mindpotion Blog
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
The Science behind Yoga and Stress
Mood:  happy
Topic: Yoga

By Dr M Storoni MD PhD on Tuesday July 14th, 2015

What does bending your body into yoga poses do to your brain chemistry and nerve connections?

There are two functional parts of the brain that play a key role in stress. These serve the functions of emotion and cognitive function. So I am calling them the ’emotional’ brain (amygdala and its connections and medial forebrain structures including the medial prefrontal cortex) and the ‘logical’ brain (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, other parts of the prefrontal cortex, parts of the cingulate cortex and parts of the hippocampus).

The emotional brain is able to initiate a ‘stress response’ via the sympathetic nervous system which culminates in adrenaline and cortisol racing through our circulation. The logical brain is always trying to ‘turn-off’ this stress response and it is also trying to restrain the emotional brain. The stronger our logical brain, the better it becomes at doing these two things. When the stress response is ‘turned off’, our parasympathetic nervous system signal is ‘turned on’. This signal ‘relaxes’ the body. So a strong logical brain goes hand in hand with relaxation.

The stress response and ‘relaxing’ signals travel through the body along a particular route and parts of this route have little ‘switches’ which we can physically manipulate to turn the signals on or off. The neck is an example of where such switches are located (by the carotid arteries).

Training the stress circuit

Yoga is training this entire stress circuit at two levels. First, every time we are ‘holding’ a posture, staying very still to concentrate or trying to balance, our logical brain is being activated. When we are bending forwards, our ‘relaxation’ signal is being turned on through the ‘switches’ in the neck. So bending forwards and concentrating at the same time is triggering both the logical brain and the relaxation signal at the same time.

Bending backwards triggers the stress response signal through the switches in our neck. Contracting a muscle also triggers the stress response signal. So, when we bend backwards and contract our muscles while still having to stay still and concentrate on balancing, our logical brain is given an extra challenge. It has to overcome the stress response signal being triggered in these two ways before we can be still and concentrate during a posture. This ‘extra’ resistance the logical brain is having to work against, ‘trains’ it like a muscle.

Read more - http://upliftconnect.com/yoga-and-stress/


Posted by mindpotion Network at 12:14 MEST
Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Escaping the Prison of Materialism
Mood:  energetic
Topic: Materialism

In the materialistic world that we live in, we worship objects and derive pleasure solely from them. We want to possess more and more, thinking that only this way we can live in joy. Our thirst for more material things is never quenched, and we end up even more thirsty, addicted, sad, exhausted.

The reason why our thirst is never satisfied is that substitutes cannot fulfill our needs.

How can a big bank balance substitute inner peace?

How can a shiny car substitute loving attention?

How can possessions substitute our lost connection with people?

What we are searching for cannot be found in material objects, but in how we relate with our ourselves, the people close to us, and our wider environment.

The prison of materialism is something that almost all people inhabit, but only a few escape from it, because most don’t even recognize that there is a prison and that they are confined by it, just like fish can’t discern the sea and understand that they live in it. Unaware of their slavery, how can they seek freedom?

If you sense that the prison of materialism exists and surrounds you, the following realizations might help you to escape from it and regain the freedom that you lost long time ago.

You have enough

If you are reading this article now, it means that you have internet connection, a computer or another electronic device, and a house to live in, which means that you have enough to cover your basic needs and satisfy at least some of your wants.

On Earth, however, billions of people don’t even have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, and a shelter to live under.

We, living in a materialistic environment, always want to possess more and more, not realizing what other people are lacking, and instead of finding ways to help them live like every human being deserves to live, we only think about our personal superficial gratification, which comes through the acquirement of material things that don’t actually make our life better in any way.

Looking at your condition from a wider perspective will help you see that you have much more than you think, and you might start realizing what should truly concern us all.

What you own, owns you

Objects are good to use, but not good when we are being used by them.

The more things you possess, the more you will want to protect your possessions, and the more attached to them you are, the more insecure you will feel, which can make you obsessed to acquire more without end, just in case you lose what belongs to you now.

Having material things that are serving you to improve the quality of your life is perfectly fine, but if you let them take over your life, they can turn into harsh dictators that will never allow you to be care-free, at peace, and happy.

