Nice article from the Times of India, citing research using Yoga Asanas: Among the many clinical researches being conducted at Nimhans , one involved patients of an old-age home who were exposed to six months of yoga therapy. MRI scans taken before and after showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory index. “It was larger than before because the grey matter had increased. The results will be published in a scientific journal shortly ,” adds Gangadhar. The hippocampus is vulnerable to stress and atrophy is seen in patients of schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression. “Yoga acts as an antidepressant ,” he says. Read the entire article here.
I often work with groups using lists. In movement therapy as well as psychotherapy, educational and process oriented groups lists are a great structure for groups to explore thoughts, and/or feelings. Here is a list that often comes up in groups ten suggestions about feelings.
1. Become emotionally literate. Label your feelings, rather than labeling people or situations.
Use three word sentences beginning with “I feel”.
Start labeling feelings; stop labeling people & situations
“I feel impatient.” vs “This is ridiculous.” I feel hurt and bitter”. vs. “You are an insensitive jerk.”
“I feel afraid.” vs. “You are driving like an idiot.”
2. Distinguish between thoughts and feelings.
Thoughts: I feel like…& I feel as if…. & I feel that
Feelings: I feel: (feeling word)
3. Take more responsibility for your feelings.
“I feel jealous.” vs. “You are making me jealous.”
Analyze your own feelings rather than the action or motives of other people. Let your feelings help you identify your unmet emotional needs.
4. Use your feelings to help make decisions
“How will I feel if I do this?” “How will I feel if I don’t?”
“How do I feel?” “What would help me feel better?”
Ask others “How do you feel?” and “What would help you feel better?”
5. Use feelings to set and achieve goals
– Set feeling goals. Think about how you want to feel or how you want others to feel. (your employees, your clients, your students, your children, your partner)
– Get feedback and track progress towards the feeling goals by periodically measuring feelings from 0-10. For example, ask clients, students, teenagers how much they feel respected from 0 to 10.
6. Feel energized, not angry.
Use what others call “anger” to help feel energized to take productive action.
7. Validate other people’s feelings.
Show empathy, understanding, and acceptance of other people’s feelings.
8. Use feelings to help show respect for others.
How will you feel if I do this? How will you feel if I don’t? Then listen and take their feelings into consideration.
9. Don’t advise, command, control, criticize, judge or lecture to others.
Instead, try to just listen with empathy and non-judgment.
10. Avoid people who invalidate you.
While this is not always possible, at least try to spend less time with them, or try not to let them have psychological power over you.
When we come out of the womb and take our first inhale and when we pass away and take our last exhale the breath is primal and fundamental to are being.
Since breathing is something we can control and regulate, it is a useful tool for achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. Here are some simple breathing exercises:
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.
After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able, not exceeding 7)
Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with relaxation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations not by inhaling more air but through completely exhaling it.
Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breaths and try to breathe at a rate of one breath every 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute). At this rate our heart rate variability increases which has a positive effect on cardiac health.
Once you feel comfortable with the above technique, you may want to incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. Examples would be to say to yourself the word, relaxation (with inhalation) and stress or anger (with exhalation). The idea being to bring in the feeling/emotion you want with inhalation and release those you don’t want with exhalation.
In general, exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation. The use of the hands on the chest and abdomen are only needed to help you train your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into the abdomen, they are no longer needed.
I have been practicing meditation since the mid-70’s and started a mindfulness meditation practice in the mid-90’s. Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now. It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present.
Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present. It’s hard to put these thing away and concentrate on the task at hand.
I started teaching mindfulness to patients a few years ago and often used the following as a hand out:
Mindfulness has to do with states of mind. Reason Mind, Emotion Mind, and Wise Mind. Reason Mind is your rational, thinking, logical mind. It plans and evaluates things logically. It is your “cool” part. Reasonable Mind can be very beneficial. It is easier to be in Reasonable Mind when you feel good. It is much harder to be in Reasonable Mind when you don’t feel good.
You Would Use Your Reasonable Mind To:
Build a bridge
Figure out how to double a recipe
Balance your checkbook
Figure out the fastest way from point “A” to point “B”
Emotion Mind describes times when emotions are what influence or control your thinking and behavior. Emotional Mind can also be very beneficial. Emotions are what motivate us to action. Emotions are what keep us attached to others and building relationships.
Emotion Mind can be aggravated by:
Illness, Lack Of Sleep, Tiredness, Drugs, Alcohol, Hungry, Overeating, Poor nutrition and/or lack of exercise, Environmental stress and threats, not taking your meds.
Both Emotion and Reasonable Mind Are Equally Important And Valuable
Reasonable mind gives you a way to solve your problems.
Emotion mind gives you a reason (motivation) to want to solve them.
Wise Mind is the integration of emotional and reasonable mind. Wise mind is that part of each person that can know and experience truth. It is where the person knows something to be true or valid. It is where the person knows something in a centered (balanced) way. It is almost always quiet and calm in this part of the mind.
Everyone Has A Wise Mind!
Some people have simply never experienced it.
No one is in Wise Mind all of the time.
Wise Mind – An Analogy for Wise Mind is like a deep well in the ground. The water is at the bottom of the well. The entire underground is an ocean called Wise Mind. But on the way down, there are often trap doors that stop progress. Sometimes the trap doors are so cleverly built that you actually believe that there is no water at the bottom of the well. The trap door may look like the bottom of the well. Perhaps it is locked and you need a key. Perhaps it is nailed shut and you need a hammer. Perhaps it is glued shut and you need a chisel.