News Roundup: Mindfulness


In recognition of Mindful May, people have been talking about mindfulness all month long. Benefits of practicing mindfulness include reduced stress and achieving a healthier weight, to name a few

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts related to the benefits of practicing mindfulness.

The New Surgeon General's 4 Rules for Health. Vox. “Third is making sure I’m focusing on my emotional and mental well-being. For me, an important part of that is the meditation practice that I do every morning. It’s a chance for me to center myself, a chance for me to remember who I want to be every day.”

Your Best Day Every Day: The Potential of MindfulnessHuffington Post. “You see, mindfulness isn't about perfection or reaching some artificial standard. It starts -- and continues- - with the simple daily decision that you want to become aware of what's really going on in you and in your life. Once you're firm in that intention, you just need to make an authentic effort to wake up to what is. That's the practice, and it might be easier than you think. Some people do 45 minutes a day. Some do 10 minutes. But the duration is far less important than doing it regularly.”

Reduce Stress and Improve Health in 6 Easy “Practice acceptance. Maybe your neighbor has more money, your brother's children outdo your children, and your best friend has a much more supportive family than you do. It can certainly be difficult to accept some things in our lives. But, it's valuable.  It's important to accept the things you can't change and move on.”

The Mindful Approach to Food. Dallas Morning News. “Slow down. Don’t multitask while you eat. “When you’re distracted, that’s when you tend to eat more,” Albers says. Don’t eat so fast. Slow down enough to savor your food; eating with your non-dominant hand can help. “It takes a lot more effort and thought. And it automatically slows you down.”


News Roundup: Sleep Deprivation

Recently, doctors (and other professionals) from all over the world have opened up the conversation about sleep deprivation and the demanding requirements of working long (often 24+ hour) shifts, which often do not include sleep.

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts related to the consequences of sleep deprivation and how to avoid it.

Sleep Deprivation not Uncommon for Soldiers. U.S. Army"The Army's Office of the Surgeon General advises getting seven or eight hours of sleep, staying active throughout the day, and eating nutritious food. The Army's surgeon general also put out a statement saying sleep disorders and sleep deprivation affect about 70 million Americans each year and may increase the risk for stroke, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.”

Doctors Are Posting Pictures of Themselves Asleep at Work to Highlight Grueling SchedulesYahoo! Health.  “It’s no secret that sleep deprivation is an issue in the US. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared chronic lack of sleep as a “public health epidemic,” where sleep insufficiency has been linked to numerous accidents, including “medical and other occupational errors.””

Sleep study experts say more than half of population is sleep deprivedWKRN-TV News 2. “Annette Henneman runs the sleep disorder facility. She said 57 percent of the population isn’t getting good sleep, which is a major problem for many reasons. “Sleep impacts our ability to function, our ability to have cognitive recall, our temperament, our energy level, diet [and] our weight. Everything is influenced by how well we sleep,” Henneman explained.”

Sleep Deprivation has Serious ConsequencesPsych Central.  “Researchers found that sleep loss can lead to decisions that are out of conscious control. For example, the data showed that no matter how hard a person wants to make the right choice — sleep loss does something to the brain that simply prevents it from effectively using feedback.”

Healthy Sleep TipsNational Sleep Foundation.  “Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.”

How to Stay Sharp When You're Sleep DeprivedHuffington Post. “If you want to raise and sustain performance, pay attention to the amount of sleep you're getting. Make it a priority. However, on those rare occasions when sleep deprivation gets the best of you, consider these fatigue management tips…”

5 Scientifically Backed Ways that you can Benefit from Mindfulness

May is deemed “Mindful May” in order to bring awareness to mindfulness and the many mental and physical benefits that can be experienced by those who practice it. Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily do on "auto pilot".  Mindfulness is a systematic approach to our own inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight. These capacities not only help us change our behavior and habits, but can significantly enhance our quality of life. Let’s take a look at what science tells us.