Read More

Posted by mindpotion Network at 19:43 CET
Wednesday, 6 January 2016
Meditation Builds Brain Cells
Mood:  chatty
Topic: Meditation

by Talya Dagan,

Research has now demonstrated that meditation builds brain cells and increases gray matter in the brain. Using magnetic imaging (MRI), Harvard researchers found that meditation produced physiological changes in the brain’s gray matter. Some areas in the brains of the study participants thickened after only eight weeks of mindfulness practice. The research was published in 2011 and represented the first time that physical changes to the brain caused by mediation were documented. The research was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital by researchers from Harvard University. The research was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH. Research subjects spend eight weeks doing a mindfulness meditation program. For an average of 27 minutes a day, the study participants listened to audio recordings of guided meditation during the eight-week trial. The group met weekly as well. Magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) were taken of the participants’ brains two weeks before the trial started and at the end of the eight-week program. A control group also had brain imaging (MRI) but did not listen to the audio-recorded meditation guides.

The Research Findings

Study participants reported feeling less stressed after the eight-week period. MRI scans revealed decreased gray matter in the amygdalae and increased gray matter in the hippocampus. The amygdalae are the parts of the brain that help the body deal with anxiety and stress and controls the “fight or flight” mechanism. The hippocampus, which showed an increase in gray-matter density, is the area of the brain that controls memory, learning, self-awareness, introspection and compassion.

Read more at - the-open-mind.com


Posted by mindpotion Network at 17:16 CET
Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Music Better Than Drugs At Relieving Pain And Anxiety
Mood:  bright
Topic: Hypnosis & Psychology

by Joe Battaglia

400 published scientific papers have proven the old adage that “music is medicine.” Neurochemical benefits of music can improve the body’s immune system, reduce anxiety levels and help regulate mood in ways that drugs have difficulty competing.

“We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” says Prof. Levitin of McGill University’s Psychology Department. “But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding.”

The review appearing in in Trends in Cognitive Science, was prompted by the growing number of studies addressing evidence-based music interventions (as opposed to music therapy, which is something else). Prior to this review, no one had really taken the time to look at what all the new evidence was suggesting.

Indeed, music is frequently used for self-medicating purposes; many of us listen to music as a way to calm ourselves or give us a boost. And we do it as frequently — if not more so — than with coffee or alcohol.

Opoids are also responsible for music’s myriad effects on mood, pain and well-being, giving clues to how we can harness its benefits even how it affects our aging.

Like other pleasurable experiences, there are two components to enjoying music: anticipation of hearing your favourite song, and then actually hearing it. The brain signalling chemical dopamine, which is linked to reward, is involved in both phases. But neuroscientists have wondered for decades whether there was more to it — what gives music its power to induce euphoria?

The brain’s natural opioids could be key. Professor Levitin’s team showed that blocking opioid signals in the brain by giving people a drug called naltrexone reduces the amount of pleasure they report getting from their favourite song. They still enjoy the anticipation of hearing the song just as much, suggesting that, although dopamine is involved, it’s when the opioids kick in that music really starts to affect our minds.

A flood of opioids would also explain music’s effect on our body. Listening to music is known to raise people’s pain thresholds, so much so that in some cases, it can be used to reduce the need for morphine-like painkillers.

In their analysis, Levitin’s team surveyed over 400 papers, looking for patterns in the scientific evidence supporting the claim that music can affect brain chemistry in a positive way.

Read more at: http://www.the-open-mind.com/music-more-effective-than-drugs-in-relieving-pain-and-anxiety/#sthash.OClSKS6D.dpuf

Posted by mindpotion Network at 15:27 MEST
Updated: Wednesday, 23 September 2015 15:38 MEST
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Stanford study measures health benefits of nature walks
Mood:  bright
Topic: Health

Most of us know we feel a bit better after time in the wilderness but is it all just in our heads? Nope! Researchers from Stanford show that we can measure how a walk in nature does a body good. They showed quantifiable results that it reduces the risk of depression.

According to the researchers, people living in cities have a 20 percent higher risk for anxiety disorders, a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders and even have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia. Retreats to natural spaces can mitigate this.

Stanford News reports, "The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression... The researchers found little difference in physiological conditions, but marked changes in the brain. Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment."

In other words, the National Park System should be considered a public health service! Creating and maintaining parks, open space preserves, state and national parks and even small green spaces within the urban landscape where nature is accessible are vital to a happy country.

Read more: http://www.mnn.com/health/blogs/stanford-study-measures-health-benefits-nature-walks#ixzz3fgaOyQYg

Posted by mindpotion Network at 00:01 MEST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 August 2015 15:30 MEST
Thursday, 9 July 2015
Have we finally unlocked the secret to happiness?
Mood:  lucky
Topic: Happiness

What would it take for you to be truly happy?

Forget money, health and success. According to one group of scientists, what you really need is a four-step, 10-week program that changes your mindset.

Created by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the program uses a series of exercises that they say helps train people's minds into choosing happiness.

Dr Amit Sood, who led the research, says 40 to 50 per cent of your happiness depends on the choices you make and where you place your focus each day.

