Introducing Mindful Eating Within a Family

By Jan Chozen Bays, MD

baysjanJan Chozen Bays, MD, is a pediatrician and Zen teacher from Oregon. She is the author of Mindful Eating: Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food and How to Train a Wild Elephant, a collection of 53 mindfulness exercises. Jan and her colleague Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW continue to offer a 5-day Professional Training through the UCSD Center for Mindfulness entitled  ”Mindful Eating, Conscious Living” based upon their work in this field and Jan’s book.

One of the most common questions we get in our mindful eating events is how to teach mindful eating to children and practice it during family meals. The answer is for everyone to practice mindfulness while cooking and eating together as a family.

Young children have a natural internal nutritionist that tells them what and how much to eat. Little kids who are provided with a variety of foods on the tray of their high chair will eat the appropriate types and amounts of each food. The catch is that they will not eat in a balanced way in one day, but over the course of a week. We can imagine how quickly this intuitive way of eating is disrupted. Parents see that their toddler has eaten only mashed potatoes one day and applesauce the next. Worried that their child is not getting the proper amount of protein, they begin to interfere, cajoling, bribing and trying to force food into the child’s closed mouth. Research shows that by age 5, children will valiantly try to eat all of an inappropriately large helping of macaroni and cheese.

Thus begins our uniquely American habit of trying to clean our plates at “family style” restaurants where huge portions of cheap food are considered “a good deal.” We are even taught to feel guilty if we don’t eat it all and somehow worsen the situation of starving children in Africa.UCSD CFM Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a way to become reacquainted with the guidance of our internal nutritionist. How can parents introduce mindful eating to their children? Here are some suggestions.

(1)   Have at least one congenial family meal a day. If the atmosphere is relaxed and each person shares the events of the day, children learn to eat slowly and to pair eating with enjoyment and connection. Eating and anxiety are not a healthy pair. Eating and a sense of ease are.

(2)   Let children help you prepare the meal. Talk about where each item of food comes from and how the Earth, sun, rain and many people helped bring it to your table.

(3)   Begin family meals with a simple grace. It could be just holding hands briefly and bowing heads around the table in order to stop, remember and thank the many people and creatures who brought the food to the table. Pausing helps teach children not to bolt their food and run.

(4)   Experiment with new foods and drinks. Try fresh apricots, pineapple or dates. Buy something from an ethnic grocery store: persimmon, papaya, mango, kiwi, star fruit or red bananas; tamarind, guava or coconut juice. Encourage curiosity: “This is a fruit that children in (Mexico, Japan, Thailand, etc.) like to eat. Smell it. What does it smell like? Take a little bite or sip and tell me what it tastes like.” Experimentation helps children explore the vast world of different tastes and not collapse into a steady diet of boxed macaroni and canned ravioli.

(5)   Be creative with food. When one boy’s mother told him that broccoli is trees for dinosaurs to eat, he spread the story to his entire elementary school class and every kid began to enjoy eating broccoli.

(6)    Talk about the benefits each food confers. For example, milk, cheese and spinach have calcium that builds strong teeth and bones.

(7)   Play the “how full is my stomach” game. Ask children to check in with their stomachs before, halfway and at the end of a meal. Is it empty, half full, or all the way full? This helps them (and you) stay in touch with body signals of fullness and not overeat.

(8)   Avoid  talking  to kids about calorie counts or diets in restrictive ways. Research shows that girls who begin dieting as preteens have a much higher risk of eating disorders. Don’t be too rigid about junk food. If your kids have been raised on home-cooked organic food and they have a McDonald’s hamburger and cola at a birthday party, it’s not a tragedy. It’s a cross-cultural experience.

(9)    Help children discern the difference between actual physical hunger and emotions such as  boredom, fatigue and anxiety. Help them learn to work with real solutions to these emotions, using activities such as exercising, playing a game, reading a book, doing crafts, and connecting with friends.

(10) Celebrate holidays and special occasions. Let kids help with creating a party. Set the table with a tablecloth, a candle and flowers. They can make simple decorations such as hearts, stars or Easter eggs cut out of paper. When we treat ourselves as guests, we infuse the food with an important ingredient, an extra scoop of love.

