Meditation sounds like a great idea from the perspective of a psychiatrist: Anything that calms and focuses the mind is a good thing (and without pharmaceuticals, even better).
Personally, I tried transcendental meditation as a kid (more to do with my mother than with me) and found it to be boring. I have trouble keeping my thoughts still. They wander to what I want for dinner, and should I write about this on Shrink Rap, and will Clink and Victor ever eat crabcakes with me again, and did I remember to give my last patient informed consent, and a zillion other things. Holding my thoughts still is work.
The New York Times Well blog has an article on meditation and brain changes. In “How Meditation May Change the Brain,” Sindya N. Bhanoo writes:
The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.
M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.
Lower stress, lower blood pressure, higher empathy. I may have to give meditation another try.
*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*
“This job is killing me” is not a statement of jest. It is a desperate plea of outright sincerity.
Stress, anxiety, depression — all have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. But can interventions to help people cope with stress positively affect longevity and decrease risk of dying? The results of a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine would imply the answer is an encouraging “yes.”
Constructively dealing with stress is easier said than done, but it would seem logical that if we can reduce our psychological and social stressors we might live longer and delay the inevitable wear and tear on our vessels. This study proved that one such intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for patients who suffered a first heart attack, lowered the risk of fatal and nonfatal recurrent cardiovascular disease events by 41 percent over eight years. Nonfatal heart attacks were almost cut in half. Excitement may be dampened by the fact that all-cause mortality did not statistically differ between the intervention and control groups, but did trend towards an improvement in the eight years of follow up.
Definitely less suffering. Maybe less deaths.
The authors state that psychosocial stressors have been shown to account for an astounding 30 percent of the attributable risk of having a heart attack. Chronic stressors include low socioeconomic status, low social support, marital problems, and work distress. Emotional factors also correlated with cardiovascular disease include major depression, hostility, anger, and anxiety. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*
Miguel Bruns Alonso, a graduate student at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, has developed a pen that detects how much twitching and twirling it’s being put through.
People under stress tend to move and shake a pen more than someone who is calm. In order to try to get a therapeutic effect out of the pen, Bruns built in counter motion feedback that makes the pen a bit more difficult to move around. Though initial experiments have shown a marginal benefit, further studies and development may prove the benefit of the technology. From TU Delft:
Bruns, who studies industrial design, carried out various experiments during the course of his research, which showed that people tend to play with their pens in their hands when they are tense. It also seems that when they are encouraged to check these nervous movements, or make more gentle movements, it is possible to gain more control over a situation. “Sensors in a pen could provide an unobtrusive way of measuring stress levels. Giving users the right feedback could then help them deal with their stress in a constructive way,” says Bruns. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*