Mindfulness, Yoga, and Good Mental Health

It may be the last thing you want to do when you are having trouble focusing, are upset by negative news, or distracted by an inconsiderate co-worker, but a few minutes of mindfulness, yoga, or meditation may be just what you need to maintain good mental health.

A few minutes of mindfulness, yoga, or meditation may be just what you need to maintain good mental health amid stressful times.

“Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation both focus the brain’s conscious processing power on a limited number of targets like breathing and posing, and also reduce processing of nonessential information,” explains Peter Hall, associate professor in the School of Public Health & Health Systems. “These two functions might have some positive carryover effect in the near- term following the session, such that people are able to focus more easily on what they choose to attend to in everyday life.”

After following thirty-one study participants who completed 25 minutes of Hatha yoga, 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation, and 25 minutes of quiet reading (a control task) in randomized order, Hall found that after both the yoga and meditation activities, participants performed significantly better on executive function tasks compared to the reading task. Specifically, goal-directed behavior, and the ability to control knee-jerk emotional responses, habitual thinking patterns and actions improved.

Moreover, Hall and his team also found that mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga were both effective for improving energy levels, with Hatha yoga having significantly more powerful effects than meditation alone.

“There are a number of theories about why physical exercises like yoga improve energy levels and cognitive test performance. These include the release of endorphins, increased blood flow to the brain, and reduced focus on ruminative thoughts,” notes said Kimberley Luu, lead author on the paper.

There may be something particularly powerful about combining physical postures and breathing exercises with mindfulness meditation. The ability to observe thoughts, emotions and body sensations with openness and acceptance, seems to be a key component of improved executive functioning, while improvements in flexibility and strength come with a host of overall health benefits. Whether in helping us focus, appreciate what we have, or simply feel better physically, yoga, meditation, and the ability to shift our energy are fundamental to good mental health.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Mindfulness: The Healing Power of Compassionate Presence is a 6-hour online continuing education (CE) course that will give you the mindfulness skills necessary to work directly, effectively and courageously, with your own and your client’s life struggles. Course #60-75 | 2008 | 73 pages | 27 posttest questions


Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678); and is CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

Enjoy 20% off all online continuing education (CE/CEU) courses @pdresources.orgClick here for details.

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How Mindfulness Aids In Addiction Recovery

By David Sack, MD

For many of us, daily life is about “going through the motions.” How often do you drive from point A to point B without remembering how you got there?

Are you able to focus on one activity at a time or are you a multi-tasker who juggles five things at once?

Modern life is not always conducive to staying in the present moment, but as we are learning in the addiction field, the practice of mindfulness can bring greater joy into daily life and also help recovering addicts guard against relapse.

Increasingly, the field is embracing Eastern practices, including mindfulness meditation, as an adjunct to traditional addiction treatments.

Mindfulness vs. Addiction

Mindfulness, which has its roots in Buddhism, involves a purposeful and nonjudgmental focus on one’s feelings, experiences, and internal and external processes in the present moment. Rather than escape from painful feelings, mindfulness meditation encourages addicts to sit quietly with themselves and pay close attention to their thoughts and feelings without taking action to judge or “fix” them.

It is not about apathy or suppression of feelings, but rather the freedom to experience the full range of feelings and strategically choose how to respond.

Like yoga, tai chi and related practices, mindfulness is a portable skill that can become a regular part of the recovering addict’s life, both during and after treatment. It takes only a few minutes and can be done by anyone anywhere, and its effects are long-lasting.

A Life Skill with Wide Applicability

Mindfulness-based therapy has been used for a variety of ailments, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, physical illnesses and addiction, but its usefulness extends even further. Mindfulness can be applied to every area of life, including the most mundane daily tasks like house cleaning, taking a walk or eating a meal. Even decades into recovery, mindfulness is a way to stay fully invested in life.

