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Mindfulness Exercises for Everyday Life

By Elizabeth Scott, MS

mindfulnessThe practice of mindfulness can bring many benefits to your emotional and physical health, as well as to the relationships in your life. Mindfulness is an amazing tool for stress management and overall wellness because it can be used at virtually any time and can quickly bring lasting results. The following mindfulness exercises are simple and convenient, and can lead you to a deeper experience of mindfulness in your daily life.

Mindfulness Exercise #1: Meditation

Meditation brings many benefits in its own right, and has been one of the most popular and traditional ways to achieve mindfulness for centuries, so it tops the list of mindfulness exercises. Meditation becomes easier with practice, but it need not be difficult for beginners. Simply find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and quiet your mind. (See this article for more meditation techniques, or this one for a basic meditation for beginners.)

Mindfulness Exercise #2: Deep Breathing

That’s right: mindfulness can be as simple as breathing! Seriously, though, one of the most simple ways to experience mindfulness, which can be done as you go about your daily activities (convenient for those who feel they don’t have time to meditate), is to focus on your breathing. Breathe from your belly rather than from your chest, and try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Mindfulness Exercise #3: Listening to Music

Listening to music has many benefits — so many, in fact, that music is being used therapeutically in a new branch of complementary medicine known as music therapy.
That’s part of why listening to music makes a great mindfulness exercise. You can play soothing new-age music, classical music, or another type of slow-tempo music to feel calming effects, and make it an exercise in mindfulness by really focusing on the sound and vibration of each note, the feelings that the music brings up within you, and other sensations that are happening “right now” as you listen. If other thoughts creep into your head, congratulate yourself for noticing, and gently bring your attention back to the current moment and the music you are hearing.

Read More: https://www.verywell.com/mindfulness-exercises-for-everyday-life-3145187

 

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Mindfulness Therapy May Help Prevent Depression Relapse

Mindfulness Therapy May Help Prevent Depression RelapseRelapse is a common and devastating aspect of major depression, a mental illness that affects roughly 15 million Americans. The usual preventative treatment is long-term or maintenance use of antidepressants.

Now a large new study published in The Lancet suggests that mindfulness therapy can be just as effective in preventing relapse.

The relapse rates are high: More than half of those who suffer from one episode of major depression will relapse at least once in their lifetimes, and roughly 80 percent of those who have had two episodes will experience another recurrence.

Yet as Dr. Richard Byng, a psychologist at the U.K.’s Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and one of the study’s authors, noted, “There are many people who, for a number of different reasons, are unable to keep on a course of medication for depression. Moreover, many people do not wish to remain on medication for indefinite periods, or cannot tolerate its side effects.”

The study, conducted from the U.K.’s University of Exeter, compared the results of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) with those of maintenance antidepressant use among 424 adults with recurring major depression.

Researchers asked half of the participants to stay on their medications, while the other half tapered off medication and underwent a course of MBCT. Those in the MBCT group attended two-hour-plus weekly group sessions for eight weeks, consisting of guided mindfulness practices, group discussion and other cognitive behavioral exercises. They were also given daily home practice and, after the group sessions ended, had the opportunity to attend four follow-up sessions over the course of the next year.

Regular assessments for major depressive episodes over the following two years found similar relapse rates among the MBCT group (44 percent) and the antidepressant group (47 percent).

How does MBCT work? Using meditation, individuals learn to separate themselves from the sway of their immediate moods. They learn to recognize negative thought patterns and to respond productively, rather than spiraling downward into obsessive thoughts and relapsing into depression.

Dr. Zindel Segal, a University of Toronto psychologist and the co-developer of MBCT, explained that short-circuiting negative thoughts allows people to find joy in the present moment.

“MBCT, at its core, is teaching people to practice mindfulness,” Segal, who was not involved in the study, told The Huffington Post. “And what mindfulness teaches people is how to work more wisely with their emotions. It’s a meditation that is really well suited to helping people encounter difficult states of mind and turning around how they work with them, so that they can choose more adaptive responses rather than habitual responses.”

Segal expressed enthusiasm about the new findings, which he said offer further clinical evidence that mindfulness-based therapies can rival traditional psychotherapy and pharmaceutical intervention in treating major depression.

