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This Year, Consider Giving Presence Instead Of Presents

During the holiday season, many of us feel pressure to find our loved ones the “perfect” gift. Why? Because gift-giving has long been considered a prime way to express love. However, recent research suggests that gestures don’t need to be large or have a hefty price tag to feel meaningful. The study, published this summer in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, suggests that small acts of kindness, not grand overtures, make people feel most loved and supported.

“Our research found that micro-moments of positivity, like a kind word, cuddling with a child, or receiving compassion make people feel most loved,” says Dr. Zita Oravecz, a professor in human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University and one of the study’s researchers.

In the study, 495 men and women between the ages of 18 and 93 completed a questionnaire evaluating 60 possible ways that people can feel love. Each question began with, “Most people feel loved when…” The scenarios included situations like spending time with friends, receiving gifts, and spending time in nature. The survey also included negative interactions, like being controlled and criticized by others. Oravecz says the findings highlight the psychological benefits that intimate relationships can offer. In fact, study participants ranked human interaction as a more significant expression of love than receiving material items, like presents. Connecting with others was also rated more highly than getting positive feedback on the internet, indicating that people derive the most support from personal human contact. In fact, other studies suggest more time on social media leads to increased feelings of isolation. Yet despite the findings that spending time with friends and family makes us feel good, during hectic times like the holidays, these social interactions can feel burdensome instead of fulfilling. Fatigued from an overload of shopping, spending, and travel, most Americans describe this time of year as stressful instead of magical. In fact, a telephone survey conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that compared to other times of the year, 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men (out of 786 individuals polled) feel more stress during the holidays. In addition, 51 percent of women and 42 percent of men said purchasing and giving gifts added to their distress.

Esther Lui for NPR

Small acts of kindness are what make us feel loved.
 

Any kind of stress can strain relationships and cause us to withdraw from others, but small stressors can be just as trying as larger burdens. A 2015 research study found that daily hassles like working, running errands, and money troubles negatively impact romantic unions, causing people to feel less satisfied and more alone in their relationships. When we’re anxious and fatigued, it can also be more challenging to see someone else’s point of view, which might explain why family feuds seem more likely to arise during the holidays. While prioritizing one’s self-care during the months of November and December may be difficult, adopting a mindset of being present in the moment may help lessen the stress of the season.

“During the holidays, anxiety rises, making it harder to remain present with ourselves and others. However, the power of spending time with another person is a gift we can give at any moment,” says Dr. Carla Naumburg, a mindfulness coach and social worker in Newton, Mass.

While we may associate presence with mindfulness meditation, we don’t need to be Zen masters to create a calmer holiday. Naumburg says we can cultivate presence by cutting back on social media (which helps limit distractions), getting plenty of rest, and taking a pause (and remembering to breathe).

“For everyone, breathing is a small but powerful act that can keep us connected to ourselves by shifting our awareness to the present moment,” she says.

According to The American Institute of Stress, focused breathing elicits the body’s “relaxation response,” slowing one’s heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and helping muscles relax. This physical process aids in repairing an overactive nervous system, helping us to enter a calmer physical and emotional state. Although it can be challenging to forgo doing extra errands during the holidays, Naumburg suggests balancing party planning and online shopping with moments of human connection. Activities like reading to a child, meeting a friend for a walk, or taking a moment to call a family member, are ways to express love and care and can keep us emotionally grounded. While the idea of offering loved ones the gift of our time may pale in comparison to giving them a lavish present, recent empathy research shows shared human experiences can tighten social bonds. Oravecz and her colleagues also found that despite personality differences, most people agree on what makes us feel loved — the presence of our loved ones.

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga.
December 9, 2017    JULI FRAGA
 
source: www.npr.org
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Why We All Need Green In Our Lives

(CNN) It’s the color of the Emerald Isle, the hue of sickness and envy, and a shade associated with grotesque monsters. And its most universal interpretation conjures imagery of nature, a vibrant symbol of the environmental movement and healthy living.

Green, the mixture of blue and yellow, can be seen everywhere and in countless shades. In fact, the human eye sees green better than any color in the spectrum.

This, along with many other facts about this earthly color, makes it an essential part of our everyday lives.

But why is that?

Helping you see

We see green with ease because of how light reaches our eyes; the human eye translates waves of light into color.

When we see a green frog, the color that we see is the light reflected off of the surface of the frog’s skin, perceived by our eyes as green.

When we see these colors, the cones in our eyes are able to process the wavelengths and tell the brain what color is being observed.