(11) Everyone’s deepest hunger is for love and connection. Loving words are vital to our health. Loving words are a way to feed the heart that does not involve food. If you want your family and friends to feel well nourished, give them generous helpings of genuine expressions of gratitude and affectionate words. “I really appreciate your …”  “When I am with you I feel …”

Mindful eating in a family means making a good mixture of these basic ingredients: eating as a family, pausing, slowing down, having fun, experimenting, being curious, exploring new tastes, and bringing the flavors of kindness and love to your meals.

Join Jan Chozen Bays, MD and Char Wilkens for a A 5-day Mindful Eating, Conscious Living (MECL) Professional Training Retreat April 29-May 4, 2014, at Great Vow Monastery, Clatskanie, OR.

Locally in San Diego, we invite you to join Allan Goldstein and Megan Leuchars for our 8-Week Mindful Eating Program beginning Monday, March 17, 2014, 6:30-8:30 p.m, at our University City location.

Free Gift Offered to Students and Lifelong Learners: “A Mindful Way to Study: Dancing With Your Books”

by Jake J. Gibbs and Roddy O. Gibbs

The Mindful Way to StudyAs a way of expressing gratitude to the mindfulness in education community and in preparation for the upcoming Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference, Jake and Roddy Gibbs are offering The Mindful Way to Study: Dancing With Your Books FREE on January 16, 17, and 18 as part of an Amazon Kindle Promotion.

“The ability to pay attention is a key component of effective learning. Just think of all the times in your life when parents, teachers, bosses, and coaches have told you to pay attention to what you are doing. You would think that with all of the attention paid to paying attention, we would be pretty good at it. The problem is we’re not, because most of us have never been taught how.

Commonly adopted methods like forced concentration are actually counterproductive to learning and achieving our goals. In addition, too much focus on future goals and rewards takes our attention away from what we need to be doing in order to achieve them. Luckily, there is another way, a better way: the mindful way.

The Mindful Way To Study: Dancing With Your Books is a guide to help students, professionals, and other lifelong learners develop a better approach to their educational and career pursuits. By using mindfulness, or the practice of bringing full awareness to the present moment, the authors blend the latest research with entertaining stories and specific techniques to teach readers how to truly pay attention, and even learn to enjoy it.”

More from Jake and Roddy can be found at:
Website: http://www.mindfulwaytostudy.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mindfulwaytostudy
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mindfulstudy

Roddy Gibbs may be contacted directly at 724-422-6237

Join February’s Unconference: Sitting in a circle and talking about what’s really alive for people

by  Susan Kaiser Greenland

kaisergreenlandsusanSusan Kaiser Greenland, JD, Author, Educator, is the developer and co-founder of the Inner Kids mindful awareness program for children, teens and their families. She is author of The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate (Free Press, 2010).

Mega_XX_Orange_WEB_SIZE

Have you heard that 2014 will usher in an era of mindful living? It must be true because J. Walter Thompson, a giant advertising agency with considerable qualitative, quantitative and desk research prowess, has identified the top 10 trends for 2014 and mindful living is tenth on the list. What’s more, mindfulness is implicit in several of the top 10 trends. In keeping with this year’s second trend “Do You Speak Visual?” here’s a video teaser:

It’s a funny video and so is characterizing mindfulness as a new trend given its ancient roots in the East and, through Pop icons like Alan Watts, the Beat poets, John Lennon and George Harrison, its decades old roots in the Western zeitgeist. But there’s no denying that mindfulness has become trendy and with popularization insiders are both happy and concerned. If you’re curious about the positive aspects of the growing mindfulness movement check out Mindful Magazine published by seasoned veterans in the field and, if you’re interested in insiders’ concerns, read Ron Purser and David Loy’s Huffington Post article Beyond McMindfulness.

The trendiness of mindfulness has created an explosion of interest in sharing it with children, teens and families and not unlike popularization itself, growing interest in kids’ mindfulness has created it’s own set of plusses and minuses. Last year, Amy Saltzman and Steve Hickman reached out to Mark Greenberg and me to ask if we’d join them in hosting a symposium connected with this year’s Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference at UCSD. Together we polled a handful of our colleagues and were especially struck by the following three responses:

* From Chris McKenna with Mindful Schools: “We are looking for issues that are really alive for people and not just theoretical.”

* From Lisa Flook a scientist with The University of Wisconsin, Madison: “How do we engage mindfully (with heartfulness and skillfulness) together and what are mechanisms for explicitly addressing this ongoing group process?”