“This study gives us a lot more confidence in telling people that if, for some reason, they can’t stay on their antidepressants for the next three or five more years,” said Segal, “there is now a credible and scientifically supported alternative to help them stay well.”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/23/depression-mindfulness-therapy_n_7107394.html?ir=Healthy%20Living&ncid=newsltushpmg00000003

Related Online Continuing Education Courses:

Mindfulness: The Healing Power of Compassionate PresenceMindfulness: The Healing Power of Compassionate Presence is a 6-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course for mental health professionals that gives you the mindfulness skills necessary to work directly, effectively and courageously, with your own and your client’s life struggles. Compassion towards others starts with compassion towards self. Practicing mindfulness cultivates our ability to pay intentional attention to our experience from moment to moment. Mindfulness teaches us to become patiently and spaciously aware of what is going on in our mind and body without judgment, reaction, and distraction, thus inviting into the clinical process, the inner strengths and resources that help achieve healing results not otherwise possible. Bringing the power of mindful presence to your clinical practice produces considerable clinical impact in the treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, colitis/IBS, and migraines/tension headaches. The emphasis of this course is largely experiential and will offer you the benefit of having a direct experience of the mindfulness experience in a safe and supportive fashion. You will utilize the power of “taking the client there” as an effective technique of introducing the mindful experience in your practice setting. As you will learn, the mindfulness practice has to be experienced rather than talked about. This course will provide you with an excellent understanding of exactly what mindfulness is, why it works, and how to use it. You will also develop the tools that help you introduce mindful experiences in your practice, and how to deal with possible client resistance. Course #60-75 | 2008 | 73 pages | 27 posttest questions

DepressionDepression is a 1-hour introductory online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options. Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression. Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger. Course #10-72 | 2014 | 14 pages | 10 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for all programs and content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the California Board of Behavioral Sciences; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by theTexas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners.

 

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How Mindfulness Aids In Addiction Recovery

By David Sack, MD

For many of us, daily life is about “going through the motions.” How often do you drive from point A to point B without remembering how you got there?

Are you able to focus on one activity at a time or are you a multi-tasker who juggles five things at once?

Modern life is not always conducive to staying in the present moment, but as we are learning in the addiction field, the practice of mindfulness can bring greater joy into daily life and also help recovering addicts guard against relapse.

Increasingly, the field is embracing Eastern practices, including mindfulness meditation, as an adjunct to traditional addiction treatments.

Mindfulness vs. Addiction

Mindfulness, which has its roots in Buddhism, involves a purposeful and nonjudgmental focus on one’s feelings, experiences, and internal and external processes in the present moment. Rather than escape from painful feelings, mindfulness meditation encourages addicts to sit quietly with themselves and pay close attention to their thoughts and feelings without taking action to judge or “fix” them.

It is not about apathy or suppression of feelings, but rather the freedom to experience the full range of feelings and strategically choose how to respond.

Like yoga, tai chi and related practices, mindfulness is a portable skill that can become a regular part of the recovering addict’s life, both during and after treatment. It takes only a few minutes and can be done by anyone anywhere, and its effects are long-lasting.

A Life Skill with Wide Applicability

Mindfulness-based therapy has been used for a variety of ailments, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, physical illnesses and addiction, but its usefulness extends even further. Mindfulness can be applied to every area of life, including the most mundane daily tasks like house cleaning, taking a walk or eating a meal. Even decades into recovery, mindfulness is a way to stay fully invested in life.

Source: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-recovery/2012/04/how-mindfulness-aids-in-addiction-recovery/

Related Online Continuing Education Course:

Mindfulness: The Healing Power of Compassionate Presence

Mindfulness: The Healing Power of Compassionate Presence This course will give you the mindfulness skills necessary to work directly, effectively and courageously, with your own and your client’s life struggles. Compassion towards others starts with compassion towards self. Practicing mindfulness cultivates our ability to pay intentional attention to our experience from moment to moment. Mindfulness teaches us to become patiently and spaciously aware of what is going on in our mind and body without judgment, reaction, and distraction, thus inviting into the clinical process, the inner strengths and resources that help achieve healing results not otherwise possible. Bringing the power of mindful presence to your clinical practice produces considerable clinical impact in the treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, colitis/IBS, and migraines/tension headaches. The emphasis of this course is largely experiential and will offer you the benefit of having a direct experience of the mindfulness experience in a safe and supportive fashion. You will utilize the power of “taking the client there” as an effective technique of introducing the mindful experience in your practice setting. As you will learn, the mindfulness practice has to be experienced rather than talked about. This course will provide you with an excellent understanding of exactly what mindfulness is, why it works, and how to use it. You will also develop the tools that help you introduce mindful experiences in your practice, and how to deal with possible client resistance.

