Mindfulness & Positive States of Mind
Thank you for telling me about your experience of optimism. I'm smiling with you in this. We all appreciate our positive states of mind, don't we? It's such an important question. How can we support our happiness?
Even though outer problems may continue (they often do!), we want practical, realistic ways to develop positive states of mind from within. Self-care for our inner world.
But is that really possible? What is truly effective? How can we support our natural capacity for positive states of mind?
Science can help answer this question. Good science shows us: What has worked for other people?
In the following 2 studies, researchers investigate: How can I live with a calmer mind? How can I be more relaxed?
CALMER CLEARER MIND?
Science tells us that “excessive worry is very common in older adults… it often co-occurs with cognitive impairment… it can lead to late-life depression and anxiety disorders…. data suggest that excess worry itself may cause cognitive dysfunction in older adults.”
These scientists advertised for older people who were feeling concerned about their own worrying and anxious feelings. Then the researchers invited them to participate in an 8-week group program of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction).
Eventually 34 people, aged 65+, signed on. Before attending the first session, they completed various psychological and cognitive tests.
After the MBSR program ended, participants repeated these tests, and then followed-up for more testing, at 3 and 6 months later.
All their cognitive tests showed improved results — and 4 out of the 7 tests registered ‘highly significant’ improvements in cognitive functioning.
The psychological tests also showed much improvement. Results indicated that participants now had ‘significantly reduced’ levels of worry — repeated testing showed that their reduced levels of worry continued for months after the program ended.
These tests seem to show participants were now living with a calmer, clearer mind.
It’s not surprising that, at 6-month follow-up, the great majority said they had been continuing with their favorite MBSR practices. They especially liked ‘mindful breathing’.
In this study 21 doctors participated in an MBSR program — 57% were women.Their average age was 47 years. These doctors were healthy, and most had been in medical practice for years. None were receiving psychiatric or psychological treatment. But they had common concerns about ‘burn out'.
The researchers tested for 4 different types of 'Relaxation state'. Here's their explanation:
“Relaxation states (R-States) seem to fall into four categories: basic relaxation(sleepy, physically relaxed, disengaged, mentally relaxed, rested/refreshed), positive energy (energized, happy, thankful/loving, optimistic), core mindfulness (quiet mind, aware, acceptance, flow), and transcendence (awe and wonder, prayerful, reverent, mystery, timeless...).
The participants completed standard psychological tests before beginning MBSR. Researchers also measured their resting heart rate.
After they ended the MBSR program, all participants were tested again. These tests showed:
"More positive emotional states, such as: increased feelings of ease/peace, renewal, energy, optimism, happiness, acceptance, and even transcendence."
Most participants continued some type of daily MBSR practice.
At a 10-month follow-up meeting, their psychological tests registered even higher levels of positive emotion and transcendent states. Researchers were surprised to see that their psychology was continuing to improve even months after they had ended the MBSR program.
With MBSR, they had learned an effective self-care way to avoid burn out and live with more positive feelings and 'transcendent' states. The doctors said they were “feeling more personal competence and well-being at work”…. and they felt increased "understanding and communication with patients”…
As well, their average resting heart rate was found to be significantly decreased … and this slower heart rate continued even at the 10-month follow-up.
Note: A lower resting heart rate usually indicates lower stress levels. MBSR seems to have helped these doctors reduce chronic stress. This relaxed the effect of stress on the heart! Even the heart was more relaxed!
To your natural happiness!
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for older adults with worry symptoms and co-occurring cognitive dysfunction
Eric J. Lenze, M.D. et al; Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 October
Enhancing relaxation states and positive emotions in physicians through a mindfulness training program: A one-year study
Alberto Amutio et al; Psychology, Health & Medicine, 2015