* From Wynn Kinder with Wellness Works: “ Collaboration and cooperation are messy.”

bridging2014badgeWe went back to the drawing board and the symposium morphed into an Unconference with this Native American adage in mind: “In the circle, we are all equal. When in the circle, no one is in front of you. No one is behind you. No one is above you. No one is below you”.  Steve carved out a morning for mindfulness veterans, newcomers, and those in-between to sit in a circle and (borrowing from Chris) talk about what’s “really alive for them.” We chose this format with professional group facilitators to ensure the “mindful, heartful and skillful process” that Lisa highlights in her comments above. And, we promise to remember Wynn’s prompt that “collaboration and cooperation are messy”.

Here how the Unconference morning will break down:

* The 1440 Foundation has generously underwritten a significant portion of the event including breakfast starting at 7am.

* We’re honored that Sharon Salzberg will lead a meditation at 8:30am.

* Small, facilitated groups will meet for an hour and a half.

* We’ll conclude with a panel discussion moderated by Mark Greenberg.

Like much of the cutting-edge and field development work that’s happening in the mindfulness world, the Bridging the Hearts and Minds Unconference wouldn’t be possible without a generous grant from the 1440 Foundation.

Veterans slated to join our working circles include Sharon Salzberg from IMS, Mark Greenberg and Christa Turksma from CARE, Jim Gimian and Barry Boyce from Mindful Magazine, Vinny Ferraro and Megan Cowan from Mindful Schools, Lisa Flook from University of Wisconsin, Madison, Randye Semple with USC and UCLA, Lidia Zylowska co-founder UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Wynne Kinder from Wellness Works, Chris Willard who wrote A Child’s Mind, Rona Wilensky, Lesley Grant with Marin Mindfulness, Amy Saltzman from Still Quiet Place, Steve Hickman with UCSD and me.

We hope you’ll join us.

The Unconference will be held on the morning of February 7, 2014.  For more information and to register visit the UCSD website.

Conference Keynote Speaker Daniel J. Siegel, Neuropsychiatrist, on Why Our Teenagers Feel Compelled to Connect on Social Media

by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. republished from The Huffington Post , Dec. 30, 2013

n-TEENS-TEXTING-large570

bridgingTile_forUCSDWe are inviting you to start the new year by reading this insightful post on the effects of social media from Dr. Daniel Siegel  (author of the forthcoming book (Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain). Hear, see, and meet him at this year’s Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference! Dan will offer a keynote talk on Saturday afternoon following the regular sessions. The general public will be able to purchase tickets to hear his talk, and attendance will be free for conference registrants.

In these fast and furious days of digital overload, we parents often worry about our teenagers’ interactions with one another on social media. Who hasn’t seen a teenager deeply absorbed with a smartphone or breaking off a face-to-face conversation to take a picture for their friends on Snapchat? With heads down and screens lit up, watching our teens plug in can feel confusing, disappointing and even like rejection to us.

It can, however, be helpful to realize that the teen years are a time of incredibly important brain changes. Changes that drive an adolescent to turn toward peers rather than to the parents they leaned on for support during their childhood years.

In one way, it’s simply evolution: Throughout history, adolescents banded together to find safety in numbers as they moved out into the world, a world that was unfamiliar, uncertain and unsafe.

That world remains risky, even with all the advantages that modern gadgets provide us to map out our routes and pinpoint our coordinates. But to leave home and feel safe, we need to belong to other teens on the same journey. As teenagers, we are compelled to turn towards one another.

In order to get ready to leave the home nest, adolescents seek out membership in groups of other adolescents in order not only to feel good, but to survive. And feeling connected to others doesn’t just seem crucial to contemporary teenagers. In fact, the very engrained genetic programming of our brains gives us a feeling that connection is a matter of life and death.

Understandably then, social media can become a modern medium of connection that is deeply compelling for adolescents.

Here’s the great news: Social media provides a way for our evolved (and evolving) teenagers to find that connection in one another. That’s because social media actually provides the opportunity for creating relationships, and even can promote more face-to-face time.

Our traveling son, headed out to a new country without any contacts, checked on Facebook and found some college classmates headed to exactly the same town — with a spare room in their rented apartment! Years ago, when we traveled, such a connection would have been impossible to create.

