How Does Mindfulness Change the Brain?

Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in relieving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even chronic pain. But how does that happen? Well, it turns out that scientists have confirmed a brain connection, with a surprising twist. This is really cool. Dr. Britta Hölzel and her team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a study to look at the impact of an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program on the brains of patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Now GAD can be a truly debilitating condition that impairs daily functioning. Patients diagnosed with GAD typically have difficulty regulating their…

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A Mindfulness Program That Works for Mild to Moderate Depression

Many of the mindfulness studies that I come across examine either healthy volunteers or patients who have severe clinical conditions. But what about people whose symptoms fall somewhere in between? Could mindfulness practice be effective with them too? That’s why this recent research study done by Wendy Pots, DClinPsych from the University of Twente (Netherlands), is so interesting. Pots and her research team recruited 151 people who felt held back by their mild to moderate depressive symptoms. They wanted to see how a modified Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course would impact them. What made this course unique was that it…

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How Mindfulness Can Help Your Clients Manage Anxiety: A Short Practice for “Befriending” Fear

Some degree of fear and anxiety is inevitable in life. But for some patients, these emotions can become truly debilitating, keeping them trapped in cycles that can lead to depression and even chronic pain. So how can we help patients better manage fear and anxiety when they come up? Below, you’ll find a simple exercise that anyone can use to work through these painful feelings. It’s courtesy of my friend Ron Siegel, PsyD. Ron is Assistant Professor of Psychology, part time, Harvard Medical School, internationally-renowned teacher, long-time student of mindfulness meditation, and well-known author. ____________________________________ One of the first things…

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Working with Memory to Reframe a Traumatic Experience

A single moment can last forever in the memory . . . Now when the memory is of something special, a time or an event that we hold dear, reliving the experience can feel almost as good as the actual moment did. But when someone is remembering a traumatic experience, that memory can trigger a painful cycle of fear, anger, helplessness, and shame . . . . . . and this, in turn, can slow the healing process for patients recovering from trauma. So can traumatic memories be changed? In the video below, Peter Levine, PhD shares some key insights….

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Could a Better Night’s Sleep Improve Treatment Outcomes for PTSD?

Is it possible that what happens with trauma patients at night could undermine all the hard work we’ve done with them during the day? Or asked another way, could improved sleep actually enhance our interventions with patients? We know that disrupted sleep patterns and nightmares are common symptoms of PTSD. But a team of researchers from the San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs recently began investigating connections between sleep disturbances and PTSD symptoms. The researchers took an interesting approach in designing this particular study. Building on previous animal studies that showed a connection between fear conditioning and disrupted…

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Two Chemical Reactions That Happen in the Brain during Trauma

When a traumatic event triggers our internal alarm system, the body goes into fight, flight, or freeze . . . . . . but what happens in the brain during trauma? According to Dan Siegel, MD, there are two key chemical reactions to trauma (and one can play a role in actually shrinking part of the brain). Check out the video clip (below) for more – it’s just 4 minutes. Knowing how trauma affects the brain can enhance our interventions for helping patients heal from a traumatic experience. How have you used brain science in your work with traumatized clients?…

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