s no secret that many teachers suffer stress from being overworked, devalued, and underpaid. And teachers aren’t the only ones feeling stressed-out in the classroom today: When teachers feel pressured, students can easily become stressed themselves, impacting their well-being and their academic achievement, as well. 

New evidence strongly indicates, however, that mindfulness training for teachers can create a classroom environment that’s more emotionally positive, says a new study from University of Virginia researchers. The study was reported in “Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life,” from the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

“If you’re a teacher, you can’t walk out while you’re teaching; and if you’re a student, you can’t walk out, either—it puts a level of pressure on teachers that I don’t think many people recognize,” said Patricia Jennings, the lead author of the study, which involved 224 teachers from 36 elementary schools.

Teachers in the study were given instruction through CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education), a mindfulness-based program designed to teach awareness, stress reduction, and emotional skills. And results indicate that the training improved teachers’ mindfulness, increased their ability to manage difficult emotions, and lowered their psychological distress.

“I had a very strong suspicion that emotional reactivity was interfering with  teachers’ ability to be their best, and that the solution wasn’t just a matter of teaching more skills,” Jennings said. “It was really a matter of teaching them to self-regulate so they could be their best.” 

This latest study is just one in a growing body of research strongly suggesting that mindfulness training increases teacher well-being and improves the emotional climate of their classrooms—an important link with students’ academic achievement. I encourage you to read more about this study, be aware of what’s going on in your children’s classrooms, and do whatever you can to support the well-being of teachers, in whose care our children spend most of their young lives. 

As Jennings says, “If we don’t turn the corner on how we’re helping our teachers, we’re not going to have enough teachers to do the job.”

View the article at Greater Good

 

Mindfully yours,

Dr. Pamm

Good Relationships Make a Good Life

Long-Term Studies Reveal Keys to Happiness

Want to be happy? Develop and maintain close relationships with people you can count on. Be your true self with them. Those are the keys according to two long-term studies conducted by Harvard University.

“It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship. It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”

So says Robert Waldinger, current director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest longitudinal studies ever conducted on our physical and emotional well-being.

As author Melanie Curtin points out in her summary[1] of this study, one thing surpasses all the rest in terms of importance:

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period. Not how much is in your 401(k). Not how many conferences you spoke at … or how much power you wielded … No, the biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfillment overall in life is, basically, love.”[2]

Note that “love” doesn’t necessarily mean a romantic relationship. It’s more about having someone to rely on.

In quality relationships we

  • feel more relaxed
  • enjoy better brain health
  • feel less emotional and physical pain
  • avoid loneliness, which keeps us healthier longer[3]

What makes quality relationships?

  • how much vulnerability and depth exists within them
  • how safe we feel sharing with one another
  • the extent to which we can relax and be seen for who we truly are, and truly see another
  • being able to cope with trauma in ways that don’t push love away

I encourage you to read more of the author’s tips to prioritize your connections and your capacity to process emotions and stress. As she so aptly states, “… the data is clear that, in the end, you could have all the money you’ve ever wanted, a successful career, and be in good physical health, but without loving relationships, you won’t be happy.”[4]

Peace and happiness,

 

Dr. Pamm


[1] Melanie Curtin, “This 75-Year Harvard Study Found the 1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life,” Inc., Feb. 27, 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

A 10 Minute Guided Meditation to Foster Forgiveness

Forgiveness Helps Us Let Go of Whatever Holds Us Back

I often work with clients who are weighed down by feelings of anger and resentment over old hurts. Sometimes they’re burdened by guilt caused by their own actions. Either way, peace comes through forgiving others and ourselves.

If there’s someone you’d like to forgive, but don’t know how to do it, I encourage you to listen Dr. Mark Bertin’s guided meditation below. Through the simple story of two monks who encounter a rude woman, he gently illustrates the way that we add to our negative experiences by fostering anger and resentment. Then, he leads us through a mindful release into a state of forgiveness. A transcript of the meditation is available on Mindful.org as well.

