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admin | monk seal habits | 27.09.2015
In the lab, psychologist have been studying our ability to control or inhibit such automatic behaviour for a long time. We were curious to find out whether meditators fare better on such task – after all not responding in an automatic, impulsive fashion is port and parcel of every meditation we do.
In 2009 we published the results of a study where we compared a group of buddhist meditators with a control group in the same age range. So, can we conclude that this improved cognitive control or cognitive flexibility is the result of the meditation practice? To find out more about this, we conducted another, more comprehensive, study that was published last week. We found that meditation led to an increase in brain activity that was related to focussing the attention on the colour words (for the geeks: the N2 event related potential)  in those brain areas that are involved in processing of words (left medial and lateral occipitotemporal areas) especially when the stiumuli were congruent, while the opposite pattern was true for the control group.
For brain activity related object recognition and inhibitory processes (the P3 component) we found that as a result of meditation practice a decrease in activity appeared especially for incongruent stimuli, suggesting that through meditation practice the perceptual processing of incongruent stimuli becomes less resource demanding. Thus overall these two studies show that meditators perform better than non-meditators on tasks that require congitive flexibilty and deautomatisation or inhibition of automatic responses. In my recent review paper on attentional control mechanisms in mindfulness meditation I also presented our Liverpool Mindfulness Model. This attentional, emotional and cognitive flexibility gets a specific flavour when it is combined with a certain mental stance, perspective or view – and this is expressed here as non-judging awareness, the ability to be aware of the various mental states without being caught (out) by them, but rather being able to maintain an open presence.
In our own research we are, for example, interested in eating behaviour, where pilot data from a mindful eating intervention we developed suggest changes in actual eating behaviours.
Although the practice of mindfulness is conceptually incredibly simple (“Just focus on the sensation of your breathing and maintain a non-judgemental, open awareness of all arising mental events”), if we look a bit closer, it entails a whole range of aspects that influence and are influenced by this practice. I’m very interested in mindfulness research as I have been meditating for the past 2 years,and find it to be very helpful. I am a retired counselling psychologist and has being practising mindfulness meditation for the past 15 years and I find it to be very helpful. In a study that has been published in the latest issue of Consciousness and Cognition, Fadel Zeiden and his colleagues have shown that only four days of ‘mindfulness meditation’ training for only 20 minutes each day, improves not only mood and stress levels but also improves deep cognitive processing efficiency – core aspects of fluid intelligence such as working memory and sustained attention, as well as long term memory efficiency. Before and after the interventions, the participants in the experiment were given a broad range of psychological tests assessing mood, memory, visual attention, attention processing, working memory, and concentration. This allowed the researchers to quantify any improvements in mood or cognition due to meditation, compared to simply hearing a story. The brief mindfulness meditation practice – but not the book reading – improved concentration (attentional focus) and the efficiency of what are called ‘executive processes’ – the ability to maintain focus on tasks or goals in an intelligent way, and not be distracted.
The meditation group did particularly well on all the cognitive tests that were timed – where participants had to process information under time pressure causing stress. Meditation training was conducted by a trained facilitator with 10 years experience in teaching mindfulness meditation.
As described in the paper, “participants were instructed to relax, with their eyes closed, and to simply focus on the flow of their breath occurring at the tip of their nose. Mindfulness mediation is not only stress-reducing, but it improves what is known as ‘meta cognition’ – the ability to observe thought processes as they occur non-judgementally.
Brief (4 day) mental training through meditation is not as effective as extensive training regimens.
However, the short term gains demonstrated in this study are dramatic and may have many every day uses – for instance in preparing for a stressful event such as an exam or interview.
Firstly, the study provides strong evidence that brief MM training enhances sustained attention and ‘executive control’ – the ability to monitor performance and ignore distracting information when under time pressure. The researchers also suggest that the meditation group’s improvements in mood may have reduced ‘mind-wandering’  – the way the mind can get distracted by thoughts and evaluations. Morning: 10 sessions of HighIQPro training followed by 15-20 minutes mindfulness meditation. Evening: 10 sessions of HighIQPro training followed by 15-20 minutes mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an innovative approach that combines the practice and clinical application of mindfulness meditation with the tools of cognitive therapy.
During an episode of depression, negative mood occurs alongside negative thinking and bodily sensations of sluggishness and fatigue. The data behind MBCT indicate that it effectively reduces relapse rates by 50% in patients with recurrent depression.
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Mindfulness of the breath is often used as a basic centering technique, to bring you into the present moment.
Mindfulness of the breath can also be used as a way of bringing you back to the present moment when your mind wanders elsewhere.
To become mindful of our breath, begin by sitting upright, but comfortably in a quiet location. Already in 1935 an experimental paradigm was presented that is still in use today: Look at the image below and name the colour each of the words is printed in. It results from the fact that we automatically read, whenever a word appears, if we want it or not and even if we are asked not to read it. We try not to scratch every time it itches somewhere and also don’t jump on every train of thoughts that passes by. And indeed, we found that the meditators were faster in naming the print colour of the incongruent words and also made fewer mistakes. We trained participants who never meditated before in a simple mindful breathing meditation and asked them to practice this for 16 weeks for around 10 minutes every day.
Furthermore, brain activity that is involved in processing such tasks becomes more effective after 16 weeks of brief mindfulness meditation practice. The main purpose of this model is to serve as a structuring aid for our own meditation research.
These two aspects of attention and awareness are considered the two main contributors when developing a mindful approach to one’s life.
