Meditation and creative thinking

Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking, even if you have never meditated before. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University, published in Mindfulness.

Long-lasting influence

The study is a clear indication that you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to profit more from meditation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we conceive new ideas. Besides experienced meditators, also novices may profit from meditation.

Different techniques, different effectsmeditation-1.jpg

But the results demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. Test persons performed better in divergent thinking (= thinking up as many possible solutions for a given problem) after Open Monitoring meditation (= being receptive to every thought and sensation). The researchers did not see this effect on divergent thinking after Focused Attention meditation (=focusing on a particular thought or object.)

Setup of the study

40 individuals participated in this study, who had to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks. There were both experienced mediators and people who never meditated before. The study investigated the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity:

  • Divergent thinking Allows for many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.
  • Convergent thinking Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular problem is generated. This is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The participants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’.

Lorenza S. Colzato, Ayca Szapora, Dominique Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel. Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems. Mindfulness, 2014;

Yoga & Depression

From an article on the Yoga International web site:
Anyone who has suffered from depression understands how deep, abiding sadness or worthlessness can infiltrate and affect every aspect of our being. Our psychological makeup, physical health, mental outlook, and even our ability to interact with friends and family and be present to the world around us can get shaken to their core. Why? Because we identify with and attach ourselves to things that will inevitably change. As our feelings and other symptoms of depression persist, we have an increasingly difficult time imagining a life in which we break free from their spell and avoid “becoming” them.
Yoga teaches us that we aren’t our feelings or our symptoms but live in multidimensional relationship with them. 1472891_10151996608469691_438298404_n.jpg

One way to grasp this paradox is to picture the Self (purusha or pure, undifferentiated awareness) as pervading all nine interlocking and interdependent spheres of influence without being any one of them. See More here.
https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-for-depression-an-integrated-practice

What is Mindfulness ?

Mindfulness is a concentrated state of awareness that can help us see and respond to situations with clarity and without getting carried away by emotions or the constant chatter in our heads. Mindfulness enables us to:

· Better manage tension and stress

· Enhance objectivity, mental focus

· Communicate and make decisions more effectively

· Improve productivity

· Quiet’s noise in the mind

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Meditation

Meditation is the tool we use to cultivate mindfulness. With meditation, you intentionally pay attention to a particular object as a way to strengthen concentration. There are thousands of meditative techniques: Tai Chi, yoga, focusing on the breath and using a mantra are all examples. People often think that meditating “correctly” means clearing all thought from the mind. This is a myth. The mind never stops thinking – it’s when we get caught up in our thoughts that we lose mindfulness. By witnessing thoughts, allowing them to pass, and returning to your chosen object of focus, you can actually build the muscle of concentration. Think of meditation as a fitness routine for the mind.

Are there other benefits to mindfulness?

In addition to boosting brain power, numerous research studies have shown significant physical benefits including:

· Reduced blood pressure

· Lowered cholesterol levels

· Enhanced immune function

· Reduced headache, migraine, back pain

· Improved respiratory function

Mindfulness does not require a particular set of beliefs in order to learn and practice – it is a quality of mind, accessible and available to all.

Mindfulness allows us to live every moment fully without the filters of bias, judgment or emotional reaction.

Mindfulness helps the body cope with physical challenges such as headaches, back pain and even heart disease.

Mindfulness keeps us from reacting too quickly – it helps increase the gap between impulse and action.

Ten Myths About Psychotropic Drugs

Dr. Peter Gotzsche has created a controversy and sparked criticism over what he sees as a damaging over-prescription of drugs by psychiatrists.

Gotzsche recently compiled a list of ten common myths held not only by the general public, but also trained psychiatrists concerning the safety of psychotropic drugs, and the rationale for their use.1pillst

As an internist, Gotzsche remarked that since he was outside of the political orthodoxy of the world of psychiatric medicine, he was free to express what he believed to be the sentiments of many psychiatrists who must remain quiet in their objections for fear of hurting their careers.

1.  Mental diseases are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain

“We have no idea about which interplay of psychosocial conditions, biochemical processes, receptors and neural pathways that lead to mental disorders and the theories that patients with depression lack serotonin and that patients with schizophrenia have too much dopamine have long been refuted.”

2.  It’s easy to go off antidepressants any time you want to

Here, Gotzsche points to drug trails involving agoraphobics and people suffering from panic disorder, whom were not depressed.  Fifty percent of the patients found it difficult to come off antidepressants even though they were gradually reducing their doses.  It could not be that the patients saw their depression returning, as they were not depressed to begin with.

3.  Psychotropic drugs are to mental illness as insulin is to diabetes

“When you give insulin to a patient with diabetes, you give something the patient lacks, namely insulin. Since we’ve never been able to demonstrate that a patient with a mental disorder lacks something that people who are not sick don’t lack, it is wrong to use this analogy.”

4.  Psychotropic drugs reduce the number of chronically ill patients

“In 1987, just before the newer antidepressants (SSRIs or happy pills) came on the market, very few children in the United States were mentally disabled. Twenty years later it was over 500,000, which represents a 35-fold increase. The number of disabled mentally ill has exploded in all Western countries.”

5.  SSRIs don’t cause suicide in children and adolescents

“The companies and the psychiatrists have consistently blamed the disease when patients commit suicide. It is true that depression increases the risk of suicide, but happy pills increase it even more, at least up to about age 40, according to a meta-analysis of 100,000 patients in randomized trials performed by the US Food and Drug Administration.”