Humans are trichromats, meaning we perceive three primary colors: blue, green and red. The retina in a human eye can detect light between wavelengths of 400 and 700 nanometers, a range known as the visible spectrum.

Each primary color corresponds to a different wavelength, starting with blue at the lowest (400 nanometers) and red at the highest (700 nanometers).

In the middle of the spectrum resides the color green, at around 555 nanometers. This wavelength is where our perception is at its best. Because of its position in the center of the spectrum, both blue and red light waves are enhanced and better perceived with the help of green waves.

Knowing your environment

Green space sweeps the planet. Before skyscrapers and suburbs popped up, our ancestors resided in forested regions full of greenery.

As they scavenged for food, the ability to differentiate between colored berries against the backdrop of green foliage was critical for survival.

The evolution of eyesight and the increasing ability to detect color with fine detail gave our primate ancestors an evolutionary advantage over other mammals who could not discern such differences as well.

Color changes in leaves, fruits and vegetables can indicate age or ripeness and even offer a warning that something may be poisonous or rotten.

Today, we continue to use this ancestral instinct at a farmers market or grocery store.

Sourcing your food

Bananas, though widely considered to be a yellow fruit, start off as green due to the presence of chlorophyll. Just as grass and leaves have chlorophyll to give them color, so do fruits.
Located in the cells of plants, chlorophyll plays a crucial role in photosynthesis, allowing plants to harvest energy from sunlight and convert it into energy that the plant can use to grow.

The molecule absorbs blue and red light well while reflecting the green light that we see.

The peels of bananas are bright green in color until the chlorophyll inside the peel begins to break down. As the fruit ripens, the molecule in the peel breaks down and we observe a color change from green to bright yellow – and we prefer to eat yellow bananas because they are sweeter.

While the chlorophyll in the banana breaks down, the starch in the peel is converted into sugar, so more yellow means more sugar – until it begins to rot.

Because of their high starch content, greener bananas are sometimes favored as a cure for upset stomachs.

This change in color also applies when glancing over an aisle of bright bell peppers. Our eyes help us find our favored ripeness and sweetness. Green peppers, with more chlorophyll, are less sweet. As they turn yellow and red, the peppers become sweeter.

When we’re enjoying a salad, a brown piece of wilted lettuce or kale is almost always discarded. And our eyes tell us the lawn is overdue for some maintenance when the color darkens.

So although we may not reside in the forests anymore, our keen perception of green continues to play a significant role in keeping us healthy.

Keeping you calm

Some scientists and researchers also believe that because our eyes are at the peak of their perception to detect the wavelengths corresponding with the color green, the shade may calm us down.

With less strain to perceive the colors, our nervous system can relax when perceiving the tone.

This sedative quality of green may explain why there is so much of it in hospitals, schools and work environments. Historically, actors and actresses would recess to green rooms after so much time looking into bright lights on stage, though modern “green rooms” are rarely painted green.

Helping you live longer

Natural environments, full of green vegetation, might help you live longer.

A 2016 study found that living in or near green areas can was linked with longer life expectancy and improved mental health in female participants. Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared risk of death with the amount of plant life and vegetation near the homes of more than 100,000 women.

After the eight-year study was completed, the data revealed that participants who lived in the greenest areas had a 12% lower death rate than women living in the least green areas.

With more green space, study authors said, came more opportunity to socialize outdoors.

Additionally, the natural settings – compared with residential regions where plants and greenery were sparse – proved to be beneficial to mental health.

“We were surprised at the magnitude of the mental health pathway,” said Peter James, study author and research associate at the Harvard Chan School’s Department of Epidemiology.

Of those who did not live in greener areas, respiratory issues were the second highest cause of death. The study indicated that less exposure to polluted air may have been one of several reasons for increased life expectancy among for those who lived in green areas.

Our ancestors lived their entire lives outdoors. The benefits we stand to gain from adopting an outdoor mindset, James says, could have a positive impact. “We know already that vegetation can help mitigate the effect of climate change. Our study suggests the potential co-benefit for health.”

Article by Robert Jimison, CNN        Mon June 5, 2017
source: www.cnn.com


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Take Time Out For Yourself This Christmas

A mental health charity is urging people to give themselves the gift of time and kindness this Christmas. 

The message, from Washington Mind, comes with only days to go until the big day, and the pressure of trying to make it perfect could mean some people are well on the way to reaching their breaking point.

