Mindfulness Meditation Proven to Lower Stress

March 11, 2017

Mindfulness Meditation Proven to Lower Stress

“post written by Anne Jones”

Anxiety is one of the most common mental conditions on a global scale. There are many types of anxiety, though all involve intense worry about one or more issues, leading to a host of symptoms which can include a racing heart rate, a feeling of dizziness, faintness, fear of death, and hyperventilation. Too often, persons suffering from anxiety are treated with medication, when research has shown that mindfulness-based practices such as yoga, are significantly effective at lowering stress by keeping the mind in the present moment. Controlled breathing, another important component of both yoga and mindfulness meditation, has also been the subject of many studies, and shows very positive results in terms of stress reduction as well.

Patient suffering from stress and anxiety (including persons in recovery from an addiction to substance or alcohol and their families) are often encouraged to take up yoga and mindfulness meditation by health professionals; there is no doubt that Western scientist has firmly embraced these millenary practices. Yoga and meditation have a third important benefit: that of fostering compassion (towards others and towards the self). When we accept ourselves as we are and are kind to ourselves despite our failures, our chances of leading a happy, fulfilling life are greater than when we criticise ourselves constantly.

Scientists at Georgetown University Medical Centre recently published a study which provides physiological evidence that mindfulness meditation combats anxiety. In the past, the benefits of mindfulness had been difficult to prove, because most studies compared meditation groups to untreated control groups. Because the participants were not ‘blinded’ – i.e. they knew if they were receiving the treatment or not, the results were likely to be influenced by the placebo effect.

The researchers noted that this type of study would ever be accepted by the FDA for approval, for instance, of a medication. They therefore sought to test the benefits of meditation in a more mysterious way for participants, assigning some to a meditation group and others to other treatments. None of the participants knew which treatment was being tested for efficiency. The results were measured by monitoring blood-based stress hormone levels and inflammatory proteins. The meditation group showed major drops in stress, indicating that meditation had helped them battle stress in the most natural of ways. The researchers were excited about their findings, and stated that they hoped to carry out more research on the possible benefits of meditation for patients suffering from other psychiatric conditions.

Scientists believe that the power of meditation in battling stress and anxiety, lies in its ability to stop the cycle of worry. Mindfulness does not involve evading painful or negative thoughts; rather, we are encouraged to consider these thoughts then let them go, without acting on them by indulging in self-destructive practices (such as taking drugs, drinking or entering in conflict with a loved one).

Pranayamic breathing, meanwhile, lowers the heart rate and blood pressure.Most importantly for sufferers of anxiety, it lowers the breathing rate. Hyperventilation (when a person feels like they cannot inhale enough air) occurs when we are anxious and we breathe too quickly, flooding our system with oxygen). This is why during hyperventilation, sufferers are immediately given a paper bag- so that their oxygen levels can decrease and they can begin to breathe normally. Those who meditate and practice yoga know how to control their breathing; a panic attack is extremely unlikely to happen to someone who is aware of their breathing rate. Indeed, those who are noticing that they are starting to feel anxious can stop a panic attack in its tracks by immediately taking long, deep breaths, concentrating on the air entering and leaving their body.

In many ways, mindfulness meditation is the exact opposite to succumbing to a panic attack; it involves being in control, being aware of the connection between body and mind, being the master instead of the slave. If you or a loved one suffer from anxiety, consider learning this traditional practice. The bigger the life challenge you and your family are facing – be it addiction, the loss of a family member or tough economic times – the more mindfulness meditation can help you, by giving you a vital sense of grounding and serving as a vital tool to relax and enlighten you throughout your life.

“post written by Anne Jones”

Natural Solutions: Improving Sleep

January 23, 2017
  1. Natural Solutions: Improving Sleep

     

    If you are getting less sleep because of your lifestyle or any other reason, then you are not the only person! Although it is recommended that you should get seven to nine hours of sleep daily, sometimes, all of us fall short on that count. For some of us, it is the stress or failure to switch off, while for some more serious ailments like insomnia might be the cause. Whatever be the cause, there are ways to improve sleep naturally.

    So, if you are on the lookout for some natural solutions for improving your sleep, here are some ways in which you can do that.

