Grow Your Brain

It appears that the western world has just discovered the benefits of mindfulness!  For the last several of weeks my email inbox has been happily flooded with links to various articles singing the praises of mindfulness meditation training...I love this!!!  But what, you may ask, has fueled this sudden interest in mindfulness, and its ancient roots in eastern meditation practices?  Neuroimaging.  Yes, evidence-based biomedical research has finally caught up to our observational, and albeit anecdotal, research that has long suggested a positive psychosocial and physical benefit to mindfulness training. 

A new study, based on MRI scans of participants' brains pre and post an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) revealed structural changes, an increase of 1-3%, in the grey matter of the brain.  These changes were most significant in the areas responsible for learning, memory and emotional regulation.  Earlier studies have suggested an increase in brain activity/function in areas of the brain associated with positive emotion, optimism and focus.  Very powerful evidence that we have much more control than we imagine in growing and changing our brain and emotions.  Here is a link to an article which appeared this week, "Brain Gain" by Deborah Kotz in the Boston Globe

What are your experiences with mindfulness?  Do you need a refresher or are you interested in learning mindfulness skills?  I invite you to take a look at my website, Stress Resources, for ways to grow your brain and integrate mindfulness into your life.  I look forward to hearing from you and growing our brains together.

Stress So Bad It Hurts

An article caught my eye in today's Wall Street Journal..."Stress So Bad It Hurts -- Really" by Melinda Beck. The article presents a patient's perspective on being told that chronic physical pain is caused by stress and it is "all in your head". Without further explanation, the patient feels indignant and angry that the health care provider does not believe their pain is "real". The medical community is slowly becoming more comfortable with the notion that psychological stress can exacerbate and even produce physical pain in individuals. Yet, we currently do not have a health care system that is set up to be multidisciplinary in response to chronic pain. There are initiatives going on around the country that begin to address multidisciplinary ways of dealing with complex pain issues. I am currently involved in graduate work at Tufts University School of Medicine's Pain Research, Education and Policy Program, the only one of its kind in the United States. As an initiative to share information and dialogue about pain management, we have started a blog ( on the complex subject of pain research, education and policy and would welcome your voice. I hope that as President Obama considers health care reform, we as health care providers and consumers take on a vocal role of advocating for a multidisciplinary approach to true "health" care and not procedure oriented "illness" care. Only when we begin to acknowledge the innate connection between the body, mind and spirit will we truly begin to understand the complexities of the human body.

I would love to hear your thoughts!