It is so important to give yourself permission to take time out. Jacqui Reeves 

People are being encouraged to take a step back and to try to do something for themselves – in particular those who are already caring for loved ones.

Jacqui Reeves, services manager with Washington Mind, said: “For most of us, Christmas is a time for thinking of others, but we must also remember to think of ourselves.

“The old adage of looking after yourself to be able to look after others is so true.
“It is so important to give yourself permission to take time out from all the gift giving, party preparations and cooking to make sure you take care of yourself.
“This can help not only to prevent some problems getting worse, but may even stop them developing at all.
“You can enjoy the festivities without the unnecessary stress.”

One person who took to self-care to help boost her mental health and wellbeing said: “Being overweight and diabetic – not to mention my fear of touch – meant that going to a spa and taking part in sessions of reflexology, Reiki and back massage, wasn’t easy.”

“But, after enjoying the treatments so much, I now take time out to go regularly.
“It has been helped my mood improve, helped my fear of touch and I have also now got control over my diabetes. I’ve gone on to lose over a stone in weight, which has also improved the way I feel about myself.

Today, people are being asked to be their own best friend. Do something or say something nice about themselves.

self-love

Experts say people often beat ourselves up and talk to ourselves in a way they would not dream of talking to others. Be nice to yourself.

Mind has issued the following advice to help people take care of themselves in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

Exercise: Physical activity can boost mental wellbeing and change your outlook on life. It can help people with anxiety and depression – even preventing those problems from developing in he first place. The important thing is to choose something you enjoy so you stick at it. If you are physically disabled, contact a local disability group about exercises you can do.

Relax: Christmas can be a very busy period for many people so try to make time to slow done and relax. Give yourself permission to take time out from the hustle and bustle. Planned relaxation calms anxiety and helps your body and mind recover from everyday rush and stress.Music, reading, a long soak in the bath or a walk in the park can help you to relax or taking part in something you enjoy.

Sleep: This is the time of year when it is all too easy not to get enough sleep. We may have more physical and emotional activity than normal during the 12 days of Christmas. Making sure you have enough, sleep can help you cope better with any difficult feelings and experiences.

Laugh: Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress.

Ask for help: You don’t have to do everything yourself, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have any worries or concerns, talk to someone about them – don’t let them spoil your Christmas.

LISA NIGHTINGALE      Thursday 22 December 2016 
For more information on self-care, visit www.wellbeinginfo/self-care


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Start Reaping The Benefits Of Being Happy With These Steps

Research tells us that only 1 in 3 people label themselves “happy.” Happiness seems elusive for many. There is simply too much sadness, stress, pressure and difficulty in relationships for you to be “happy.” Most people are waiting for their happy day to come: “I will win the lottery.” “I will get that new job.” “I will move to a warmer climate.” “I will get rid of this jerk.” The pot of gold is just sitting there waiting, and you only need to catch the rainbow and slide to the bottom to reach it.

It’s likely that you have grabbed the gold one or two times before. There was probably a time when something went really well – you had a good relationship, or a good job, or some money in your pocket, or the promise of something good to come.

Getting the gold didn’t make you permanently happy. It might have given you an upper for the day, week or month, but it didn’t buy you the long-term happiness you are probably seeking. Life is filled with irritants, obstacles, difficulties, unforeseen circumstances and interruptions just waiting for the right time to happen. Big things like death, divorce, loss of a job or home, and little things like bad traffic, a stain on that brand-new shirt, or a vacation that got derailed, can all lead to a dearth on the happiness scale.

Is it possible to just live happy? Can you take some steps to find yourself in the one out of three? Does it mean you have to make millions or become more successful than your most successful friend? No, it doesn’t; but it probably won’t just happen on its own. You might have to make some choices to decide in favor of happiness.

If you are ready to stop moping and complaining, and start reaping the benefits of being happy, here are some steps you can take:

Practice reframing your experiences. You may see an event now and label it “bad” or “unwanted” or “negative.” Instead of reacting to everything with a negative response, choose to reframe the situation in a more objective and neutral manner. This means when the next driver cuts you off, you don’t talk to yourself (or out loud) about all of the terrible drivers out there who are out to get you. You say something like, “It’s a shame more people don’t drive politely. It isn’t worth it to me to get upset about it.” Then turn your attention to something positive. Be sure your speakers (if you are in the car for this example) are broadcasting something good – uplifting music, a positive or spiritual speaker, or a book you enjoy. Turn the volume up if you want, and focus on that instead of that other driver.

