News Roundup: Mindfulness



Not so long ago, mindfulness was not very well known or understood. Thanks, in part, to an ever expanding body of research, we continue to learn more about the many mental and physical benefits of mindfulness. 


This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts discussing mindfulness.


Mindfulness Training Improves Resilience Of Active-Duty SoldiersHuffington Post.  “According to a new University of Miami study, a brief mindfulness meditation exercise aimed at staying focused on the present moment can help active-duty soldiers prepare for combat, improving performance and cognitive resilience.”


Escape The Emotional Eating CyclePsychology Today.  “Acceptance techniques teach you how to allow yourself to feel a normal range of human emotions while focusing on engaging in behavior that is consistent with your goals and values, without trying to change or control your emotions. In other words, acceptance skills help teach you how to get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable.”


Mindfulness Meditation Can Help You Fall (And Stay) AsleepHuffington Post.  “"According to our findings, mindfulness meditation appears to have a role in addressing the prevalent burden of sleep problems among older adults," the study's authors wrote.”


This is Your Brain on Mindfulness Training. Futurity.  “By understanding how mindfulness training affects different diseases and disorders, researchers will be able to develop better interventions, know when certain treatments will work most effectively and identify people likely to benefit from mindfulness training.”



Mindful Eating

Not only can mindfulness help reduce stress and improve mood, but it can also help you become more aware of your eating habits and food intake.  There are many ways you can incorporate mindfulness techniques into your everyday routine to help you become more aware of your eating behaviors.  Mindful eating can also be a helpful tool in managing your weight loss or weight maintenance goals. 

Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily do on auto pilot. It is a systematic approach to our own inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight. These capacities not only help us change our behavior and habits, but can significantly enhance our quality of life. 

Mindful eating begins with learning how to listen and react to your body. Are you actually hungry or are you craving that cookie because you’re bored? Taking a more mindful approach to eating means tuning in to your body’s cues so you know when to start and stop eating by listening to your body.

Next time you sit down for a meal, use these 5 steps recommended by Dr. Susan Albers to guide your mindful approach to eating.

  1. Aware. Being aware of your food means noting the flavor present in each bite. When you are aware, you are fully noticing the qualities of each food rather than mindlessly chewing.
  2. Savor. Savoring food means paying attention to the unique details of each food. Notice the texture, aroma, and flavor. Is it sweet, crunchy, or spicy?   
  3. Observe.  Notice the different between when you are truly hungry and when you are craving food out of boredom or stress.  Listen to your body’s cues. Is your stomach growling? Do you feel low energy? Or perhaps you are feeling full and become aware that it’s time to stop eating.
  4. In the moment. Being in the moment means taking the time to sit down and eat without any distractions. No TV, no cell phone….just enjoying your meal. 
  5. NonjudgementAllow feelings (good or bad) to come into your mind and pass peacefully. Try not to focus on rigid rules or let guilt weight you down. For example, if you are feeling stressed and craving a cookie, acknowledge that you are stressed and that it’s ok to feel stressed. 

5 numbers that can Improve your Health and Fitness

7 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Just 7 minutes of HIIT can have a positive impact on cardiovascular fitness, insulin regulation, body weight, body fat, and metabolism.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), HIIT can boost metabolism and accelerate weight loss. During HIIT, a person consumes more oxygen than in slower, distance-based exercise, therefore causing an increase in post-exercise metabolism. Research has shown one session of HIIT can burn calories for 1.5 - 24 hours after exercise.  This boost in metabolism in combination with increased muscle mass and decreased body fat, contributes to the efficacy of HIIT as a tool for weight loss.

This type of brief, but intense exercise has also been shown to reduce insulin resistance.  One study found that short bouts of high intensity exercise performed three times per week for 15 weeks was associated with significant reductions in leg, abdominal, and total body fat, and insulin resistance in young women. 

Functionally, HIIT can also improve athletic performance.  The results of a study published in 2013 demonstrated that short term, high intensity sprint intervals are just as effective as traditional endurance training regarding muscle exercise and performance.