6.  SSRIs don’t have side effects

“Patients care less about the consequences of their actions, lose empathy towards others, and can become very aggressive. In school shootings in the United States and elsewhere a striking number of people have been on antidepressants.”

7.  SSRIs are not addictive

“The worst argument I have heard about the pills not causing dependency is that patients do not require higher doses. Shall we then also believe that cigarettes are not addictive? The vast majority of smokers consume the same number of cigarettes for years.”

8.  The prevalence in depression has increased a lot in recent history

Gotzsche points out that this is difficult if not impossible to determine, as the criteria for being diagnosed as clinically depressed has been drastically lowered over the last 50 years.

9.  The main problem is not overtreatment, but undertreatment

“In a 2007 survey, 51% of the 108 psychiatrists said that they used too much medicine and only 4 % said they used too little. In 2001-2003, 20% of the US population aged 18-54 years received treatment for emotional problems.”

10.  Antipsychotics prevent brain damage

“Some professors say that schizophrenia causes brain damage and that it is therefore important to use antipsychotics. However, antipsychotics lead to shrinkage of the brain, and this effect is directly related to the dose and duration of the treatment.”

Read the rest of the article here:http://www.designntrend.com/articles/10379/20140123/danish-doctor-offers-ten-myths-psychotropic-drugs.htm

Fighting the Drug Epidemic

Most communities across New Hampshire have been touched by the opioid crisis that’s taken the lives of more than 400 Granite Staters last year, a majority from heroin and fentanyl.21789-113979.jpg

But one place in the Lakes Region stands out not for its significantly high overdose numbers but rather how its community is responding

If you’re doing something illegal, the last person you’d willingly call is probably the police. Well that’s not always the case in Laconia – at least when it comes to using drugs.

“What do I do? My dealer is blowing up my phone, it’s driving me crazy. What do I do?,” said Police Officer Eric Adams, who was talking about one of the many calls he gets at all hours from those battling a drug addiction in the community. Read the entire article HERE. 

Medication And Addiction

Drug treatment providers in California and elsewhere have relied for decades on abstinence and therapy to treat addicts. In recent years, they’ve turned to medication.

Faced with a worsening opiate epidemic and rising numbers of overdose deaths, policymakers are ramping up medication-assisted treatment.

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President Barack Obama at the end of April 2016 said he’d allocate more money for states to expand access to the medications. He also proposed that physicians be able to prescribe one of the most effective anti-addiction drugs, buprenorphine, to more patients.

California already plans to expand access to medications as it launches an overhaul of the state’s substance abuse treatment system for low-income residents. The state recently embarked on a five-year demonstration project on the premise that addiction is a chronic disease and should be treated as such.

While medication is not for everyone, it can be critical for some people with severe addiction, said Marlies Perez, chief of the substance use disorder compliance division for the state Department of Health Care Services. The medications, she said, “have been proven as the gold standard for really helping people recover.”

The best-known medication, methadone, blocks the effect of certain drugs and lessens withdrawal symptoms. It is highly regulated and can only be prescribed by clinics that have government approval. Buprenorphine, which can be prescribed in doctors’ offices, produces mild opioid effects while also easing withdrawal symptoms. Another medication available by prescription, naltrexone, blocks the effect of opioids.

The medications are available across the country but must be prescribed by physicians with special training. There are only about 30,000 authorized doctors nationwide, and they can only prescribe to a limited number of patients.

Obama’s proposal would allow qualified doctors to prescribe buprenorphine to 200 patients, up from 100.

That could make a big difference in California, Perez said. The state is also trying to better link treatment centers with trained prescribing doctors so that physicians can consult with one another on treatment options for their patients. “Not all physicians, even in the substance use field, have that clinical knowledge,” she said.

The use of medication in treatment conflicts with the 12-step and Narcotics Anonymous philosophy of addiction recovery, which is based on abstinence, experts said. For many, experts said, simple abstinence doesn’t work.

“You would hope that just by talking to somebody, they could get rid of their problem with drugs,” said James Sorensen, a University of California, San Francisco professor and interim director of the substance abuse and addiction medicine program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. “The reality is, that is simply not efficient, so we look for other tools.”

Medication is one of the most successful, evidence-based treatments available, and more access should have a big impact on those with substance abuse disorders, said John Connolly, deputy director for substance abuse prevention and control for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. But, he cautioned medication should be used alongside more traditional treatment methods.

“The medication has tremendous effect, but it is most impactful when it is prescribed with the necessary counseling and social supports,” he said.

Stephen Kaplan, director of behavioral health and recovery services for San Mateo County, said the county has increased its use of medication. About two years ago, the county began a pilot project to prescribe naltrexone to people with severe alcoholism who hadn’t been successful in traditional treatment.

The medication reduced people’s cravings and drinking, Kaplan said. The county recently began expanding the project to include people with opiate addictions.

Kaplan said he respects providers who believe that replacing one drug with another is not true recovery. But from a policy standpoint, Kaplan said, the medications are effective and should be more integrated into overall recovery for people with substance abuse disorders.

“We need to make available to them every possible option,” he said.

Perez of the state Department of Health Care Services said she believes that Obama’s focus on the opiate epidemic — and his recognition that it is a disease and not a moral failing — helps reduce the stigma.

“That makes a huge difference in folks coming forward and looking for treatment,” she said

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