Because the practice aims at some of the most central aspects of our conscious awareness – attention, emotion, cognition) the effects it has can be as far-reaching and wide-spread as the rapidly evolving research and the practical applications suggest. I am now pursuing my PhD research work in social gerontology with mindfulness as my field of study. Both the meditation and reading groups improved in mood after the 4 session interventions, but only the meditation group improved in the cognitive measures. Mindfulness meditation teaches a person to release sensory events that would normally distract you in a way that is emotion regulating. It is well documented that long meditation training promotes lasting changes in cognition and well-being. In contrast to the participants in the study who just listed to a story, brief mindfulness meditation training reduced participants’ fatigue and anxiety ratings. At IQ Mindware we develop brain training interventions to increase IQ, critical thinking, decision making, creativity and executive functioning. Many research have proven brain training do have an impact on neuron development but it must be brought up that it is really not the end all be all treatment. The heart of this work lies in acquainting patients with the characteristic cognitive and emotional patterns of mood disorders, while simultaneously inviting them to develop a new healthier relationship to these patterns.
Groups meet once-weekly for eight sessions and participants are asked to do home-based practice during the week. When the episode has passed, and the mood has returned to normal, the negative thinking and body sensations tend to disappear as well.
In fact, it has recently been recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the U.K. Close your eyes, or if you find this uncomfortable, focus on a spot on the floor or wall in front of you.
It could, for instance, be that those guys in the meditation group were already better in this task before they ever meditated; Maybe because of their special skill they even fancied meditation more than others. We also tested them on the above colour naming task before, half way through and at the end of the training, while at the same time recording their brain activity with EEG. You may republish this post in unaltered form – On republishing it you must provide the link to this original post. Without refining our attentional skills and developing the ability to maintain a stable focus of attention for some time, a profound development will be difficult. Improve problem solving and decision making skills for cognitive performance & brain health. The meditation group scored as much as ten times better on a working memory task – an important component of fluid intelligence.
Many thoughts associated with stressful emotions can interfere with our dealing with the task at hand in a relaxed, efficient way, and mindfulness can help in regulating these thoughts – leading to better performance.

Fatigue and anxietyare understood to be particularly critical in affecting information processing.
The breath is an action that the body makes constantly and is physical in the sense that we can feel our body as it breathes. Once you become trapped in a feeling or thought, using the breath to “center” or “ground” you in the present moment before you continue observing your feelings or thoughts can be helpful.
However, sometimes we function on autopilot when it might be less useful or we may respond in an automated fashion, without being quite aware that we are responding, not to mention how exactly we are responding. To be sure that the changes over time we might find have something to do with the meditation practice and not just with repeating the same task a few times, we also included a control group of people who did not meditate. Regular, brief mindfulness meditation practice improves electrophysiological markers of attentional control. When drawing up this model I tried to be frugal and only included the most crucial aspects, while leaving out many other components. However, the term ‘attention’ is meant to capture something much broader, including for instance attentional control mechanisms, which include an awareness of one’s cognitive and emotional states and the resulting ability to respond to them in a flexible way. Similarly, it will be important to consider the outcomes in terms of physical and mental wellbeing but also – and this has so far hardly been considered – in terms of behavioural outcomes. The meditation-trained group averaged aproximately10 consecutive correct answers, while the listening group averaged approximately one. Our High IQ Pro software is an n-back task, known to improve fluid intelligence.
The ability to self-regulate emotions has been found to be a key component in improving cognition. This means that when negative mood happens again (for any reason), it will tend to trigger all the other symptoms in proportion to the strength of association. The empirical support for MBCT has raised awareness about the need for effective and comprehensive treatment of depression and individuals can participate in this treatment regardless of whether they recovered from their depression via medication or talk therapy. This is not only true for our physical actions where we may have killed a complete chocolate bar before even recognising that there was one, but also for our mental life. Every ‘box’ in this model can be further subdivided into many more fine-grained aspects and every arrow that is present warrants a whole research programme, not to mention all the other ‘missing’ arrows that would outline further interrelationships. The model mentions here three descriptors that qualify ways of acting in an aware, flexible and autonomous fashion.
When this happens, the old habits of negative thinking will start up again, negative thinking gets into the same rut, and a full-blown episode of depression may be the result. 10 Telling Signs You're an Emotionally Intelligent Person Most Popular Posts10 Telling Signs You're an Emotionally Intelligent Person Can't Focus on Your Most Important Work? Thoughts and emotions may impulsively and without much control pop up in our mind and colour our experiences in a habitual fashion, without us even recognising it. These three qualifiers (and probably a lot more) could then be applied to various specific fields of activity. Mindfulness of the breath is a good starting point and can bring you into the present moment quickly. While the goal of mindfulness if not to become relaxed, or calm, becoming mindful of the breath often results in a “slowing down” of the mind and body, merely because we are focusing our attention on something simple and concrete, and often it involves sitting and closing our eyes as we do this. Being a Contender in Psychotherapy 3 Tips for Making Phone Conversations Less Awkward Most Popular NewsAnxious People View the World Differently Study Probes Yoga Treatment for Trauma-Related Issues Antidepressants Linked to Dental Implant Failures ERs Can Push Self-Harming Kids into Shame Cycle Bullying May Not Increase Victims' Risk for Substance Abuse From Our BlogsProcrastinating?
It enters your mouth or nose, travels down your throat or nostrils, slowly filling your lungs. It then travels back out of your lungs, back through your throat or nostrils and out into the air.
If you want, you can count your breaths from one to ten, and once you have reached ten, go back to one.
Then return to observing your breath, moment by moment as it flows in and out of your body.

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