Find something that uplifts you. For some people it is positive music, for others it is meditation or yoga, for others it is a warm bath. What puts your mind in its happy place? Have a regular schedule to include whatever it is that is good for you. Don’t find yourself stuck and saying “I need to meditate.” Instead, make it part of your schedule so you are doing it regularly.

Stay away from news that depresses. Of course you shouldn’t hide your head in the sand – you want to be an educated voter, and know what’s happening in the economic markets, or realize what areas of your city have become dangerous at night. You want to be informed, but you don’t want to be inundated. You can get updates or skim the headlines, and then put it away. Some people actually make a diet of negative news. It does nothing but bring you down. Be choosy about how much you allow to sink into your subconscious.

work-life-balance

 

Get rest, relaxation and exercise. The research is clear on how much sleep people need, how important destressing can be, and how much your body is fueled by exercise. Of course, don’t become upset if you aren’t getting these enough; create a working plan for you to get more. It is hard to stay upbeat and happy when you are running on three hours of sleep and too much caffeine, and just taking a walk around the block seems daunting!
Learn to breathe. The mind can’t focus on two things at once. If you are focused on your breath, breathing in and out slowly and thoughtfully, you can’t be focused on something that upsets you. Turn your attention to your breath several times throughout the day, not just in reaction to something negative, but as a practice. Breathe comfortably and easily. Allow your breath to flow in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think about the gift of breath. It’s a natural process most take for granted.

Develop a thankful ritual. Be careful with this – some people do this as a way to say, “It’s bad and I am miserable but look at the things that are going well!” You don’t want to try and fake yourself out; you want to genuinely be thankful for what you have and what’s going well. Make a list of things that really have meaning to you. Read the list out loud and pause at each one. Allow the positive feeling associated with whatever you have listed to permeate you as you read. Smile while you are reading it, and soak yourself in the happy.

Smile more often. Most people have a perpetual scowl on their faces, unless they are smiling in response to someone else. Smile randomly. Pretend you have your own secrets on how great your life is. Smile at the checkout clerk, the gas station attendant and your mother-in-law! Most people smile back in response, so you might make someone else’s day too.

Choose happy. Every second of the day you have a choice about where your mind is focused. You can be sad, mad, irritated, joyful, or whatever emotion you choose. You may think your emotions are in response to your situation, but they aren’t. The sun can be shining, you received a raise, your child got into their coveted school, and you feel happy but then someone’s negative, casual remark comes around and your happiness turns to shreds. Now, instead of your happy day, you are focused on how mean and cruel that person was to you. You do have a choice. Make yours.

Jun 30, 2016      Beverly D. Flaxington     Understand Other People      Choose in Favor of Happy


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What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t

When asked the question: “Do you take care of yourself?” most of us will answer yes — we’d even think, “What kind of question is this? Of course I care about myself.”

When asked, “In what ways do you take care of yourself?” — well, that’s where the tricky part begins.

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although it’s a simple idea in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also keep to a good relationship with oneself and others.

What isn’t self-care?

Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. As Agnes Wainman defined, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”

Self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently, able to take care of others as well. That is, if I don’t take enough care of myself, I won’t be in the place to give to my loved ones either.

In a few words, self-care is the key to living a balanced life.

Where do you start? Well, there are 3 golden rules:

  • Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.
  • Self-care needs to be something you actively plan on, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.
  • What I often emphasize to my clients is that keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels and what the outcomes are.
Healthy-Lifestyle

Although self-care means different things to different people, there’s a basic checklist which can be followed by all of us:

  • Create a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like or you no longer want to do. E.g. Not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch/dinner.
  • Promote a nutritious, healthy diet.
  • Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Exercise. In contrast to what many people think, exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with the self-care conditions, what’s important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
  • Follow-up with medical care. It is not unusual to put off checkups or visits to the doctor.
  • Use relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day; in the morning, when anxious, before going to sleep.
  • Spend enough time with your loved ones.
  • Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether this is taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding yourself.
  • Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking or meeting with friends.
  • Look for opportunities to laugh!

Set up a 15-day self-care routine and see how you feel before and after. And never forget: As with everything, self-care takes practice!

