Dozens of scientific studies over the past few decades have found substantial evidence that mindfulness (living in the present) and meditation have powerful health benefits, both physical and psychological. Benefits include: Reduction of anxiety Lowering of blood pressure Reducing symptoms of depression Enhanced immune system Improvement in chronic pain conditions Increased self-acceptance Improved concentration and enhanced creativity Decreases in binge eating Improvement of memory Improvement in sleep disorders Reduction of substance abuse Practicing mindfulness also can change your happiness “set point,” meaning it can make you a happier person. Mindfulness is being intentionally aware in the present moment, while allowing your experience (worry, anxiety, pain, etc.) to be as it is. Meditation is intentionally spending time practicing mindfulness while doing nothing else. Meditation doesn’t require sitting in a cross-legged posture on a cushion. For this course you only need a chair. One of the recent studies on the health benefits of Mindfulness and meditation comes from the Carnegie Mellon University where Prof. J. David Creswell and his graduate student assistant Emily K. Lindsay found that the two disciplines influence health via stress reduction pathways. Their study, “Current Directions in Psychological Science,” describes the biological pathways linking mindfulness training with reduced stress and stress-related disease outcomes. “If mindfulness training is improving people’s health, how does it get under the skin to affectall kinds of outcomes?” asks Creswell. He and Lindsay have amassed a body of work that depicts the biological mechanisms of mindfulness training’s stress reduction effects. They explain that when someone experiences stress, activity in the prefrontal cortex -- responsible for conscious thinking and planning – decreases, while activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus and anterior cingulate cortex – regions that quickly activate the body’s stress response – increases. Studies have suggested that mindfulness reverses these patterns during stress. It increases prefrontal activity which can regulate and turn down the biological stress response. Excessive activation of the biological stress response increases the risk of diseases impacted by stress, such as depression, HIV, and heart disease. By reducing a person’s experiences of stress, mindfulness may help regulate the physical stress response and ultimately reduce the risk and severity of stress-related diseases. Entire books have been written on how to practice mindfulness and meditation, and I will offer some examples in a future post. Anyone reading this is welcome and encouraged, to reply with their thoughts and experiences on the health benefits of mindfulness and meditation, and offer suggestions on how to practice both disciplines, so widely practiced in TMS healing.