All in all, HITT yields many of the same health benefits as distance or endurance training, but you don’t have to exercise as long and most of it can be done with body weight alone. Although 7 minutes is the minimum amount of time required to attain benefits from HIIT, in order to meet recommendations for daily physical activity, it is recommended that you repeat the 7 minutes workout 3-4 times. If you’re low on time, try breaking up each segment throughout the day.

Try it.  Here are some ideas to help get you started.  

25 minutes of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the age old practice of being present in the moment, free of judgment or worry.  One study published in the journal of psychoneuroendocrinology, found that after just 3 days, participants who mindfully meditated for 25 minutes experienced reduced levels of perceived stress compared to those who did not meditate.  Another study demonstrates that mindfulness contributes to not only feeling less stressed, but actually having less of the stress hormone cortisol present in the body.  Mindfulness has also been shown to improve operational performance and ability to handle and recover from stress in Marines who received mindfulness training before deployment. 

Mindful eating, the practice of a slower, more thoughtful way of eating may help support weight loss goals by decreasing inattentive eating and instead focusing on the more sensual experience of eating (color, taste, flavor, etc.).  What’s the icing on the cake?  Mindfulness can also help you sleep better at night according to a study from the University of Utah.  The authors stated “people who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day. In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress.” Mindfulness has also been linked with improved sleep for Veteran’s with Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD). 

Try it.  Tips to help get you started  

6 hours.  To Maximize both Time Asleep and Quality of Sleep, Avoid Caffeine 6 hours Prior to Sleep

Are you one of the many Americans that are not getting enough sleep?  Consuming caffeine too late in the day may be a part of the problem.  One study compared the effects of 400 mg caffeine administered at 0, 3, and 6 hours prior to bedtime.  The results demonstrated that caffeine had significantly affected both sleep duration and quality of sleep when taken up to 6 hours prior to bedtime.   The authors stated that “The magnitude of reduction in total sleep time suggests that caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep and provides empirical support for sleep hygiene recommendations to refrain from substantial caffeine use for a minimum of 6 hours prior to bedtime.”

Being mindful of caffeine consumption is especially important for teenagers to keep in mind. Recent data show that 37% of youth report first use of caffeine during the day at 5:00 pm or later.  What’s their caffeine source of choice?  Soda. 

Try it.  Keep an eye out for coffee and other caffeine containing food and drinks preferred by teens like chocolate and energy drinks.   

5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables per Day 

An apple (or 5) a day really does keep the doctor away.  Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day is linked with lower risk of death from any cause but especially cardiovascular disease.  Nutritionally, fruits and vegetables tend to be lower in cholesterol and fat, and higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals in comparison to other food groups.  These qualities lend to the ability of fruits and vegetables to positively impact risk for cardiovascular disease.  The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, designed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy.  Clinical trial results indicate the effectiveness of this type of high fruit and vegetable diet in lowering blood pressure. 

Try it.  Tips for eating more fruits and vegetables. 

5 minutes of Gratitude.

You will be amazed at what 5 minutes of grateful thinking can do for your body and mind.  Research has shown that an increase in gratitude is associated with increased time spent exercising, increased overall life satisfaction, and increased amounts of happiness in addition to decreased instances of depression and headache occurrences. Those who practice gratitude are also more likely to have positive social relationships and physical health, especially regarding stress and sleep.  Sleep quality and quantity and sleep latency (time to fall asleep) are all positively affected by gratitude.  Simply shifting your thoughts from things you are unhappy about to thoughts of the things you are thankful for can have a significant positive impact.

To demonstrate the positive effect of gratitude, one study asked participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.  One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

You may be wondering“what’s the difference between mindfulness and gratitude?” Gratitude is thankfulness, or appreciation. A positive attitude or acknowledgement of the good within and around you. Mindfulness is a moment to moment awareness, purposefully paying attention in a nonjudgmental, accepting way. This awareness lends itself to compassion and gratitude to both ourselves and the world around us.   

Try it.  How to practice gratitude.