While this medium may not be right for all teens, especially those with social challenges like anxiety, phobia or communication difficulties such as those on the autistic spectrum, some studies suggest that social media actually enhances positive relationships in adolescence — as it did for our son. And these relationships not only influence us, supportive relationships actually create health in our lives. Isn’t that something we all want for our adolescents? (And, yes, for ourselves too!)

Indeed, many of the changes in the remodeling adolescent brain can be seen to support a drive to explore novelty and to take risks, just like it encourages teenagers to make and sustain social connections. These adolescent changes are not signs of immaturity, but signs of preparation.

The emotional spark and social engagement, the novelty seeking, the courage and creativity of adolescence all have downsides and upsides, but the essence of these changes is to prepare for the transition between childhood dependence and adult responsibility. And social media may just be a modern means to make us become more deeply social and even more fulfilled in our lives.

Instead of viewing their behavior as impulsive or irresponsible, we can now see the adolescent period as one of wonderful transformation, of needed exploration of a new and changing world. The key is how to best make these vital means of social connection deeper, more meaningful and more likely to cultivate a sense of well-being in all our lives.

In the Wisdom 2.0 meeting held in Northern California each year, these are the very issues we toss around in our in-person meetings. You should see the pre-meeting buzz on social media channels that gets us all connected and primed to engage with each other face-to-face!

Together, we can cultivate a new conversation in our culture about how to make the most of these channels of communication, our collective effort to create media with meaning.

Brainstorm_Cover_LGLearn more about ways to communicate with your teen in Dan’s new book Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain available on January 7, 2014.

Like Dr. Dan Siegel on Facebook
Follow @DrDanSiegel on Twitter (#Brainstorm)

“Bridging” Conference Keynote Speaker Daniel J. Siegel, Neuropsychiatrist, on the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

by Molly Petrilla republished from Smart Planet, Dec.7, 2013

Photo: Son of Groucho/Flickr

Group of Teens

Siegel unravels the courage and creativity of adolescents — and reveals that teens are both impulsive and hyper-rational.

Teenagers don’t have the best reputation. They’re often called reckless and immature or written off as self-obsessed adult-haters. But as neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel watched his own kids make their way through adolescence, something occurred to him: This was nothing like all those pop-culture stereotypes.

When he couldn’t find a book written for adolescents about the changes happening in their brains, Siegel decided to write his own. He began looking into the science behind the teenage brain and “I was shocked to find the disparity between what science was saying and what popular views of adolescence are,” he says. “Then I thought, maybe this book should be for adults, too.”

The result was Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, which will be released later this month and is aimed at both teenage and adult readers. Several weeks before its publication date, the book was already ranked the second highest-selling book in Amazon’s parenting-of-teenagers subcategory — but Siegel is no stranger to bestsellers. A psychiatry professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, he has already written several of them, including The Developing Mind and The Whole-Brain Child.

He recently spoke with us about the brain during adolescence — a period that spans ages 12 to 24 — and explained why he says, with complete confidence, that “the reason we’ve populated every aspect of the planet is because of the courage of adolescents.”

Taking the second half of your subtitle first: What is the purpose of the teenage brain?

DrDanSiegelDr. Dan Siegel (James Reese)

Going from the dependency of childhood to the responsibility of adulthood requires not just a leap, but a transformation. The brain needs a transformative time to prepare for that. At a species level, for us to adapt to everyone on the planet, you can’t just accept what the current adult population has learned and transmitted to you in your childhood. You’ve got to push away from that and start thinking in new ways. For the individual, at a very basic level, there need to be changes in the brain that allow you to leave home and start changing out the combinations of genes so we diversify the gene pool. If you remain in the role of dependent child, you’ll never figure out how to approach dangers and challenges while you’re doing all this. It’s a time where you have to court danger and take risks so you’re ready for adulthood.

In Brainstorm you talk about four major aspects of the teenage brain, all of which seem geared toward those broader purposes. What are those aspects?

I love acronyms, and I call this one ESSENCE. ES is emotional spark. The lower parts of the nervous system rise up and affect the higher part of the brain — the cortex — which gives us this passion and vitality. The SE is social engagement. The brain is literally programmed to start having you turn to your peers rather than your parents and engage socially with your peer group. The brain’s change in dopamine drives you to experience novelty [N] as very rewarding, and that allows you to go out and take risks. And CE is creative expression. The brain is achieving new levels of complexity that open the mind up to creatively exploring the nature of reality in a new way.