'You can choose to live focusing on what is right and beautiful in your life,' said Dr Sood who is the author of a new book, 'The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness: A Four-Step Plan for Resilient Living.

'Happiness is a habit,' he added. 'Some of us are born with it; others have to choose it.'

Previous research has shown that our minds are hard-wired to focus on negative experiences.

For our ancestors, this helped keep them stay alive, providing an evolutionary advantage in the face of danger.

But simply shifting perspective away from the negative and embracing the positive will make you far happier than you might realise, says Dr Sood.

That's easier said that done, he admits.

'There are simply techniques that you need to repeat. For instance, just think, will this matter five years from now? If not then it's not worth your time.'

The book makes readers focus on a different positive emotion each day, such as gratitude, forgiveness and kindness.

The first part of his programme is to train your mind so you can have more power over your thoughts.

Practices include doing something known as the 5-3-2 technique.

This involves making your first thought in the morning about five people that you're grateful to have in your life.

For the first three minutes you meet your family, meet them like a long lost friend, Dr Sood advises.

And he says, for the first two seconds when you see another person, send a silent 'I wish you well'.

The second step in the book's plan is building emotional resilience through gratitude, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.

'When things go wrong,' he says, 'try to focus on what went right within what went wrong.'

The third stage of the program is to strengthen the connection between your mind and body.

Sood encourages a range of activities designed to relax the mind including reading, exercise, music, art, prayer, meditation and yoga.

Finally, he says people should pick healthy habits, such as exercising more and eating well, and lighten up.

Read more

Posted by mindpotion Network at 00:01 MEST
Updated: Thursday, 9 July 2015 10:57 MEST
Saturday, 6 June 2015
Feeling a sense of awe from nature makes for a better person.
Mood:  bright
Topic: Inspirational

Gazing at the stars or staring out across a vast ocean could make you a nicer person, a study suggests.

Feeling a sense of awe promotes altruistic, helpful and positive social behaviour, researchers found.

By making us ‘feeling diminished in the presence of something greater than oneself’ – so prompting us to realise how small and insignificant we really are in the universe – awe shifts our focus away from our own individual needs and towards the greater good, the researchers from the University of California-Irvine said.

We commonly experience awe in nature, but also in response to religion, art, and even music, they added.

‘Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function,’ said lead researcher, Dr Paul Piff.

‘When experiencing awe, you may not, egocentrically speaking, feel like you’re at the centre of the world anymore.

‘By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others.’

For the study, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the scientists carried out five different experiments involving more than 2,000 people.

In one of the experiments, 1,500 people answered survey questions about how predisposed they were to feeling awe. Then they played a game where they were given ten raffle tickets and had to decide how many to share. Those who were more likely to feel awe acted more generously.

In the other four experiments, the researchers asked groups of people to watch a video or gaze at something in their environment designed to elicit awe or another emotion, such as pride, or simply a neutral state.

Afterwards, the groups were asked to play games that showed how pro-socially (positive, helpful, aimed at promoting social acceptance and friendship) they behaved.

Those who were awe-inspired acted more in the interests of others,

Read more: dailymail.co.uk

Posted by mindpotion Network at 00:01 MEST
Updated: Saturday, 6 June 2015 20:07 MEST
Friday, 22 May 2015
It's the color of light that matters for sleep
Mood:  cheeky
Topic: Sleep

By Jenn Savedge

Health experts have known for some time that exposure to light helps to regulate the body's internal clock. That's why humans get sleepy when it's dark outside and start to wake when it's light out. But new research has found that it may be more than light affecting our circadian rhythms; it may be the color of that light that really makes a difference.
For the study, researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz took a look at how mice were affected by the color of the light they were exposed to. Specially, researchers wanted to know if the color of light affected the suprachiasmatic nucleus — the part of the brain that helps vertebrates regulate time using electrical and chemical signals.
To test this, researchers exposed mice to various colors and intensities of light while measuring nerve signals in the suprachiasmatic. Using an artificial sky, the mice were tested at various intensities of light, from bright light to complete darkness. And they were also tested when they were exposed to colors of light, such as the pinks and oranges that one might see during sunrise and sunset.
Researchers found that when the mice were exposed to light, as well as the various colors of light, they behaved perfectly normally. But when they were exposed to light that went from bright to dark without the color cues, their suprachiasmatic nerve signals lagged behind by about 30 minutes. Other physiological changes — such as a drop in body temperature — that might indicate the mice were ready to sleep also lagged behind by 30 minutes without exposure to colors.