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

Stuck in Therapy? 3 Ways to Make the Progress You Want

How to Make Progress in Therapy

Therapy has the power to transform our lives. So why does research shows that it’s effective only 50 percent of the time? Author Jon Frederickson explains in his article “Stuck in Therapy?”[1] that although therapist effectiveness varies, the main variable in successful therapy is the patient. That’s right, if you’re feeling stuck in therapy, it might be time to consider these ideas:

First, decide on a clear internal problem to resolve in therapy.

If you want to fix a problem, it helps to be clear with yourself and your therapist about the nature of the problem you want to resolve. It’s crucial to make sure that it’s a problem you have and not someone else. No therapist can fix a problem for someone she’s not seen … besides, blaming others doesn’t help you to grow.

Second, face what you usually avoid.

Talking alone doesn’t resolve problems. Facing the truths we’ve avoided and discussing them with a skilled therapist does. When your therapist points out something that’s painful, try not to argue or dismiss the concept. Be present to the idea and consider that the therapist may be helping you face what’s difficult. That’s where change and healing begin.

Finally, go toward what makes you anxious.

It can be hard, but therapy is the best place to face the things that make us anxious so they can stop taking control of our lives. By facing them, we take charge. As Mr. Frederickson so aptly states,

“If we avoid what makes us anxious, we don’t become stronger; we just get better at avoiding. Meanwhile, life goes by and our therapy money goes down the drain. If you are not somewhat anxious in therapy, chances are you are not facing what you need to face.”[2]

I’ve seen these truths with so many patients over the years. I agree that you’ll reach your goals and get the most out of therapy if you’re clear about the problem you want to resolve, you’re willing to face what you usually avoid, and you move toward what makes you anxious. Trust the process – it works!

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm


[1] Jon Frederickson, “Stuck in Therapy?”, LinkedIn, Jan. 11, 2017

[2] Ibid.

Self Love Is Key to Getting the Love We Want

Lack of Self Love Sabotages Relationships

Many relationship problems come from our subconscious belief that we aren’t worthy of love. If self-love is a problem for us, we’ll seek love, respect, and acceptance from others, but feel disappointed when they don’t provide the kind we want. Even more frustrating, we’ll sabotage a potentially loving relationship because our inner voice tells us we don’t deserve love and happiness.

Marriage counselors Katie and Gay Hendricks have analyzed this common problem and share excellent advice on their Hearts in Harmony website. I encourage you to learn the telltale behaviors caused by this subconscious problem. They also explain that

Loving yourself isn’t about being conceited. It’s about accepting yourself and your feelings and not needing to look to outside sources to feel like you’re worthy of love and consideration.[1]

What Does Self-Love Feel Like?

Once we understand where this lack of self love comes from, we can begin to heal and welcome love into our lives. How do we know what self love feels like if we’ve never had it? The Hendricks offer this helpful list:

  • Loving yourself means you don’t hide who you really are. You share your feelings – even the messy ones – and own up the truth of your life and your mistakes.
  • You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, because you know the only opinion that matters about your self-worth is your own.
  • You don’t accept bad treatment, or social pressure, or feel compelled to do things you don’t want to do just because you are “supposed to.”
  • You can fully accept and enjoy being loved by someone else. You aren’t doubtful of their feelings. You never worry if their love will end, or if you aren’t good enough, or unworthy.
  • You aren’t afraid of getting hurt. You don’t push love away, or run away, or subconsciously create reasons why your relationship will let you down.
  • You are at peace with yourself, and can channel your energy into CREATING what you want, not PROTECTING what you don’t want to lose.
  • You feel giddy, light… free.[2]

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Katie and Gay Hendricks, “Why Constantly Complaining About How Others Treat You Could Be A Sign Of A Much Deeper Truth… About Yourself,” Hearts in Harmony,

[2] Ibid.

America Has Problems Dealing with Chronic Pain

Robert Bonakdar, MD, is Director of Pain Management at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. In a recent editorial published in USA Today, he courageously disagrees with the United States Surgeon General’s campaign to reduce opioid drug dependencies through education and addiction awareness. The real problem, Dr. Bonkadar argues, is that there are other ways to manage chronic pain, but insurance companies won’t pay for them.

