Category Archives: wellness

Study brain can be trained in compassion

Researchers at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined whether training adults in compassion can result in greater altruistic behavior and related changes in neural systems underlying compassion.
In the study, the investigators trained young adults to engage in compassion meditation, an ancient Buddhist technique to increase caring feelings for people who are suffering.
In the meditation, participants envisioned a time when someone has suffered and then practiced wishing that his or her suffering was relieved.
Participants practiced with different categories of people, first starting with a loved one, someone whom they easily felt compassion for, like a friend or family member. Then, they practiced compassion for themselves and a stranger.
Finally, they practiced compassion for someone they actively had conflict with called the “difficult person”, such as a troublesome coworker or roommate.
“It’s kind of like weight training. Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help,” said Helen Weng, lead author of the study and a graduate student in clinical psychology.
Compassion training was compared to a control group that learned cognitive reappraisal, a technique where people learn to reframe their thoughts to feel less negative.
“We wanted to investigate whether people could begin to change their emotional habits in a relatively short period of time,” said Weng.
The real test of whether compassion could be trained was to see if people would be willing to be more altruistic – even helping people they had never met.
“We found that people trained in compassion were more likely to spend their own money altruistically to help someone who was treated unfairly than those who were trained in cognitive reappraisal,” Weng said.
The study measured changes in brain responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after training.
The researchers found that the people who were the most altruistic after compassion training were the ones who showed the most brain changes when viewing human suffering.
They found that activity was increased in the inferior parietal cortex, a region involved in empathy and understanding others.
Compassion training also increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the extent to which it communicated with the nucleus accumbens, brain regions involved in emotion regulation and positive emotions.

The Growing Edge

Every moment of life invites us to open our eyes to what Howard Thurman calls “the growing edge” of life, and aspire to grow with it. As he says, nothing embodies the growing edge better than a newborn — or, I’d say, a very young child.

A wonderful and interesting article from PARKER J. PALMER. Click here for more.

Relaxation & stressless

Stress is one reason people report relapsing and using substances/intoxicants. I’ve been teaching a stress less/relaxation class for years and below is one the handouts that participants report is most helpful.:

Change the situation: Avoid – Alter. Change your reaction: Adapt – Accept

1. Avoid unnecessary stress

Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed.

Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them.

Avoid people who stress you out –Limit the amount of time you spend with people that cause you stress.

Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off.

Avoid hot-button topics –If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.

Pare down your to-do list –If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.”

2. Alter the situation

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future.

Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way.
Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same.

Be more assertive. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them.

Manage your time better. Plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself.

3. Adapt to the stressor

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective.

Look at the big picture. Will it matter in a month, or a year?

Adjust your standards. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”

Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts.

4. Accept what you can’t change

Some sources of stress are unavoidable, in such cases; the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.

Look for the upside. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth.

Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist.

Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes.