The Power of the Body Scan

Most of the studies we focus on have to do with the power of mindfulness and meditation to relieve stress, anxiety and depression and bring about greater productivity.

Another important practice we teach is the body scan, or progressive muscle relaxation, and there is some impressive science backing that practice up as well.

A 2014 study reported some extraordinary results from this simple exercise. The study was done with a group of nurses—a population with an extremely stressful job. Prior to learning the relaxation technique, 0% of the nurses reported feeling no stress, 47% reported mild stress, 40% moderate stress and 13% severe stress.

After learning the simple body relaxation technique they reported dramatic results. A full 50% said they had no stress, 40% still reported mild stress, 10% reported moderate stress and 0% reported severe stress.

Mindfulness lowers blood sugar levels

The benefits of mindfulness practice seem to never end. The physiological evidence is always particularly interesting.

A number of studies have shown that mindfulness can help lower blood-sugar levels.

In a study done in 2015, researchers discovered women who were overweight and obese had lower fasting blood glucose levels after attending a course in mindfulness.

As you might expect if you know a bit about mindfulness, the practice also reduced anxiety. The two things may actually be related. Researchers have recognized a link between stress and blood glucose levels for some time now.

The 2015 study was led by Nazia Raja-Khan, from the Penn State College of Medicine. She explained that a course in mindfulness “significantly reduces fasting glucose and improves quality of life without changing body weight or insulin resistance.”

Mindful Mills

Because of it’s proven benefits, a number of leading companies have focused on bringing mindfulness to their employees. General Mills, one of the world’s largest food companies, is a leader in this endeavor.

Sandy Behnken’s title at General Mills is “Corporate Continuous Improvement Leader.” In an interview she did here with Anita Bruzzese, she shares a bit about bringing mindfulness to the corporate environment.

Initially Sandy was attracted to mindfulness when she interacted with one of the General Mills leaders who had already participated in the training. She said she “noticed how he always seemed to deeply listen when others spoke and then responded versus reacted to what was said.” She wanted that for herself.

It worked. The biggest difference it has made, she believes, is in her “ability to deeply listen to what is being said… the act of really listening and being open to what is being said has been invaluable.”

Sandy says the best thing for her is seeing when her co-workers discover her mindfulness by seeing it in practice. “They notice that I’m open to what they are saying and really listening to them, as well as when I am actively choosing to thoughtfully respond.”

Sandy’s most interesting tip is to be mindful while walking from one meeting in her day to the next. Rather than “walking at a zombie pace between meetings” she focuses her attention “on the sensations of walking, feeling my feet on the floor and noticing when my mind has wondered off.”

The walking meditation accomplishes two things. First, it helps to cultivate the ability to sustain attention. Second, it helps her to avoid that tendency of re-living the past meeting or fantasizing about the next one.

Incredible study on the power of breathing

In 2010 there were a couple of amazing studies done by Philippot, Chapelle and Blairy that showed how manipulating one’s breathing can effect one’s emotions.

In the first study, the participants were instructed to generate different emotions, like joy, sadness, fear and anger. As they experienced the emotions, they reported on their breathing.

The study showed that each emotion was connected to particular patterns of breathing. When participants felt joy, they breathed slowly and fully. When they were anxious they breathed more quickly and shallowly.

The results they received showed very clear differences between different emotional states, and they were consistent among participants and with breathing patterns recorded in other experiments,

What’s very important to understand is the second experiment.

Next, the researchers instructed a second group of participants to breathe in the patterns observed in the first study. They then asked the participants how they felt. Amazingly, just by breathing in a certain way, people reported feeling the corresponding emotions.

The take away… if you want to feel more peaceful and happy, breathe deeply and into your belly. Let your exhales be longer than your inhales.

Meditation reduces memory loss in adults

Are you or is someone you know concerned about memory loss later in life? Subjective Cognitive Decline (SDC), is thought to be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s disease, but a recent study has shown that practicing meditation can help reverse such early memory loss.

The researchers, led by Kim E. Innes, PhD, from West Virginia University, Morgantown, have recently published an article online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

In the work, Dr Innes and her colleagues suggest that intervening at this early stage may slow the progression to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Innes told Medscape Medical News that “the practice of meditation or listening to music are cost-effective, easy for people to do, noninvasive, and have no side effects, and yet they are nonstigmatizing interventions for improving memory, cognition, as well as stress, mood, sleep, and quality of life.”

New Study: Mindfulness helps you make better choices

Do you struggle with making choices that you know are not in your best interest? The latest study on the benefits of mindfulness was released by the University of Pennsylvania and it shows that a little mindfulness practice can go a long way to help people make better choices.

Why is it that when some people hear a message about what makes for better health they are able to make a change for the better, while when other’s hear that same message they take it as something like a personal attack? The difference may be their level of mindfulness.

Developing the ability to be more mindful helps people to look out for their own best interest. It’s incredible to see how many areas of life this one practice can help positively!

Mindfulness study with business leaders shows…

Once again, the Harvard Business Review is sharing news about the power of Mindfulness. Their latest article about mindfulness, by Megan Reitz and Michael Chaskalson, reports on a study the writers did with 57 senior business leaders.

The study produced statistically significant improvements in three areas that are important for leadership:
resilience, the capacity for collaboration, and the ability to lead in complex conditions.

The key for the leaders was developing a 10-minutes-a-day practice, which became difficult for those who allowed their mindfulness practice to become a cause of more of the stress that mindfulness was supposed to resolve.

Because of the demanding pressures on them, the study discovered, “Leaders can rarely develop a new habit, including mindfulness practice, without help and support from others.”

In other words, you better find a moose near you to help develop your mindfulness practice!

 

 

Yet another study shows that mindfulness reduces stress

Time Magazine reported on a new mindfulness study today that was published in the journal Psychiatry Research. The study shows that people who took part in an eight-week course in mindfulness had lower hormonal and inflammatory responses than people who didn’t practice mindfulness.

Lead author, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, who is an associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center said that “There’s been some real skepticism in the medical community about meditation and mindfulness meditation,” So she and her team set out to find some real answers.

The people meditated reported feeling less stressed than the control group. And their blood measurements of ACTH (which is a stress hormone released in the brain and then into the bloodstream) confirmed the same.

“We have objective measures in the blood that they did better in a provoked situation,” Hoge reported. “It really is strong evidence that mindfulness meditation not only makes them feel better but helps them be more resilient to stress.”

 

The solution to reactionary leadership

Once again, the Harvard Business Review encourages us to take up mindfulness. This time, their article explains how “Spending 10 minutes a day on Mindfulness Subtly Changes the Way You React to Everything.”

They offer a number of tips which you should check out by following the link above, but here are two of them:

  1. Don’t answer your emails first thing in the morning. It sets you in a reactionary mode. Instead, spend the first hour of your day, if possible, doing something that really takes advantage of your freshest time.
  2. Stop trying to multitask. Focus on one thing at a time. Dive in and give it everything. Then move on.