Digging into that last one, you write that adolescence is “a golden age for innovation” and “the gateway to creative thinking.” Why is that?

When adolescence comes, we’re programmed from an evolutionary point of view to push away from the status quo. In concrete terms, we push away from our parents and parent figures. But from a more abstract sense, we start imagining the worlds that don’t quite exist yet. Those are the sources of creativity: this push against what exists to not only think out of the box but to actually re-imagine the world. If you look at the data even in science, which is a hard field, a lot of the new ideas come from people in their adolescence. That’s true in art and music, too, and obviously in technology.

How does ESSENCE apply to adults? Is it something we can hold on to through life, or at least reclaim now that we know about it?

The ESSENCE of adolescence is something you don’t ever have to let go of, but if you have and now you need to reclaim it, there are things you can do. To get your emotional spark back, I would suggest using mind-training practices to enhance your awareness of non-verbal signals that arise from your body. You also get used to the familiar and the routine as an adult. To bring back novelty, simply try new things; introduce new things into your life on purpose.

You also write that it’s inaccurate to dismiss adolescents as simply impulsive. In fact, you say that they can actually be too rational when making risky decisions.

The research term is hyper-rational thinking. It’s related to the idea that the appraisal centers of your brain highlight and emphasize and amplify the meaning and significance and import of a positive aspect of an experience. If I’m going to drive a car 100 miles an hour, it would be how thrilling that will be. The potential cons — I could crash into a tree, I could kill someone, I could kill myself — are minimized. When you hyper-rationally do your calculation, you say that the chances are very likely everything will be fine. There may be a five percent chance I’ll crash but a 95 percent chance I won’t. Sadly, the hyper-rational thinking accurately assess probabilities, but it de-emphasizes the severity of the negative outcome, simply because there’s only a slight chance it will happen.

What are some of the other major myths you discovered about adolescence?

One is that to grow up, adolescents need to be totally independent of adults. In fact, adolescents need adults in their lives. We don’t have much in the structure of modern society that provides trusted, non-parental adult figures that the adolescent — whose brain is naturally pushing away from parent figures — can turn to during this transformative period of life. We need to rethink that as a society.

I also disagree with the belief that adolescence is this horrible time of life that you just have to get through. I think the courage to creatively explore the world is an untapped resource for humanity. If we don’t work together to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems with the help of adolescent minds, then we’re not going to do so well.

Is there something that still puzzles you about the teenage brain, even after writing a book about it?

So many things! Mostly there are fundamental questions about how we can reach individuals entering the adolescent period to minimize danger to themselves or others. We need to really think deeply about how to develop communities of support for teens.

bridging2014badge

The 2014 Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference is pleased to announce the welcome addition of Dr. Daniel Siegel (author of the forthcoming book Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain). Dan will offer a keynote talk on Saturday afternoon following the regular sessions. The general public will be able to purchase tickets to hear his talk, and attendance will be free for conference registrants.

Compassion Cultivation Training: Read How One Teacher Is Creating A More Compassionate World

by Sara Schairer

SaraCompassion Cultivation Training (CCT) helped me create more ‘space’ with myself and when dealing with others. Space = patience, acceptance, better listening and more awareness.” -Recent CCT student

What is CCT? According to the course creators at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education:

Compassion Cultivation Training is an eight-week educational program designed to help you improve your resilience and feel more connected to others—ultimately providing an overall sense of well-being. CCT combines traditional contemplative practices with contemporary psychology and scientific research to help you lead a more compassionate life. Through instruction, daily meditation, mindfulness, and in-class interaction, you can strengthen the qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness.”

Becoming a certified teacher of CCT was not a walk in the park. It took well over a year for me to complete the teacher-training program. My classmates and I attended retreats each quarter, and on top of that we learned about compassion through quarter-long classes at Stanford (Science of Compassion, Philosophical Perspectives of Compassion and Perspectives on the Practice of Teaching).  I taught the full eight-week CCT course under supervision as my final task this past fall.

My heart swells with joy as I reflect back on leading my first group of students through the CCT journey. Individuals from all walks of life came together, because they were curious about cultivating compassion for themselves and for others. We explored how to view the world through a compassionate lens that doesn’t discriminate or judge, and we talked about why sometimes that seems like an impossible feat.