    #1: Aromatherapy

    You might have heard of aromatherapy as a way to induce sleep, but have you tried it? You should try out lavender as it is well known to aid sleep. In addition, it is not too costly, and comes without any side effects. All you would need is a proper diffuser. You can even find a spray with lavender and use it on your pillow before sleep.

    #2: Meditation

    Before you go to bed, try meditation. If you find it hard to concentrate, just close your eyes, focus on breathing and relax. That way, you would be able to relieve the stress before you drop off in bed and clear your mind a little. If you find the silence intimidating, you can also put in some soft music in the background, which will calm your nerves, as well as help you relax.

    #3: Green Tea

    Green tea consists of an amino acid named L – theanine, which helps you relax during the night. It is the same protein which keeps you healthy and alert during the day. However, while consuming green tea at night, make sure that you don’t overdo it. Recommended dose for proper sleep is around 50 – 200 mg. Also, refrain from caffeine at night, especially before or after dinner if you would love to have some hours of extra sleep.

    #4: Steam Saunas

    Steam saunas are yet another effective way of treating insomnia. The heat from the saunas not only helps to relax your nerves, but also softens your muscles. This helps you get rid of pain, and relieves tension from your body. Additionally, if you take steam saunas regularly, you can also get rid of stress, arthritis aches, migraines and headaches. It also makes you become more efficient by helping you to get rid of tiredness. One of the key benefits of steam saunas is that it helps your body get rid of toxins, which in turn helps you be healthy but the comforting state is great to bring on a good night’s sleep.

    #5: Feng Shui

    Feng and Shui in Chinese means air and water. Depending on the alignment of your bedroom, and the ventilation, your sleep patterns can change. So, if you are having trouble getting some sleep, get your house checked by a Feng Shui expert or get yourself a guidebook. Some of the easiest way of adjusting your bedroom according to Feng Shui would be

    • Keeping your bed easily approachable from all sides
    • Keeping the windows open and air in the room fresh
    • Maintaining a clean room, without trash and clutter, which might stress you out

    #6: Acupuncture

    Acupuncture is one of the traditional Chinese methods for treating insomnia. Acupuncture works by stimulating certain points on your body for healing. These acupressure points correct the energy balance in your body by opening up blocked channels (meridians). Additionally, acupuncture also causes the secretion of chemicals like melatonin and tryptophan, both of which help you to sleep.

    #7: Proper Schedule

    When it comes to sleep, you need to have a proper schedule for sleeping. This is true in case of not only sleep, but also overall maintenance of your health. For example, if you exercise for a day, and then stop, you would not see any changes. However, if you repeat the exercise daily for half an hour, after a week, you might see some progress. This is why, it is important to stick to a schedule. It also helps your body clock to know that it is time for sleep. In order to help yourself relax before sleep, you can also try drinking a warm glass of milk, or listening to music. This also helps you to establish a routine, and prepare your mind ahead of sleeping by giving it a step by step routine.

    #8: Exercise

    Exercising daily provides you with a better sleep. It also provides you with a healthy lifestyle, and more energy than you normally have. However, you need to stick to a regular exercise regimen and not wear yourself out in a day. In addition, do take care of your diets before and after exercising.

    These are only some of the natural ways in which you can get rid of insomnia. While treating insomnia, you also need to focus on your food and lifestyle, in addition to getting alternative treatments. At the end of the day, it is always better to stay away from prescription drugs for sleeping, and these natural methods would help you to do so!

    Thank you to Nina Wells who wrote this article. Nina is a guest author from Steam Shower Store and is a respected and expert voice in a plethora of health related subjects with over 10 years of writing under her belt.

Mind Over Matter: How You Can Beat Shopping Addiction

April 26, 2016

Mind Over Matter: How You Can Beat Shopping Addiction

Article from Gemma Fallon

Living beyond ones means is surprisingly common. With the advent of home shopping catalogs, ‘buy now, pay later’ offers, store cards and credit cards, it can be hard to resist. Time magazine suggested that due to today’s culture of borrowing, each American citizen has accumulated around $10,000 of debt.