 By Raphailia Michael, MA

About Raphailia Michael, MA
Raphailia Michael is a licensed Counselling Psychologist, qualified in Cyprus, Slovenia and the Netherlands. She runs an online practice working with people from all over the world, as well as a practice in Cyprus where she offers face-to-face sessions, workshops, skills groups and group therapy. Raphailia works with a variety of symptoms in a humanistic and integrative way, drawing on the perspectives of Person-centered approach, Narrative therapy, CBT, DBT, and Mindfulness. Her goal is to help her clients through their journey towards self-empowerment, self-acceptance and a more fulfilling life. More information can be obtained through www.raphailiamichael.com.


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Managing Your Emotions Can Save Your Heart

We often think of the heart and brain as being completely separate from each other. After all, your heart and brain are located in different regions of your body, and cardiology and neurology are separate disciplines. Yet these organs are intimately connected, and when your emotions adversely affect your brain, your heart is affected as well.

The negative impact of emotions when your heart is already vulnerable

There are two kinds of stress that impact your brain. Helpful stress (also known as eustress) can assist you with getting things done by helping you focus your attention. Unhelpful stress (distress), on the other hand, can be so severe that it can lead to fatigue and heart disease.

If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), your heart may be deprived of oxygen. This deprivation, called myocardial ischemia, can occur in as many as 30% to 50% of all patients with CAD. It can be further exacerbated by emotional stress. In fact, if you have any type of heart disease, any strong emotion such as anger may also cause severe and fatal irregular heart rhythms. Expressions like “died from fright” and “worried to death” are not just hyperbole — they are physiologic possibilities. Furthermore, when patients with newly diagnosed heart disease become depressed, that depression increases the risk that a harmful heart-related event will occur within that year.

The negative impact of emotions when you have no heart disease

Of course, stress can have a big effect on your heart even if you don’t have heart disease. Here’s just one example: In 1997, cardiologist Lauri Toivonen and colleagues conducted a study of EKG changes in healthy physicians before and during the first 30 seconds of an emergency call. They saw changes that indicated oxygen deprivation and abnormal heart rhythms.

More recent studies have also observed these changes in the setting of with stress, anxiety, and depression — all of which are, of course, brain-based conditions. Even in people with no prior heart disease, major depression doubles the risk of dying from heart-related causes.

mirror mirror

 

Cardiac psychology: Tending to your emotions for your heart’s sake

It is important to control your worry and stress, not just because you will worry less and feel better, but because less worry means less stress for your heart. This applies to the entire range of stressors, from a small episode of acute panic to a larger context such as living through a natural disaster. For all the reasons outlined above, a new emotion-based approach to heart health, called cardiac psychology, is receiving increasing interest.

You really can change your brain and get a healthier heart in the process. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Seek professional help. Don’t ignore stress, anxiety, depression, excessive worry, or bouts of anger that overwhelm your life. Seek professional help. If you meet criteria for a diagnosis, treatment can help reduce symptoms, thereby protecting your brain and your heart.
  • Available treatments in cardiac psychology. Aside from more traditional psychiatric treatment and exercise, psycho-educational programs, educational training, stress management, biofeedback, counseling sessions, and relaxation techniques should all be considered before or after a heart-related event. Newer treatments such as acceptance and commitment therapy and expressive writing can also be helpful.
  • Exercise. Physical exercise can help you have a healthier heart and brain — in the right doses. For example, many recent studies have demonstrated that aerobic exercise can help you be more mentally nimble by helping you think faster and more flexibly. Even frail older adults have improved their thinking and overall psychological well-being from exercising for one hour, three times a week. And people in rehabilitation after being diagnosed with heart failure report clearer thinking when their fitness levels improve.As clinical research scientist Michelle Ploughman commented, “exercise is brain food.” Various types of aerobic exercise, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have all been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and to improve self-esteem. This is thought to be due to an increase in blood circulation in the brain, and the fact that exercise can improve the brain’s ability to react to stress.

 

A starting point for better brain — and heart — health

If you struggle with stress, anger, anxiety, worry, depression, or problems with self-esteem, talk to your primary care physician — or a cardiologist, if you have one. A consultation with a psychiatrist may be very helpful. Together, you can explore which of these potential therapies might best protect your psychological state, your brain, and your heart.

Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor     @srinipillay     MAY 09, 2016  


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The New Way to Combat Stress at School and Work

By Gina Shaw        WebMD Health News         Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Sept. 24, 2015 – In the cavernous gymnasium at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, dozens of third, fourth, and fifth-graders sit on yoga mats – legs crossed, eyes closed, palms loosely open and facing upward on their knees.

At the front of the room, a young man guides them through a series of breathing exercises, yoga poses, and meditation. The program’s goal: to show students how to focus better, control anger, and ease stress.