Read more: http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/its-the-color-of-light-that-matters-for-sleep#ixzz3YQW8xAQB

Posted by mindpotion Network at 00:01 MEST
Updated: Friday, 22 May 2015 16:01 MEST
Sunday, 10 May 2015
Neuroscience Shows How Meditation Can Vanquish Mental Disorders
Mood:  bright
Topic: Meditation

Can mindfulness practice (meditation) help vanquish mental disorders? According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 7.7 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – approximately 3.3% of the US population when combined. Of these, approximately 40% of the individuals with schizophrenia and 51% of those with bipolar are untreated in any given year, but with the new studies being presented by Juan Santoyo and his peers, there could be strong scientific proof that meditation could help even the most debilitating psychological disorders.

Juan Santoyo is studying neuro and contemplative sciences, and he isn’t doing it ‘just to tickle his fancy,’ but to solve the real problem of mental disorders in our society. He presented his findings at the 12th Annual International Scientific Conference of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

He noticed when his family emigrated from Columbia that many homeless people suffered from psychological orders that often went untreated. Instead of pumping them full of pharmaceutical meds, he sees another plausible solution based on the preliminary results of a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

The paper describes how meditation affects a subject’s ability to change brain activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Given the chance to observe real-time feedback on their PCC activity, some meditators were even able to control the levels of activity there.

“You can observe both of these phenomena together and discover how they are co-determining one another,” Santoyo said. “Within 10 one-minute sessions they [participants in a meditation study] were able to develop certain strategies to evoke a certain experience and use it to drive the signal.”

Mindful Meditation

Of course this is far from the first study to show how meditation can trigger mental and even genetic alterations, but for some scientists, the revelation that meditating can actually trigger molecular changes is groundbreaking. While science certainly isn’t needed to experience or even prove the benefits of this ancient practice, these studies are likely heavily contributing to doctors prescribing things like meditation to patients instead of medications.

This has profound implications for those who suffer from psychiatric conditions, since it is known that certain mental challenges can be mapped to certain areas of the mind.

In the study Santoyo was involved with, he found that carefully coded data on experience — “grounded theory methodology” — supports the formulation and testing of hypotheses and a scientific investigation of mindfulness. . . specifically to aid those who have mental health issues. In a study he published on ‘effortless awareness,’ a phenomenon that often accompanies meditation, he noticed that specific memories or thoughts that caused distress could be changed with feedback after a meditation session.

While studying at Brown University, Santoyo has also noted that “these practices [meditation] have allowed him to feel more engaged with what he is studying, to become more adept at handling difficult situations, and to perform better academically.”

From better grades, to handling life’s challenges with greater élan, to helping the homeless, the further study of meditation and mindfulness has a lot to offer. If Santoyo and others studying this phenomenon are correct, more than 7 million Americans could benefit.

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny,  Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.

Source - http://wakingtimes.com

Posted by mindpotion Network at 00:01 MEST
Updated: Sunday, 10 May 2015 18:42 MEST
Sunday, 26 April 2015
Depression - Mindfulness-based therapy shows promise
Mood:  bright
Topic: Hypnosis & Psychology

A mindfulness-based therapy could offer a "new choice for millions of people" with recurrent depression, a Lancet report suggests.

Scientists tested it against anti-depressant pills for people at risk of relapse and found it worked just as well.

The therapy trains people to focus their minds and understand that negative thoughts may come and go.

In England and Wales doctors are already encouraged to offer it.

Patients who have had recurrent clinical depression are often prescribed long-term anti-depressant drugs to help prevent further episodes.

And experts stress that drug therapy is still essential for many.

In this study, UK scientists enrolled 212 people who were at risk of further depression on a course of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) while carefully reducing their medication.

Patients took part in group sessions where they learned guided meditation and mindfulness skills.

The therapy aimed to help people focus on the present, recognise any early warning signs of depression and respond to them in ways that did not trigger further reoccurrences.

Researchers compared these results to 212 people who continued to take a full course of medication over two years.

By the end of the study, a similar proportion of people had relapsed in both groups. And many in the MBCT group had been tapered off their medication.

Scientists say these findings suggest MBCT could provide a much-needed alternative for people who cannot or do not wish to take long-term drugs.

In their report, they conclude it "may be a new choice for millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions."

Nigel Reed, who took part in the study, added: "Mindfulness gives me a set of skills which I use to keep well in the long term.

"Rather than relying on the continuing use of anti-depressants, mindfulness puts me in charge, allowing me to take control of my own future, to spot when I am at risk and to make the changes I need to stay well."

Full Story from BBC

Posted by mindpotion Network at 00:01 MEST
Updated: Sunday, 26 April 2015 14:15 MEST

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