At the end of the eight weeks, I truly felt like my students learned valuable tools that helped them to be present with suffering. Because we’re human, we often run away when see someone suffering, or we put up imaginary walls and pretend it doesn’t exist. This is especially the case when we, personally, experience suffering. Thanks to CCT, my students and I are better-equipped to stay put with suffering and offer compassion to ourselves and others.

Below are two of the many positive comments I received from my Compassion Cultivation Training students.

“The common humanity experience helped me so much. I’m changing the way I see my life, the world and all people – they are ‘just like me.’”

“The bottom line is that when I feel irritated or judgmental of myself or another, I invite myself to practice lovingkindness toward myself and then the other. Powerful!”

self-compassion-smNeedless to say, I’m chomping at the bit to teach my next class in January at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

Because compassion is my passion, I try my best to lead my classes with energy, warmth and compassion (with some humor thrown in there, too). I truly hope to teach CCT to as many people as possible, because I believe my students are able to lead by example and share their own compassionate wisdom with others. This ripple effect could be tremendous for our world.

Sara Schairer is the founder and CEO of COMPASSION IT, a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions. She invented the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT bracelet that is now creating compassionate actions on six continents, 40+ countries and nearly all 50 states. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives and pursue their passions. Sara teaches Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness

Help our Center’s Scholarship Fund with a Mindful Gift this Holiday Season.

MINDgiftcover“Mindful is a new magazine giving voice to the mindfulness movement. It’s for everyone who wants to learn how to live with more awareness and fulfillment – a goal that we share. Subscribe ($19.95/year) and Mindful will donate $10 to the UCSD Center for Mindfulness

eMindful Introduces QuitSmart® Mindfully A Successful Tobacco Cessation Study

site_logoSmokers pay dearly for their habit: their health, fun, relationships, and even their life. We also know that most adult smokers want to quit – more than 69% according to the CDC. Yet most smoking cessation programs don’t work over the long-term. In fact, smokers will try to quit an average of seven times. These statistics alone are why we want to let you know about a new mindfulness-based program: QuitSmart Mindfully which is a tobacco cessation program developed in collaboration with eMindful and Dr. Robert Shipley, Director of the Duke Medical Center Stop Smoking Clinic.

eMindful is offering the program for the first time in November 2013 and it will be taught by eMindful’s senior instructor, Jim Austin. QuitSmart Mindfully consists of 12 classes conducted in eMindful’s live, online classroom (where participants see, hear, speak to, and interact with both the instructor and other course participants) over a seven-week time frame

cfmcolorlogomed copy 2The November QuitSmart Mindfully course will be utilized to collect pre- and post-course data about the success of this program and to coincide with the Great American Smokeout. Through our UCSD CFM blog, the course is available at a deeply discounted rate of $125 (normally $395). Included in the course tuition is the QuitSmart® Kit, which includes an informative guidebook, a relaxing hypnosis CD, and a patented cigarette substitute. 

The new program is based on the highly successful QuitSmart® program: A study at five U.S. Air Force bases showed an impressive 66% quit rate after six months, which proved two to four times more effective than other smoking cessation methods. The program has also produced impressive success rates in studies published in Veterans Health System Journal and Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

QuitSmart Mindfully integrates a significant mindfulness practice component.  The study will assess its ability to help participants:

·      Ease off nicotine.

·      Enhance coping skills by practicing acceptance of cravings, stress and emotional distress, rather than avoidance.

·      See themselves as comfortable nonsmokers rather than as smokers deprived of cigarettes.

·      Develop the respect for their bodies that naturally leads to freedom from cigarettes.

·      Break the smoking habit.

If you, or someone you know, would like to take advantage of QuitSmart Mindfully’s efficacy study, please click the following link to register: http://www.emindful.com/quitsmart-mindfully

Can Mindfulness Make Us Better Teachers?

By Vicki Zakrzewski | October 2, 2013 Republished by permission of the Greater Good Science Center University of California Berkeley. Please click here to view the original article.

bridging2014badgeA new study suggests that training teachers in mindfulness not only reduces burnout but also improves their performance in the classroom.