Source: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-recovery/2012/04/how-mindfulness-aids-in-addiction-recovery/

Related Online Continuing Education Course:

Mindfulness: The Healing Power of Compassionate Presence

Mindfulness: The Healing Power of Compassionate Presence This course will give you the mindfulness skills necessary to work directly, effectively and courageously, with your own and your client’s life struggles. Compassion towards others starts with compassion towards self. Practicing mindfulness cultivates our ability to pay intentional attention to our experience from moment to moment. Mindfulness teaches us to become patiently and spaciously aware of what is going on in our mind and body without judgment, reaction, and distraction, thus inviting into the clinical process, the inner strengths and resources that help achieve healing results not otherwise possible. Bringing the power of mindful presence to your clinical practice produces considerable clinical impact in the treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, colitis/IBS, and migraines/tension headaches. The emphasis of this course is largely experiential and will offer you the benefit of having a direct experience of the mindfulness experience in a safe and supportive fashion. You will utilize the power of “taking the client there” as an effective technique of introducing the mindful experience in your practice setting. As you will learn, the mindfulness practice has to be experienced rather than talked about. This course will provide you with an excellent understanding of exactly what mindfulness is, why it works, and how to use it. You will also develop the tools that help you introduce mindful experiences in your practice, and how to deal with possible client resistance.

Course #60-75 | 2008 | 73 pages | 27 posttest questions

Customer Reviews:

“This was the best online ceu I have ever taken! Wow! Great stuff. Thank goodness I printed it out. I will start using it tomorrow. Thank you.” – M.C. (MFT)

“Great course, excellent reference materials and loads of practical exercises!” – L.O. (Social Worker)

“Nice integration of case examples with the course material.” – A.B. (Psychologist)

“One of the BEST courses I have EVER taken!!! GREAT Learning!!” – L.M. (Psychologist)

Learn More: http://www.pdresources.org/CourseDetail.aspx?Category=AllCourses&PageNumber=1&Profession=Other&Sort=CourseID&Text=60-75&courseid=972

Seven Steps to Taking Control of Your Attention

Post written by Rich Hanson, PhD

Seven steps to taking control of your attentionMoment to moment, the flows of thoughts and feelings, sensations and desires, and conscious and unconscious processes sculpt your nervous system like water gradually carving furrows and eventually gullies on a hillside. Your brain is continually changing its structure. The only question is: Is it for better or worse?

In particular, because of what’s called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” whatever you hold in attention has a special power to change your brain. Attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: it illuminates what it rests upon and then sucks it into your brain – and your self.

Therefore, controlling your attention – becoming more able to place it where you want it and keep it there, and more able to pull it away from what’s bothersome or pointless (such as looping again and again through anxious preoccupations, mental grumbling, or self-criticism) – is the foundation of changing your brain, and thus your life, for the better. As the great psychologist, William James, wrote over a century ago: “The education of attention would be the education par excellence.”

But to gain better control of attention – to become more mindful and more able to concentrate – we need to overcome a few challenges. In order to survive, our ancestors evolved to be stimulation-hungry and easily distracted, continually scanning their interior and their environment for opportunities and threats, carrots and sticks. There is also a natural range of temperament, from focused and cautious “turtles” to distractible and adventuresome “jackrabbits.” Upsetting experiences – especially traumatic ones – train the brain to be vigilant, with attention skittering from one thing to another. And modern culture makes us accustomed to an intense incoming fire hose of stimuli, so anything less – like the sensations of simply breathing – can feel unrewarding, boring, or frustrating.

To overcome these challenges, it’s useful to cultivate some neural factors of attention – in effect, getting your brain on your side to help you get a better grip on this spotlight/vacuum cleaner.

But how can we train our attention?

You can use one or more of the seven factors below at the start of any deliberate focusing of attention – from keeping your head in a dull business meeting to contemplative practices such as meditation or prayer – and then let them move to the background as you shift into whatever the activity is. You can also draw upon one or more during the activity if your attention is flagging. They are listed in an order that makes sense to me, but you can vary the sequence. (There’s more information about attention, mindfulness, concentration, and contemplative absorption inBuddha’s Brain.)

Here we go.