Course #60-75 | 2008 | 73 pages | 27 posttest questions

Customer Reviews:

“This was the best online ceu I have ever taken! Wow! Great stuff. Thank goodness I printed it out. I will start using it tomorrow. Thank you.” – M.C. (MFT)

“Great course, excellent reference materials and loads of practical exercises!” – L.O. (Social Worker)

“Nice integration of case examples with the course material.” – A.B. (Psychologist)

“One of the BEST courses I have EVER taken!!! GREAT Learning!!” – L.M. (Psychologist)

Learn More: http://www.pdresources.org/CourseDetail.aspx?Category=AllCourses&PageNumber=1&Profession=Other&Sort=CourseID&Text=60-75&courseid=972 

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in General

 

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Seven Steps to Taking Control of Your Attention

Post written by Rich Hanson, PhD

Seven steps to taking control of your attentionMoment to moment, the flows of thoughts and feelings, sensations and desires, and conscious and unconscious processes sculpt your nervous system like water gradually carving furrows and eventually gullies on a hillside. Your brain is continually changing its structure. The only question is: Is it for better or worse?

In particular, because of what’s called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” whatever you hold in attention has a special power to change your brain. Attention is like a combination spotlight and vacuum cleaner: it illuminates what it rests upon and then sucks it into your brain – and your self.

Therefore, controlling your attention – becoming more able to place it where you want it and keep it there, and more able to pull it away from what’s bothersome or pointless (such as looping again and again through anxious preoccupations, mental grumbling, or self-criticism) – is the foundation of changing your brain, and thus your life, for the better. As the great psychologist, William James, wrote over a century ago: “The education of attention would be the education par excellence.”

But to gain better control of attention – to become more mindful and more able to concentrate – we need to overcome a few challenges. In order to survive, our ancestors evolved to be stimulation-hungry and easily distracted, continually scanning their interior and their environment for opportunities and threats, carrots and sticks. There is also a natural range of temperament, from focused and cautious “turtles” to distractible and adventuresome “jackrabbits.” Upsetting experiences – especially traumatic ones – train the brain to be vigilant, with attention skittering from one thing to another. And modern culture makes us accustomed to an intense incoming fire hose of stimuli, so anything less – like the sensations of simply breathing – can feel unrewarding, boring, or frustrating.

To overcome these challenges, it’s useful to cultivate some neural factors of attention – in effect, getting your brain on your side to help you get a better grip on this spotlight/vacuum cleaner.

But how can we train our attention?

You can use one or more of the seven factors below at the start of any deliberate focusing of attention – from keeping your head in a dull business meeting to contemplative practices such as meditation or prayer – and then let them move to the background as you shift into whatever the activity is. You can also draw upon one or more during the activity if your attention is flagging. They are listed in an order that makes sense to me, but you can vary the sequence. (There’s more information about attention, mindfulness, concentration, and contemplative absorption inBuddha’s Brain.)

Here we go.

