Mindful Meditation

15
Mar
The Medical and Mental Health communities are taking Mindfulness Meditation and its related techniques seriously and have set out to prove their effectiveness!  More people need to know that there are natural ways to relieve stress and anxiety!

Dina Voigt

In the Moment

Many Americans suffer from anxiety and high-stress levels.  It seems these days everyone is looking for ways to relieve stress and symptoms of anxiety disorders.  Many people look for ways to manage stress that do not involve taking medications.

Mindfulness Meditation is a proven method to reduce stress and anxiety – especially “in the moment” stress.

The Psychiatric department at Georgetown University Medical Center recently did a study to prove just how effective Mindfulness Meditation is in combating stress and anxiety. They gathered a group of healthy adults with generalized anxiety disorder, marked by constant worry about the future.  They taught half of the group Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) the other half completed a stress management course learning to manage diet, exercise, time and sleep.  Both groups had equal class time and equal amounts of homework, the goal being to discover which group would do better under stress.  At the end of the courses, both groups were put through tests in stressful situations to see who handled it better.  The real point of the course, according to Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, is “not to help someone relax in a group environment, but  to steel a person against the ravages of “in the moment stress.”

Not only did the people who learned to meditate report feeling less stressed than people in the other class, but their blood measurements of ACTH, a stress hormone released in the brain and then into the bloodstream, were lower too, as well as markers of inflammation called pro-inflammatory cytokines. In the control group, people were actually more stressed the second time they did the test, possibly because they knew and anticipated how bad it would be.

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

  • Elizabeth Hoge Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown

This is exciting news to me! The Medical and Mental Health communities are taking Mindfulness Meditation and its related techniques seriously and have set out to prove their effectiveness!  More people need to know that there are natural ways to relieve stress and anxiety!

People are always asking me about meditation and what the difference is between Mindful Meditation and other forms of Meditation.  I recently sat down with Lou Maurio, our resident Mindfulness Meditation expert to get some answers!

Lou Maurio

DV:  Tell me a little bit about yourself.
LM:  I was in a high-pressure advertising job. After years of the stress of traveling into the city by train early in the morning and working to all hours of the night, I endured a great deal of stress-related illnesses, including a quadruple bypass. I didn’t listen to my brother who is a neuropsychologist until after the bypass. Then I learned Mindfulness Meditation… and started studying it in depth.  I then began teaching it part-time while still working in advertising, and finally leaving advertising to teach its benefits full time to people in pain and experiencing anxiety who need help.

DV: What is Mindful(ness) Meditation?
LM: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
It is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not over-reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

DV: What is Mindful Meditation used for?
LM: Many many things. So many people are anxious from their jobs, from diseases such as MS or breast cancer… and they start living in the past and the future. Worrying about what will happen, what they should or shouldn’t have done. Mindfulness helps them stay present, to live life one moment at a time. Since we can’t change the past, and no one knows what’s going to happen in the future. All we know is the moment that we are in now.

DV: Can anyone do it?
LM: Absolutely. A lot of people get frustrated when they try to sit and meditate during the formal practice of being present focusing on their breath. They get upset because their minds wander. They feel that they’re doing it wrong. But they are simply facing what we call “Monkey Mind,” and if they simply keep practicing they will learn to allow their thoughts to be so that they can focus on the breath and calm the mind. The informal practice is being present in every part of our lives. If we go to the movies, paying attention to the movie, and when our mind wanders to work or anything else, gently guiding our attention back to the movie.

DV: What is the difference between this and other types of Meditation?
LM: The goal of mindfulness is to be in the present moment. In TM (Transcendental Meditation) one transcends thought and experiences “pure awareness,” that is, one is aware but without an object of thought. Mindfulness is a broader and larger function than Concentration Meditation. Concentration Meditation is exclusive. It settles down on one item and ignores everything else. Mindfulness is inclusive. It stands back from the focus of attention and watches with a broad focus, quick to notice any change that occurs. If you have focused the mind on a stone, concentration will see only the stone. Mindfulness stands back from this process, aware of the stone, aware of the concentration focusing on the stone, aware of the intensity of that focus and instantly aware of the shift of attention when concentration is distracted.

DV: What is secondary suffering?
LM: Pain has two components, the physical sensation and our emotional reaction to the physical sensation. We cannot control primary suffering – which is the pain itself – but we can control secondary suffering through our reaction to the pain. For example, if someone is partially paralyzed, their secondary suffering may be fear that they won’t ever be able to work again, get married, or raise a family. This can increase the sensation of pain that they feel.

DV: How does Mindful Meditation help?
LM: Mindfulness meditation will help you learn to live in the moment – it will reduce your cortisol level, blood pressure, social anxiety, and depression. It will increase your immune response, resilience, and focus and improve your relationships — including with yourself.  It will also bolster your performance at work and provide inner peace.

In closing, if we are in the moment, we are able to look at how we are feeling.  It is our reaction to the moment that is important.  The famous psychologist Victo Frankl said, “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  It is understanding that we have this space.

Lou Maurio will be offering monthly Mindful Meditation classes at Fitness Incentive.   Email [email protected] for more info.

What members are saying about Mindful Meditation…

Best $20 I ever spent….took the class the same night as the cycling fundraiser and was the only one in the class….I was having surgery shortly after taking it and the breathing exercises alone helped reduce my stress before surgery….I will definitely be taking the class again when I come back in a month or so.

Thanks!
Michael Assante

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About the Author

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Dina Voigt

Dina Voigt is the Manager of Fitness Incentives Pilates and Yoga programs.  She is a PMA-certified Pilates trainer, a certified Yoga instructor, a Personal Trainer, Group exercise instructor, and Cycle instructor.

Contact her at [email protected] with any questions or for further information.

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