I just read an article in Spirituality & Health by Traci Pedersen. She reports on recent research out of UC Berkeley showing that immersion in the beauty of nature, art and/or spirituality – in other words, becoming awestruck or bowled over by a sense of wonder - is associated with lower levels of inflammatory cytokines.
Cytokines are proteins that prod the immune system to crank it up a notch, which is generally a good thing, especially for dispatching infections or cancer. But we also know that chronic inflammation from an overproduction of cytokines can wreak cumulative havoc on health and longevity.
So, this study of 200 subjects suggests it wouldn't be a bad idea to deliberately seek out activities that catalyze your feelings of awe.
As Cindy wrote when she forwarded this thank you note to all of us last week, "These stories never cease to amaze me". But rest assured, we may get a lot of them but we never get tired of seeing them.
Just to throw in a relevant factoid, an interesting if counterintuitive finding from two separate studies done years ago – one from Blue Shield of California and one from a cardiac surgery pilot study Mehmet Oz and his team did (before he became a TV rock star) at Columbia Presbyterian – was that the more anxious and distressed the pre-surgery patient was, the more dramatically the guided imagery benefited them.
Belgian researchers from the University of Antwerp, the University of Brussels and Artevelde University, Ghent, performed a review of studies investigating the effects of different kinds of relaxation therapy on autonomic function, pain, fatigue and daily functioning of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
The electronic databases PubMed and Web of Science were searched. Studies were assessed for their risk of bias and relevant information regarding relaxation was extracted.
Thirteen randomized clinical trials of sufficient quality were included, resulting in a total of 650 fibromyalgia patients (11 studies) and 88 chronic fatigue syndrome patients (3 studies).
Spring Forward and Fall Back is an old saying that helps us remember which way to turn the clock for the time changes in spring and fall, but for some of us, still in the grip of a freakishly brutal winter, springing forward feels more like falling back.
Sleep Awareness Week is the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) annual public education campaign to raise awareness that sleep is as necessary to good health as food, water and air. This year's event, March 2-8, ends on the day we begin Daylight Saving Time—an excellent time to raise awareness about the need for adequate sleep.
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you're getting the minimum seven hours (or even less) and you have to wake up an hour earlier, without going to bed an hour earlier, this puts you in the danger zone of being sleep-deprived.
I am a therapist working with a woman who is afraid to close her eyes. The very idea creates extreme anxiety, and therefore I cannot use meditation or guided imagery with her, even though both of us believe it could be very beneficial for her. Obviously this has to do with her traumatized past, involving childhood sexual abuse. Any suggestions?
Forgot the name of that great movie you just saw and want to heartily recommend? Proper-noun challenged in general? Welcome to my world.
But before I launch into the ten brain tips, first set forth by AARP a couple of years ago, I want to call your attention to Chris Northrup's latest book, an intriguing discussion of how to grow older without fear, loathing and dread, but instead, enjoying a greater sense of pleasure, freedom, happiness, energy and self-esteem.
I confess I'm not crazy about my friend's book title, or what it implies (it's called Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality,and Well-Being) and we had a good, honest interchange about it.
I just stumbled on this story written by a good friend of mine, Anne Simpkinson, in a blog called Wellness Warrior. She talks about practicing "Mouth Yoga" or deliberate smiling as a proactive choice for shifting her mood.
Now, keep in mind as you read this, there is nothing fake or phony or saccharine about my friend Anne. She's a very authentic sort of person. So this is more like acting "as if" until it's not acting any more. ...Kind of like doing affirmations – affirmations of the face (☺).
Of course, when you practice this, just as Anne describes, there's the added bonus of getting smiles back from others you come across, who are responding to your smile in the first place, and that reinforces the whole set-up, and really makes you smile.
Check it out. Thich Nhat Hanh made this practice popular here and abroad. It's good advice.
Researchers from the Departments of Neurology and Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine, examined the neural correlates of motor imagery when used in conjunction with movement of the paretic arm after stroke. Subjects were 7 patients in the chronic phase of stroke recovery (median (range): age: 58 years (37-73); time post-stroke: 9 months (4-42); upper extremity Fugl-Meyer motor score: 48 (36-64)).
