• Yet More Evidence: Meditation Reduces Inflammatory Response

    It’s hard to keep up, sometimes–seems like mindfulness research data just keep piling up; a good “problem” to have, indeed. A recent study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France, indicates the first evidence of molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation, specifically, lowered cortisol. “The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels

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  • Sensational Maps: Mind / Body Emotional Experiences

      Source: npr.org According to research conducted by Lauri Nummenmaa, a psychologist at Aalto University, “Our emotional system in the brain sends signals to the body so we can deal with our situation.” Nemmenmaa led a team of scientists in Finland to ask ask people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies. The results, as shown above, were “surprisingly consistent,” even across cultures. “Say you see a snake and you feel fear,” Nummenmaa says. “Your nervous system increases oxygen to your muscles and raises your heart rate so you can deal with the threat. It’s an

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  • The Mind/Body Connection: Sense and Sensibilities

    I was listening to Radiolab the other day and as usual, they addressed a subject that’s near and dear to my heart–literally–the mind/body connection. The show discussed how the brain relates to the body, and vice-versa. As always, the show was thought-provoking, but led me to think a bit more about the mind-body connection and how it’s related to trauma. When Your body knows before your Conscious Brain Knows. The latest research reveals that our viscera “knows” extreme experiences before you, consciously, do. That’s because the ancient circuitry in the brain communicates directly with the amygdala in extreme. When the

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  • Fight, Flight, and Freezing

    When I first realized that the symptoms I was experiencing were not due to a deadly, chronic ailment, but due, instead, to an overactive, nonstop “fight or flight” response, it was a revelation. How could this be? How could symptoms of dissociation, insomnia, strange bodily sensations such as tingling and “electricity flowing through every nerve of my body” be something other than a serious illness? Many of the answers to what I was experiencing were in the illuminating,  groundbreaking book, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences by Peter Levine. I experienced all stages of the body’s survival mechanism: fight,

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  • Health Benefits of Meditation

    Animals are very tuned to potential threats. Even this zoned out kitty, if it hears a noise in the back of the room, will point its ears back to pinpoint the sound (which is a deeply ingrained, “startle response” system that humans share with animals). But animals, unlike many humans, resolve threats very quickly–they don’t have the modern cortex that conceptually focuses on the threat (or imagined threats); they’re not capable of obsessing over why things happen and whether they’ll happen again. Their fight or flight responses works well and they’re always capable of fight or flight (or freezing) responses,

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  • Childhood Trauma: New Research on Brain Impact and Anxiety/Depression

    This latest report from NPR underscores how trauma and stress at an early age “wires” the brain into a fight or flight response with real physical symptoms and consequences.  “Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later on.” This shouldn’t surprise anyone, particularly: childhood trauma is a well-known cause of anxiety and depression later in life. But the fact that this can leave people unable to distinguish between real and perceived

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  • Meditation Is Like “Finding a New Class of Drugs”

    A few months back, I chatted with my primary care physician–a no-nonsense, intelligent young doc–whether stress and extreme anxiety are increasingly causing more and more people to seek help at  the doctor’s office. He agreed that was the case, and that prescriptions for anti-depressants and a whole class of drugs were on the rise as a direct result. I suggested, in an offhand way, that he’ll soon be needing to recommend alternative ways for his patients to help themselves get healthier by exercising, meditating, yoga, etc., and here’s what he said: “I DO recommend these things to my patients who

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  • Why we exhaust ourselves with stress and anxiety, and what you can do about it

    Why we Exhaust Ourselves… Today, people tend to be overwhelmed not just by constant inputs (technologically), but by self-criticism. First, the brain is actually built to focus on the negative; this is an evolutionary vestige built for survival, but today, neuroscientists are aware that it’s not just an annoyance, but that the brain remembers and focuses on he negative much more readily than it does the positive. The brain not only retains more negative memories for longer periods of time, but components of the brain actually work to prevent positive experiences from being retained–all in the name of survival. This was perfectly well and good when

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  • Anxiety, the brain, and modern life: How an ancient biological imperative to survive came to dominate our lives

    As it turns out, all the negativity that humans experience–fear, anxiety, stress response–all are a a natural development in the brain. It’s all a survival mechanism that developed over millennia to “protect” us. But today, we don’t need to escape lions (for the most part) or tribes (for the most part), but the brain doesn’t know that–or much care. If there’s a threat, real or imagined, the brain swings into action to “save the day.” And for the most unlucky people, it can wind up actually killing them, performing an out of control “mindless” task of keeping the body/mind in

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