Chronic pain is a complex scenario that not only affects the back or shoulder, but one that over time can shrink the brain while creating or worsening fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxietyobesity and risk of suicide. The pain transformation called for by the IOM and most recently the National Pain Strategy requires not just a campaign, but an integrative, patient-centered approach to support someone whose entire existence is affected. – Dr. Robert Bonkadar[1]

The doctor does see signs of hope, however, that decision makers are beginning to understand the human benefits and corporate cost savings of pain management methods such as exercise and diet, biofeedback and nutrition, Tai Chi, yoga, acupuncture, CBT and mindfulness.

After focus groups with chronic pain patients found that ‘fix-it’ strategies were failing while also bankrupting the state, Rhode Island created the Ease the Pain Program, which uses case management and treatments like acupuncture, massage and manipulation. Similarly, starting this year, the Oregon state insurance program will cover acupuncture, CBT and more, based on findings that ‘lack of support for and knowledge of biopsychosocial pain self-management treatments are serious public health problems.’ [2]

If you are one of the 100 million Americans who suffer with chronic pain, I urge you to consider mindfulness meditation and other non-drug treatments as part of your pain management program.

 

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Robert Bonkadar, M.D., “Docs Need Help to Ease Opioid Epidemic,” USA Today, September 28, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

Deep Relaxation Changes Our Bodies on a Genetic Level

For many years now, scientific studies have shown that mindfulness meditation has a profound effect on our health and wellbeing. Still, new clients routinely express skepticism about meditation—they assume it’s just a timeout from the stress of everyday living with no long-term health benefits.

An article I keep handy to encourage these doubters appeared in the January 2012 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, titled “7 Health Benefits of Meditation.” It’s worth reading the full article, but here’s my synopsis in case you’d rather spend your time meditating than reading.

7 Health Benefits of Deep Relaxation 

  1. Increased Immunity
  2. Emotional Balance
  3. Increased Fertility
  4. Relieves Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  5. Lowers Blood Pressure
  6. Anti-Inflammatory
  7. Calmness

Somehow we all know that relaxation is good for us, right? When we pause, take a deep breath, and let it out, it helps us to relax our bodies and clear our minds so that we can refocus with more clarity and energy. But is that all? What does science say about why intentional meditation for 10-15 minutes a day is so beneficial?

Meditation Changes Our Bodies on a Genetic Level

Researchers at Harvard Medical School did a comprehensive scientific study showing that deep relaxation changes our bodies on a genetic level and in long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation, far more ”disease-fighting genes” were active, compared to those who practiced no form of relaxation.

The study showed that regular meditation practice turned on genes that protect from disorders such as

  • Pain
  • Infertility
  • High blood pressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Cancer
  • Immune system deficiencies

How can relaxation have such wide-ranging and powerful effects?

On a biological level, stress is linked to fight-flight and danger. In survival mode, heart rate rises and blood pressure shoots up. Meanwhile muscles, preparing for danger, contract and tighten. And non-essential functions such as immunity and digestion go by the wayside.” Relaxation, on the other hand, is a state of rest, enjoyment and physical renewal. Free of danger, muscles can relax and food can be digested. The heart can slow and blood circulation flows freely to the body’s tissues, feeding it with nutrients and oxygen. This restful state is good for fertility, as the body is able to conserve the resources it needs to generate new life. – Dr. Jane Flemming [1]

How to switch off stress 

The researchers found that yoga, meditation and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. Try one or more of these techniques for 15 minutes once or twice a day:

  • Mental Body Scan
  • Breath Focus
  • Mantra Repetition
  • Guided Imagery

I hope you’ll learn more about those methods by reading the full article, or explore the Mindfulness section of this website.

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

[1]7 Health Benefits of Meditation,” SYDNEY MORNING HERALD,
republished on Food Matters, Jan. 26, 2012.

Four Ways to Overcome Negative Feelings and Self-Defeating Thoughts

Feelings Affect Our Thoughts and Behaviors

In a recent article in Mindful magazine, Tchiki Davis describes how self-criticism and low self-worth can hold us back. Her well-being survey revealed that feelings of positive self-worth were the best predictor of happiness–even more so than feelings of gratitude or having strong personal relationships.[1]

Simply put, feelings affect our thoughts and behaviors. When we feel bad about ourselves, we unconsciously act in ways that end up confirming our beliefs and can end up in a negative cycle.