There is no harm in spending if you can afford it and everyone likes to splash out on material things occasionally. The problem occurs when the shopping trips get too frequent and too much capital is being spent on unneeded items while bills aren’t paid and the bank account is in the red. According to a Stanford University study, 17 million people in America have exactly this problem!

If you think your spending is getting out of control, you feel you ‘have’ to shop whenever you go out, you keep repeat buying things you don’t need, you’re hiding your purchases or your credit card bills from your partner or your shopping habits are starting to cause arguments between you, you could be affected by shopping addiction.

Why Conventional Treatments Don’t Always Work

The standard medical response to over spending and shopping addiction is drug therapy – either anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication. This is because most of those affected by a compulsion to over spend have low self-esteem, are anxious or have depression. The trouble with this approach is that it only moderates or masks the symptoms of emotional illness and doesn’t do anything to fix the reason why the person is stressed in the first place. It is also well known that people who compulsively buy are more likely to have other addictions including prescription medication addiction. Over spending tends to run in families who commonly deal with other disorders. Using drug therapy to treat a ‘shopaholic’ may simply swap one ‘fix’ for another.

Some counseling approaches focus on not doing the undesirable behavior. This can help but can also have the same effect as going on a diet. If a person gives up cake, they may crave it even more.

Looking at What’s Really Going On

The secret to changing behavior in the long term is to address why you want to shop. Are you shopping because you’re lonely or bored and unfulfilled? Getting out there and hitting the town means that you are mixing with other people. Buying new things like clothes and accessories can also help you to feel better about yourself and have more confidence. Having distant parents during childhood, going through divorce and dealing with single parenthood are some of the common reasons for low self regard.

The act of purchasing items stimulates the body to produce endorphins – pain killing ‘feel good’ hormones – and dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with rewards. This combination can be addictive, particularly in people who are stressed as it is a welcome relief. However, this physiological response is always short lived, leading the person to repeat the behavior to achieve the same feeling.

Identifying whether you are lonely, insecure or depressed and working to heal from those emotional issues so you no longer feel the need to over spend offers better prospects for long term healing.  For instance, you could change your job, start a new evening class or join a gym. These offer relief from boredom and open up the opportunity for meeting new friends without spending large amounts of cash.

Heal Yourself with the Emotional Freedom Technique

You can beat your addiction and begin a new and positive phase of your life with the emotional freedom technique (EFT). EFT is a form of acupressure and energy psychology that has the same basis as acupuncture but without the needles. By tapping at various meridian points on the body, while thinking or voicing a positive thought, you can redirect negative energy, improve your outlook and even begin to heal from physical ailments. Blocked energy is forced to move and flow more freely. This, coupled with positive affirmations can alter your mood for the better and imbue you with confidence that doesn’t fade.
Psychological research into the clinical value of EFT has found that it can be helpful in restoring positive feelings in strained relationships, lessen the likelihood of addictive patterns of behavior and assist in the tackling of existing addictions.
EFT is self-administered and can be performed whenever you feel the urge to get out your credit card.

Positive visualization, combined with EFT, can also help correct unwanted behaviors so it can be used to stop compulsive shopping.  Imagining how you would like to respond to the temptation to shop can re-train your brain to react in a different way so you can control your impulses instead of them controlling you.

Life Coaching

A effective method of counseling that you can use with EFT is life coaching. Instead of traditional ‘talk’therapies that focus on problems and what you have done ‘wrong’, life coaching focuses on how you would like to live your life and provides tasks that you can do to improve your life so that you can become proactive in your own self-improvement.

Holistic Harmony run seminars and provide books about EFT, energy psychology, life coaching and reclaiming your life. For more information and help with treating addictions, we would be happy to hear from you.

The Role of Emotional Stress in the Development of Illness

April 15, 2016

The Role of Emotional Stress in the Development of Illness

Article from Gemma Fallon

Modern medicine provides outstanding care when it comes to advanced pain relief, surgery and life saving intensive care support, but has been rather slow to catch up with what alternative therapists have been saying for decades: the mind and the body are one and in order to attain full and vibrant health, the person must be treated on a holistic ‘whole body’ level. This may be why pharmaceutical medicines are effective at easing or stopping symptoms and giving the appearance of wellness but not so good at bringing about a permanent cure. They modulate the symptoms that are only an expression of disease, often without getting to the root cause of the problem.