  1. Set the intention to sustain your attention, to be mindful. You can do this both top-down, by giving yourself a gentle instruction to be attentive, and bottom-up, by opening to the sense in your body of what mindfulness feels like.
  2. Relax. For example, take several exhalations that are twice as long as your inhalations. This stimulates the calming, centering parasympathetic nervous system and settles down the fight-or-flight stress-response sympathetic nervous system that jiggles the spotlight of attention this way and that, looking for carrots and sticks.
  3. Without straining at it, think of things that help you feel cared about – that you matter to someone, that you belong in a relationship or group, that you are seen and appreciated, or even cherished and loved. It’s OK if the relationship isn’t perfect, or that you bring to mind people from the past, or pets, or spiritual beings. You could also get a sense of your own goodwill for others, your own compassion, kindness, and love. Warming up the heart in this way helps you feel protected, and it brings a rewarding juiciness to the moment – which support #4 and #5 below.
  4. Think of things that help you feel safer, and thus more able to rest attention on your activities, rather than vigilantly scanning. Notice that you are likely in a relatively safe setting, with resources inside you to cope with whatever life brings. Let go of any unreasonable anxiety, any unnecessary guarding or bracing.
  5. Gently encourage some positive feelings, even mild or subtle ones. For example, think of something you feel glad about or grateful for; go-to’s for me include my kids, Yosemite, and just being alive. Open as you can to an underlying sense of well-being that may nonetheless contain some struggles or pain. The sense of pleasure or reward in positive emotions increases the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which closes a kind of gate in the neural substrates of working memory, thus keeping out any “barbarians,” any invasive distractions.
  6. Get a sense of the body as a whole, its many sensations appearing together each moment in the boundless space of awareness. This sense of things as a unified gestalt, perceived within a large and panoramic perspective, activates networks on the sides of the brain (especially the right – for right-handed people) that support sustained mindfulness. And it de-activates the networks along the midline of the brain that we use when we’re lost in thought.
  7. For 10-20-30 seconds in a row, stay with whatever positive experiences you’re having or lessons you’re learning. Since “neurons that fire together, wire together,” this savoring and registering helps weave the fruits of your attentive efforts into the fabric of your brain and your self.

Source: http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/seven-steps-to-taking-control-of-your-attention

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in General

 

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New CE Courses Address Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

new CE courses address complementary and alternative medicine

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We (Professional Development Resources) have expanded our course catalog to include a variety of new continuing education (CE) courses dealing with various aspects of complementary and alternative medicine. New topics include mindfulness meditation, yoga as medicine, self-healing through breathing exercises, and the use of herbal medicines. The courses are intended to introduce health professionals to the healing power of traditional approaches to health and wellness.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM), defining complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is not easy. It is generally considered to be a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. “Complementary medicine” refers to use of CAM together with conventional medicine, such as using acupuncture in addition to usual care to help lessen pain. “Alternative medicine” refers to use of CAM in place of conventional medicine. “Integrative medicine” (also called integrated medicine) refers to a practice that combines both conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness.

“We think it is important for clinicians to be familiar with these approaches for two reasons,” says Leo Christie, PhD, CEO of Professional Development Resources. “First, many of the clients we see are using such treatments, so we need to know about them. A recent survey indicated that about 38% of adult Americans use CAM. Are the treatments safe? Do they work? We need to worry about interactions between certain herbal supplements and prescription medications. Second, researchers are starting to produce a body of scientific evidence on the efficacy of complementary and alternative approaches. As new and effective treatments become available, we need to be in a position to discuss them with our clients.”

Among the new courses offered are:

Christie adds “we emphasize in our courses that – as with any medical treatment – there can be risks with CAM therapies.” These general precautions from NCAAM can help to minimize risks:

  • Select CAM practitioners with care. Find out about the practitioner’s training and experience.
  • Be aware that some dietary supplements may interact with medications or other supplements, may have side effects of their own, or may contain potentially harmful ingredients not listed on the label. Also keep in mind that most supplements have not been tested in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use.
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Posted by on August 10, 2011 in General

 

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If only intentions could walk the dog…

It is said that intention is the crux of all actions – that our intentions shape our thoughts, words, and deeds. If the intentions are wholesome, the results will be fruitful and skillful. Conversely, if the intentions are unwholesome, the results will be unfruitful and unskillful. In this way, our minds, through our intentions and thoughts, are the creators of our own happiness and unhappiness.

Read over the following progression a couple of times and take a moment to reflect on it:

  1. Intention shapes our thoughts and words.
  2. Thoughts and words mold our actions.
  3. Thoughts, words, and actions shapes our behaviors.
  4. Behaviors sculpt our bodily expressions.
  5. Bodily expressions fashion our character.
  6. Our character hardens into what we look like.
There’s a saying that by the time people turn fifty, they get the face they deserve.
 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in General

 

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