Participants actively moved the paretic/right arm under two conditions while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. In the motor condition, pronation/supination movements were made in response to a visual cue. In the motor + imagery condition, the same movements were performed in response to a visual cue but the participants were instructed to imagine opening and closing a doorknob during performance of the movement.
We've heard it, we love it and we can't wait for you to hear it—Traci Stein's newest title, Healthy Weight and Body Image. Same goes for its companion, Healthy Weight and Body Image during Sleep, though that one so effectively evokes a dreamy state it's tough to listen while sitting upright at work. I'm all for anything that works while you sleep, and I can't wait to get one to take home.
Many of you have already purchased the MP3's, and the feedback is heartwarming to hear, but for those of us who prefer CD's (I hear that!) the wait is almost over.
Here are but a few of the things these new programs are designed to do:
- Help the listener achieve a healthy weight and support good eating and exercise habits.
- Increase insight into the unconscious and/or unhealthy uses of food and weight.
- Foster a loving appreciation of the body, even if behavior changes are desired.
- Help make behavior changes easier and more instinctive.
- Enhance feelings of self-acceptance, safety and emotional centering through mindfulness and loving kindness exercises.
- Enhance confidence and decrease production of stress hormones using scientifically-supported 'power-posing' exercises.
We got this thought-provoking question from somebody who'd been browsing our catalog, and objected to the way we had put our guided imagery for heartbreak, abandonment and betrayal under the category for posttraumatic stress...
Hello -- love your work! Thank you.
One small quibble. I see that in the catalog your "heartbreak" material is listed under "PTSD".
I worked the recovery effort at the World Trade Center (well -- I made coffee for the guys who worked in hell and hugged them when they left hell to come to me on hell's fringes) and know a lot of people who have truly seen the worst of the worst. Some of them - unsurprisingly - have PTSD.
Good news, folks! The MP3 downloads are now available for Traci Stein's long awaited title of hypnosis and guided imagery for achieving a healthy weight and a respectful, appreciative attitude toward your body.
As is often the case with Traci's work, there are a variety of long and short meditations for when you're awake and separate tracks for when you're asleep.
We expect the CD hard copies to be in the warehouse on or around the 20th of the month - any day now, in other words. So go ahead and order.
Now, just to state the obvious, this is not your culturally stereotypical weight loss narrative, filled with distorted ideas about what you should look like (i.e., pathologically skinny, like the last knobby-kneed, non-menstruating, 80 pound stick of a model you saw bobbling down the runway, locomoting on fumes). Nor does this imagery tell you that in order to feel good about yourself you have to look good.
Ever have a fabulously, romantic, passionate night with the person you love, only to get shocked back to into the decidedly un-sexy reality of the tasks of daily living the next morning? It can be a little bit like getting doused with cold water.
I love the way my favorite poet, Ellen Bass, describes this very human "morning after" experience. Check it out.
The Morning After
You stand at the counter, pouring boiling water
over the French roast, oily perfume rising in smoke.
And when I enter, you don't look up.
You're hurrying to pack your lunch, snapping
the lids on little plastic boxes while you call your mother
to tell her you'll take her to the doctor.
I can't see a trace of the little slice of heaven
we slipped into last night—a silk kimono
floating satin ponds and copper koi, stars falling
to the water. Didn't we shoulder
our way through the cleft in the rock of the everyday
and tear up the grass in the pasture of pleasure?
If the soul isn't a separate vessel
we carry from form to form,
but more like Aristotle's breath of life–
the work of the body that keeps it whole–
then last night, darling, our souls were busy.
But this morning, it's like you're wearing a bad wig,
disguised so I won't recognize you
or maybe so you won't know yourself
as that animal burned down
to pure desire. I don't know
how you do it. I want to throw myself
onto the kitchen tile and bare my throat.
I want to slick back my hair
and tap dance up the wall. I want to do it all
all over again–dive back into that brawl,
that raw and radiant free-for-all.
But you are scribbling a shopping list
because the kids are coming for the weekend
and you're going to make your special crab cakes
that have ruined me for all other crab cakes
From Like a Beggar