I encourage you to read the full article, because Ms. Davis explains in detail why these four things will help you to start to promote positive self-views and begin to change the patterns of your life. Meanwhile, I hope my summary will pique your interest:

1. Figure out your needs

People tend to feel badly about themselves when they feel powerless to get their needs met—so you can start this process by figuring out what your needs are. If you’re having a hard time figuring out your needs, just reflect on times in your life when you weren’t thriving. What was missing?

2. Live authentically

If your needs are being met, this step is easy. Just keep them in mind, and don’t stray too far from living a life that is authentically yours. You’ll find that you now have more positive views of yourself because you decided what matters to you and are willing to stand up for yourself.

3. Forgive yourself

Almost everyone has said something hurtful, forgotten an important event, or betrayed someone they love. It helps to remember that our mistakes do not define us. Forgive yourself, and give yourself credit for trying not to make the same mistakes again.

4. Celebrate your quirks

When we cherish our eccentricities and celebrate our flaws, we begin to develop a deep love for ourselves just as we are. Don’t forget to keep growing, though! Keep your eyes and ears open to the people you trust. Listen when they tell you that you have work to do on yourself. Feeling positively about ourselves takes effort. But by changing our views, we can change our lives.[2]

 


[1] Tchiki Davis, “Four Ways to Overcome Self-Defeating Thoughts, Mindful, Oct. 24, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation

Emerging Science Examines Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

This month’s issue of Mindful magazine has an excellent article by Emma Seppälä, who looks at the emerging science around the benefits of loving-kindness meditation.

Start with Kindness

First, the author notes the confusion and possible misconceptions—or even biases—that some people have about meditation. As she notes, there are many forms of meditation practice that we may have tried once or twice, before concluding they weren’t helpful for us.

I agree with Dr. Seppälä that a great place to start or renew a meditation practice is with Loving Kindness Meditation—or Mindfulness Practice, as I refer to it. It’s an easy one to begin with, because it evokes a very natural state in us: kindness.[1] As the author explains,

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others … compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. Research shows that loving-kindness meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits [including] relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence.[2]

For the scientific evidence that supports the author’s 18 Reasons below, I urge you to read Dr. Seppälä’s full article. If these reasons intrigue you, then you may also enjoy the author’s TEDx talk—a recording of the loving-kindness meditation she uses.

Scientific Studies Reveal Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

  1. Increases Positive Emotions & Decreases Negative Emotions
  2. Increases vagal tone, which increases positive emotions & feelings of social connection
  3. Decreases migraines
  4. Decreases chronic pain
  5. Decreases PTSD
  6. Decreases schizophrenia-spectrum disorders
  7. Activates empathy & emotional processing in the brain
  8. Increases gray matter volume
  9. Increases respiratory Sinus Arrythmia (RSA)
  10. Increases telomere length—a biological marker of aging
  11. Makes you a more helpful person
  12. Increases compassion
  13. Increases empathy
  14. Decreases your bias towards others
  15. Increases social connection
  16. Curbs self-criticism
  17. Is effective even in small doses
  18. Has long-term impact[3]

The science is increasingly clear on the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Countless patients of mine—and I suspect some of your friends and acquaintances—will also attest to its helpfulness. May your own practice bring you peace, healing, and joy.

 

With gratitude,

 

Dr. Pamm


[1] Emma Seppälä, “18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation,” Mindful, Oct. 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Mind Over Matter: Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Management

Recent research on the neurobiological mechanisms of pain is providing insights into the ways mindfulness practice can help with pain management. Researcher Sara Adaes’ article “Mind Over Matter: Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Management” is a fascinating digest of recent studies that I encourage you to read in full.

I’m a big proponent of mindfulness meditation to reduce pain and improve health. Research continues to support my view and I hope you’ll consider starting your own mindfulness practice. Here are a few key points of Adaes’ article that I hope will convince you to learn more.