Called the “Holistic Me After-School Program,” it was developed by brothers Ali and Atman Smith and their colleague Andres Gonzalez. Their Holistic Life Foundation has been bringing mindfulness education to the schoolchildren of Baltimore – including this school with a large low-income population, and more far-flung communities – for more than a dozen years.

“It gives them tools to peacefully resolve conflict and manage their stress and their anger,” says Atman Smith. “You can see it in their eyes.”

No longer viewed as just a West Coast fad, mindfulness training is catching on in schools and workplaces across the country.

Dozens of mindfulness programs now serve schools in various states, with the majority on the East and West Coasts.

One of the largest programs, Mindful Schools, says it has trained nearly 10,000 adults from organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 100+ countries, impacting over 300,000 children and adolescents.

“The rate of training has been growing quickly,” says Mindful Schools’ Director of Research Camille Whitney. She says the organization trained nearly 1,100 people just in July 2015.

“Mindfulness is growing … because people are seeing the benefits of this in kids,” says Steven Hickman, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of California, San Diego. “With all the stress they’re under and the distractions they face, it’s helping them calm down and pay attention.”

meditate child

People of All Ages Can Benefit
Google, Target, General Mills, and Aetna are among companies that have made a big investment in these programs. They’re among companies adopting Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, an 8-week program teaching mindfulness and gentle yoga originally developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The center says that since its inception, more than 22,000 have completed the 8-week program.

And in the world of sports, NFL Super Bowl-winning coach Pete Carroll has used mindfulness training with his team for several years.

What exactly is mindfulness? Programs differ, but in essence it’s a simple form of meditation that involves focusing your attention on your breath as it moves in and out. It also teaches you to focus on the emotions, thoughts, and sensations you’re experiencing in the present moment.

“I started to see a difference in the students’ behaviors,” says Coleman Elementary principal Carlillian Thompson. “Instead of fighting or lashing out, they started using words to solve their problems. Those students who began in the program, who are now middle-school students, are very successful, and they come back and participate in the program also.”

Research shows that the programs have significant benefits for children.

One study found that a group of 194 first- through third-grade children who participated in a 12-week program of breath awareness and yoga improved their attention and social skills and decreased their test anxiety. Another found that three adolescents with conduct disorder (a range of antisocial behaviors) who were trained in mindfulness had a drop in their aggressive behavior. And after a 5-week mindfulness program in a California elementary school, teachers said they noticed improved classroom behavior — paying attention, self-control, participation in activities, and caring and respect for others — that lasted for at least 7 weeks after the program.

Workplace adopters are reporting perks, too. Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, recently told the New York Times that the company’s meditation and yoga classes have led to reports of lower stress levels and an average increase of 62 minutes of productivity per employee per week. The company estimates that is worth $3,000 per employee annually. One study published last year found that a mindfulness-based stress-reduction program used by the Dow Chemical Company led to drops in stress for participants, as well as more resiliency and engagement in work.

Some companies are pursuing mindfulness solely with an eye toward the bottom line, or because they think it’s a fad – “Google’s doing it, so we should too.” “But others are doing it because they want to have happy, satisfied, well employees,” Hickman says. “That’s where it’s going to be sustainable.”

There are other areas, though, where mindfulness is still almost unheard of. “There are still the challenges that public schools face, in people perceiving mindfulness or yoga as being some sort of religious activity, even though it isn’t that by any stretch. It’s simply paying attention,” Hickman says.

Kevin Pokorny, a business consultant and coach in Des Moines, Iowa, recently co-hosted two Mindfulness Summit Dialogues for people in his community. Attendees, about 16 at each session, included people from local businesses and nonprofits, therapists, and people involved in their own mindfulness work.

“This is something pretty new for people here; I think we are really breaking ground in this area,” Pokorny says.

He says he thinks that the legal insurance company ARAG is the only area organization that has a mindfulness program – but he’s hoping that will change soon. “I have integrated mindfulness practices in some of the consulting work with my clients here in Iowa, and they’ve been very receptive.”

Another plus for mindfulness: It can be done virtually anywhere with no equipment at all.

“You don’t need props or supplies, just a person with a desire to practice,” Ali Smith says. “Once you equip a child with these tools, no matter how chaotic their external environment is, they can find a place inside them that’s quiet and calm and peaceful.”

Article Sources 
SOURCES:
Ali Smith, Holistic Life Foundation.
Atman Smith, Holistic Life Foundation.
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source: WebMD