  1. Set the intention to sustain your attention, to be mindful. You can do this both top-down, by giving yourself a gentle instruction to be attentive, and bottom-up, by opening to the sense in your body of what mindfulness feels like.
  2. Relax. For example, take several exhalations that are twice as long as your inhalations. This stimulates the calming, centering parasympathetic nervous system and settles down the fight-or-flight stress-response sympathetic nervous system that jiggles the spotlight of attention this way and that, looking for carrots and sticks.
  3. Without straining at it, think of things that help you feel cared about – that you matter to someone, that you belong in a relationship or group, that you are seen and appreciated, or even cherished and loved. It’s OK if the relationship isn’t perfect, or that you bring to mind people from the past, or pets, or spiritual beings. You could also get a sense of your own goodwill for others, your own compassion, kindness, and love. Warming up the heart in this way helps you feel protected, and it brings a rewarding juiciness to the moment – which support #4 and #5 below.
  4. Think of things that help you feel safer, and thus more able to rest attention on your activities, rather than vigilantly scanning. Notice that you are likely in a relatively safe setting, with resources inside you to cope with whatever life brings. Let go of any unreasonable anxiety, any unnecessary guarding or bracing.
  5. Gently encourage some positive feelings, even mild or subtle ones. For example, think of something you feel glad about or grateful for; go-to’s for me include my kids, Yosemite, and just being alive. Open as you can to an underlying sense of well-being that may nonetheless contain some struggles or pain. The sense of pleasure or reward in positive emotions increases the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which closes a kind of gate in the neural substrates of working memory, thus keeping out any “barbarians,” any invasive distractions.
  6. Get a sense of the body as a whole, its many sensations appearing together each moment in the boundless space of awareness. This sense of things as a unified gestalt, perceived within a large and panoramic perspective, activates networks on the sides of the brain (especially the right – for right-handed people) that support sustained mindfulness. And it de-activates the networks along the midline of the brain that we use when we’re lost in thought.
  7. For 10-20-30 seconds in a row, stay with whatever positive experiences you’re having or lessons you’re learning. Since “neurons that fire together, wire together,” this savoring and registering helps weave the fruits of your attentive efforts into the fabric of your brain and your self.

Source: http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/seven-steps-to-taking-control-of-your-attention

New CE Courses Address Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

new CE courses address complementary and alternative medicine

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We (Professional Development Resources) have expanded our course catalog to include a variety of new continuing education (CE) courses dealing with various aspects of complementary and alternative medicine. New topics include mindfulness meditation, yoga as medicine, self-healing through breathing exercises, and the use of herbal medicines. The courses are intended to introduce health professionals to the healing power of traditional approaches to health and wellness.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM), defining complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is not easy. It is generally considered to be a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. “Complementary medicine” refers to use of CAM together with conventional medicine, such as using acupuncture in addition to usual care to help lessen pain. “Alternative medicine” refers to use of CAM in place of conventional medicine. “Integrative medicine” (also called integrated medicine) refers to a practice that combines both conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness.

“We think it is important for clinicians to be familiar with these approaches for two reasons,” says Leo Christie, PhD, CEO of Professional Development Resources. “First, many of the clients we see are using such treatments, so we need to know about them. A recent survey indicated that about 38% of adult Americans use CAM. Are the treatments safe? Do they work? We need to worry about interactions between certain herbal supplements and prescription medications. Second, researchers are starting to produce a body of scientific evidence on the efficacy of complementary and alternative approaches. As new and effective treatments become available, we need to be in a position to discuss them with our clients.”

Among the new courses offered are:

Christie adds “we emphasize in our courses that – as with any medical treatment – there can be risks with CAM therapies.” These general precautions from NCAAM can help to minimize risks:

  • Select CAM practitioners with care. Find out about the practitioner’s training and experience.
  • Be aware that some dietary supplements may interact with medications or other supplements, may have side effects of their own, or may contain potentially harmful ingredients not listed on the label. Also keep in mind that most supplements have not been tested in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use.
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If only intentions could walk the dog…

It is said that intention is the crux of all actions – that our intentions shape our thoughts, words, and deeds. If the intentions are wholesome, the results will be fruitful and skillful. Conversely, if the intentions are unwholesome, the results will be unfruitful and unskillful. In this way, our minds, through our intentions and thoughts, are the creators of our own happiness and unhappiness.

Read over the following progression a couple of times and take a moment to reflect on it:

  1. Intention shapes our thoughts and words.
  2. Thoughts and words mold our actions.
  3. Thoughts, words, and actions shapes our behaviors.
  4. Behaviors sculpt our bodily expressions.
  5. Bodily expressions fashion our character.
  6. Our character hardens into what we look like.
There’s a saying that by the time people turn fifty, they get the face they deserve.