Anxiety Increases Inflammation and Causes Depression

The field of psychosomatic medicine is beginning to catch on to holistic principle and in 2014 doctors discovered a key link between the mind and the immune system when they identified an inflammatory response from the immune system with an increased risk of developing depression. Inflammation is a normal, healthy response to illness or injury, caused by white blood cells rushing to the affected site to kill off pathogens or assist in the healing process. This rush of cells causes the characteristic redness and swelling associated with inflammation. There are trace amounts of inflammatory proteins in the body even when the person is well.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge in the UK followed 4,500 children of the 90’s – taking blood tests at age nine and again at age 18 to see what level of inflammatory markers they had. The young people with the highest amount were almost two times more likely to have had depression or psychosis compared with those who had only a small amount. The same research suggested that a hypersensitive inflammatory response from the immune system may be a cause for coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The lead researcher, Peter Jones, suggested that early life adversity and stress leads to a increase in inflammatory markers and influences physical and mental health – making a person more susceptible to chronic illness.

Mind/Body Illnesses

Some other illnesses now known to have a link with emotions include:

Tako-Tsubo cardiomyopathy – TTC,  heart condition in which the left ventricular wall doesn’t have correct motion, causing symptoms similar to that of coronary heart disease. This is sometimes called Stress Induced Cardiomyopathy or Broken Heart Disease because it has a direct link to psychological distress. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders feature the case of a woman who developed TTC after a miscarriage and the premature birth of a daughter.

Joint Hypermobility – Joint hypermobility is genetically inheritable but seems to be triggered by stress in those who carry the gene. Anxiety causes the abnormal formation of collagen.

Recurrent Chronic Cystitis – Doctors are increasingly realising that recurrent inflammation of the bladder is the result of emotions affecting the brain and hormone regulation. A case report of one middle aged woman with chronic cystitis detailed how she was successfully cured with a mind-body approach to her treatment.

Skin Diseases – Diseases like rhinovirus and Coxsackie virus are more severe if the person is stressed. Stress is also thought to have an impact in the development of allergic dermatitis, psoriasis and even skin cancer.

Did you know, cancer spreads faster if you think negatively?

Headaches and Migraine – People who have high levels of stress are more likely to have headaches or migraines. They also have a higher chance of gastrointestinal symptoms and musculoskeletal pain. Highly stressed women tend to have frequent infections.

Think Yourself Well!

Just as illnesses can be triggered by emotional states, they can also be cured by them. By replacing negative thoughts with positive ones and changing old thought patterns. Energy psychology is a great way to do this.
Energy psychology offers an easy way to take control of negative thoughts and improve health in simple steps:

1. Focus on the problem or the situation that causes anxiety and then purposefully bring to mind alternative, positive affirmations regarding the situation or life in general. Saying regular daily affirmations or writing them down in a book can have a wonderful, empowering effect on mind and body. The most famous example of a person who did this was Louise Hay, an American woman with a history of abuse who cured herself of vaginal cancer by positive thought.

2. Focus on the situation that causes anxiety and then use an acupressure technique to re-direct negative energy, forcing it to change so that the anxiety symptoms are also forced to change. This can be done by tapping on specific acupuncture points that correspond to the area of the body that is manifesting illness. Changing the energy pattern can change the behavior pattern that also changes the illness pattern.

3. Mindful, focused breathing can be done and will similarly alter negative energy flows so the person feels more centred and calm. This is a form of mindful meditation in which relaxation and controlled breathing help to de-stress the individual, as well as oxygenating their brain and bringing about an altered state of consciousness that is highly aware and more objective. Apart from providing an opportunity for the person to remove themselves from the daily stresses of life, it could assist them in finding solutions to problems or developing a new outlook.

4. Focusing on the good stuff. It sounds simple, but replacing negativity with thoughts of the people and things that are enjoyed, can bring powerful changes. Some people like to write in a ‘Gratitude Journal’, that is, a book where they can record the things they are grateful for each day.

For more information about how you can heal yourself and reduce pain with energy psychology, contact us about our range of books and seminars.