  • Mindfulness meditation is not merely a placebo effect; a 2015 study in The Journal of Neurosciencecompared the effect of active mindfulness meditation with a fake technique – “one that would lead the participants to believe that they were practicing mindfulness meditation, but that would only engage relaxation mechanisms. The study found that mindfulness meditation decreased pain intensity and unpleasantness beyond the analgesic effects of placebo or sham mindfulness meditation.” [1]
  • In that 2015 study, “effective mindfulness meditation engaged brain mechanisms that were indeed distinct from those of placebo-induced analgesia.[2]
  • A follow up study in The Journal of Neuroscience explored the mechanisms that are affected by mindfulness meditation. “Using naloxone, a drug that blocks the effect of opioids, it was shown that the inhibition of the opioid system did not affect analgesia induced by mindfulness meditation. In the control group, on the other hand, the blockade of the opioid system induced an increase in pain perception, as expected … the fact that [the opiod system] apparently has no influence on the mechanisms of mindfulness meditation-induced analgesia is intriguing.”[3]
  • “Mindfulness meditation may be a complex, cognitive process that likely engages multiple brain networks and neurochemical mechanisms to attenuate pain.”[4]
  • A reduced activity of the thalamus has also been reported [as a result of effective mindfulness meditation, which] … indicates that it may somehow diminish sensory processing, or that it may prevent this sensory information from reaching conscious awareness.”[5]

I agree with Ms. Adaes’ conclusion that we have more research to do before we fully understand why mindfulness meditation is effective for pain management. I also know from my own experience and others that it works. Give it a try!

Peace,

Dr. Pamm

 


 

[1] Sara Adaes, “Mind Over Matter: Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Management” BrainBlogger, May 1, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

How to Make Mindfulness and Compassion Your Automatic Response to Stress

In “A Basic Meditation to Strengthen Neural Connections,”[1] Dr. Christopher Willard gives us a peek into his upcoming book Growing Up MindfulHe notes that just as we take care of our bodies with nutrition and exercise, we can also “change our brain, boosting concentration, flexibility, and intelligence and building new neural pathways and networks, by working out our brain” with mindfulness practice.

Are you skeptical that this could work? Why not try Dr. Willard’s simple exercise:

Before you begin, adopt a posture that is both comfortable and sustainable for a few minutes, and then set a timer for three minutes.

  • First, bring your awareness to an anchor: sensations or movement in your body, the breath, ambient sounds, counting, or even an image you found powerful or calming. Anything can be the anchor for your attention. Just invite your mind to rest there.
  • Pretty soon, you will notice your mind begin to wander. That is completely normal. Each time you notice it wandering, notice where it goes and then gently guide your awareness back to your anchor.

Pretty simple, right? So simple, in fact, that it might seem like you’re not doing very much. But don’t be fooled. Every aspect of this practice is building the muscles of your mind. In fact, one of my patients even likes to use the image of his brain getting a little bit bigger with each moment of mindfulness.[2]

Dr. Willard explains why this simple mindfulness practice works:

  1. Each time you focus on or return to the anchor, you are building your concentration
  2. Each time you focus on the anchor, you detach from your thought stream. This is a practice of letting go in the moment, which translates to letting go in the rest of the world.
  3. Each time you notice that the mind is wandering, that is the moment of mindfulness—not a moment of failure.
  4. Each time you are kind to yourself when your mind wanders, instead of criticizing yourself, you are exercising and strengthening your self-compassion for challenging moments in the rest of your daily life.
  5. Each time you notice where the mind is wandering, that is an opportunity for insight into your mind’s habits and patterns—what we might call wisdom or self-understanding. ?[3]

I hope you will try mindfulness practice and discover its benefits! Over time, you’ll find it becomes almost second nature. As Dr. Willard states so well, “each of the mental actions in this practice strengthens neural connections that, with practice, rewire your brain, over time making mindfulness and compassion the automatic response to stress.”[4]

Peace,

 

Dr. Pamm

[1] Christopher Willard, “A Basic Meditation to Strengthen Neural Connections,” Mindful, May 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.