  1. Mindfulness can improve resilience among active duty soldiers. The results of a University of Miami study demonstrated that just 8 hours of mindfulness training over an 8 week pre-deployment period, was effective at preventing mind-wandering and attentional lapses. The brief mindfulness meditation exercise practices were aimed at staying focused on the present moment. Soldiers who practiced mindfulness before being deployed performed better on attention and cognitive performance tests while downrange. These measures were tested using the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), a test that measures attentional lapses and mind wandering. Overall, the data from this study suggests that mindfulness training performed pre-deployment can help active-duty soldiers prepare for combat and improve performance and cognitive resilience.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation can help you fall asleep and stay asleep faster. The results of a University of Southern California study suggests that mindfulness meditation can improve sleep quality for older adults with sleep disturbances, including trouble falling or staying asleep, or feeling sleepy during the day. The study compared two groups.  One group did mindfulness awareness practices for 2 hours each week, for 6 weeks. The other group underwent a sleep hygiene education course for 2 hours each week, for 6 weeks. The results show that the mindfulness group showed significant improvements in their ability to fall and stay asleep relative to the group that underwent the sleep hygiene education course. The group that underwent the mindfulness intervention also experienced reductions in certain sleep-related daytime symptoms of sleep loss, including anxiety, stress, depression, and inflammatory markers often associated with sleep deprivation.
  3. Mindfulness meditation can help slow the signs of cognitive decline related to aging. According to a study from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, meditation may help preserve gray matter in the brain (the tissue where cognition occurs and memories are stored) in participants ranging from 24-77 years old. The study compared brain scans of two groups of people:  one group who had mediated for an average of 20 years and the other group who did not meditate. The meditating group experience smaller reductions in gray matter than the non-meditating group. Although the correlation between preserved gray matter and meditation does not prove that meditating directly caused the gray matter preservation (other factors such as diet likely also play a role), meditation appears to be one factor that can help slow age related cognitive decline.  
  4. Mindfulness training can help children improve math and social skills. The results of a study done in British Columbia showed that 4th and 5th grade students who practiced mindfulness had 15% better math skills. The study compared two groups of children. One group completed a 4 month mindfulness program. The other group received 4 months of a social responsibility program (the standard for Canadian public schools). Compared to the social responsibility group, the mindfulness program group also showed 24% more social behaviors, were 24% less aggressive, and perceived themselves as 20% more prosocial. The results of this study suggest that mindfulness training can help school age children with cognitive control, stress levels, emotional control, optimism, empathy, mindfulness, and aggression.
  5. Mindful eating can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. There is ample research on the positive effects of eating mindfully and weight. Research has not only shown that mindful eating can help reduce mindless eating (eating without paying attention), it can also help reduce the occurrence of over eating due to oversized portions. Research has also indicated that mindfulness can help reduce obesity and aid weight losstreat eating disorders, and type II diabetes, to name a few.

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, check out the May edition of Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Arsenal, which is focused on mindfulness and offers more mindfulness resources.


News Roundup: Mindfulness Practice Reduces Stress

A recently published study by Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center demonstrated the effect of mindfulness based training on stress and job related burnout for a group of nurses who work in the intensive care unit. The authors of the study suggest that since mindfulness helped reduce stress in such a high stress group as intensive care nurses, then it can likely help many others. 

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts related to the benefits of practicing mindfulness on stress reduction.

Mindfulness-Based Intervention Could Reduce Stress By 40% For Nurses.  University Herald. "Researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that a workplace mindfulness-based intervention reduced stress levels of employees exposed to a highly stressful occupational environment by 40 percent. The eight-week intervention included mindfulness, gentle stretching, yoga, meditation and music conducted in the workplace."

3 scientific reasons mindfulness reduces stress.  WellBeing.  “Research from the University of Massachusetts now shows that if we meditate every day for at least 8 weeks, the brain actually changes to help us stress less. The amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in the body’s stress response, shrinks. At the same time, the left pre-frontal cortex becomes thicker. This is the part of the brain that controls awareness, concentration and decision making.”

Schools Rethink Health Class, Incorporate Mindfulness Training. The Wall Street Journal. “Many New York schools are incorporating mindfulness training to help students handle stress and replacing lectures on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases with interactive sessions on life skills, such as communication and decision-making.  ‘For a long time the definition of success for our members was mainly focused on the academic part, but now the research is stressing the importance of developing these noncognitive skills.’”

This Mental Practice Can Lower Stress Levels, Even In The Intensive Care Unit.  Huffington Post.  “'What's stressful about the work environment is never going to change,' Dr. Maryanna Klatt, a professor of family medicine at Ohio State and one of the study's lead authors, said in a statement. 'But what we were interested in changing was the nursing personnel's reaction to those stresses.'"

News Roundup: Sleep Awareness Week 2015

March 2-8 is Sleep Awareness Week. Sleep week brings to attention the importance of getting enough sleep for both mental and physical health.  Additionally, sleep week  offers many tips for getting both a better quality and quantity of sleep.

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts discussing Sleep Awareness Week 2015.

How to Get on a Sleep Schedule.  “You won’t be able to change your sleep schedule overnight. The most effective tactic is to make small changes slowly. If you’re trying to go to sleep at 10:00pm, rather than midnight, for example, try this: For the first three or four nights, go to bed at 11:45pm, and then go to bed at 11:30pm for the next few days. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule like this. By working in 15-minute increments, your body will have an easier time adjusting.”

Improve Sleep to Improve HealthHuffington Post. “Regularly getting a full night's sleep can reap many health benefits, including weight loss and stress management. In contrast, getting too little sleep can cause us to eat more than we normally would and increase our tendency to choose unhealthy, higher calorie foods, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Not surprisingly, this pattern can lead to weight gain.”

The solution to most sleeping problems: mindfulnessQuartz.  “Counter-intuitively, the way that mindfulness may influence sleep is not directly through relaxation—because mindfulness is about waking the body up and becoming more aware. By learning to become more aware of present-moment experiences, we learn not to react to thoughts and worries that can interfere with sleep.”

How Much Sleep Should You Get? New Recommendations ReleasedLiveScience. “Too little sleep has been linked with health problems, including obesity and high blood pressure, as well as decreased productivity and drowsy driving, the NSF says. Too much sleep has been linked with health conditions as well, including heart disease and premature death.”