Imagine this: In the middle of a lesson, one of your students deliberately makes an offensive remark that causes the other students to laugh and threatens to derail your lesson. Your fists start to clench and there’s a tightening in your chest. Before you know it, you snap angrily in a way that 1) doesn’t calm the students down, and 2) makes you spend the rest of the day, or several days, wondering if you’re a terrible teacher. Sound familiar?

This scenario is only one of many that add to a teacher’s daily stress level, which, over time, can lead to burnout—a major issue for those in the education profession. However, adding to this stress is often an educator’s own lack of social-emotional strategies for dealing with the stress and emotional intensity of the job, which researchers suggest may diminish his or her effectiveness as a teacher.

Summer_Institute_Teachers_with_closed_eyesParticipants at the GGSC’s Summer Institute
for Educators
Roibín Ó hÉochaidh

So is there something teachers can do to develop their social-emotional skills, not only to guard against long-term burnout but also to help them deal with stressful events while they’re happening? Yes, according to a new study conducted by the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM):
the practice of mindfulness.

A decade’s worth of research has documented the great physical, psychological, and social benefits of practicing mindfulness, which involves paying careful attention to your thoughts, feelings, and environment. In recent years, schools have embraced mindfulness to help improve students’ attention, emotion regulation, and learning. For the most part, the focus has been on students rather than teachers.

A group of the Center’s researchers, led by Lisa Flook, took a different tack: They conducted a small pilot study to test the impact of an eight-week mindfulness course adapted specifically for teachers. The study found that those who completed the training enjoyed a myriad of personal benefits, including elevated levels of self-compassion and a decrease in psychological ills such as anxiety, depression, and burnout. In comparison, a group of teachers placed on a wait list for the course actually increased in their stress and burnout levels.

But what made this study unique is that it also looked at the participants’ classroom performance, such as their behavior management skills and their emotional and instructional support of students. What it discovered was this: The practice of mindfulness made them more effective teachers, possibly by buffering them from the impact of stressful experiences as they were happening.

In other words, the study suggests that when teachers practice mindfulness, students’ misbehavior and other stressors become like water off a duck’s back, allowing them to stay focused on what teachers really want to do: teach.

So how does the practice of mindfulness actually help teachers in and out of the classroom?

To start, the CIHM researchers defined mindfulness specifically for this study as, “Paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, and without judgment.” Anyone who has taught knows that paying attention in the present moment is incredibly difficult because of the thousand demands on a teacher’s attention all at once. And judgment is a very easy state-of-mind to slip into when confronted by a misbehaving child—you don’t only judge that child but judge yourself for judging him or her.

One of the most basic mindfulness practices involves sitting quietly and bringing one’s awareness to thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, or an external object. Neuroscientists and emotion researchers have found that this kind of practice heightens the activity in the regions of our brain that regulate our attention, which then carries over into our everyday lives.

For teachers, this means that in the midst of the craziness that is a classroom, we remain aware of what’s going on inside our minds and bodies, which can help us rein in our knee-jerk angry reactions to a situation and instead choose a kinder and more compassionate response.

Lisa_FlookFor example, in the scenario I described at the beginning of this article, a teacher skilled in mindfulness would notice his or her clenched fists and tightening in the chest, take them as a sign that he or she was about to hit the roof, and perhaps take a deep breath or two to calm down. Then he or she would be much better prepared to calmly redirect the students’ attention to the task-at-hand. Boom, done, just like that. Moment passed, no lingering stress in the body or mind of the teacher, and the lesson continues.

Mindfulness practice is also a way to deliberately cultivate positive qualities such as empathy and compassion. Previous studies have linked mindfulness to increased activity in brain regions associated with these positive emotions. In its training for teachers, CIHM included activities such as loving-kindness meditation, which has been found to help promote kindness and compassion toward others.

I like to think that teachers are naturally empathic and compassionate toward their students. But often these qualities get lost in the stress of classroom life, and what suffers most is the all-important relationship between the teacher and the student. By deliberately practicing mindfulness techniques that cultivate kindness toward others, a teacher faced with a misbehaving student might ask the question, “What happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?”—a more compassionate response that strengthens rather than hinders the teacher-student relationship.

Finally, the CIHM researchers found that the mindfulness group’s self-compassion increased as well—an important component of teacher well-being. Educators have a tendency to beat themselves up over so many things: a failed lesson, saying the wrong thing to a parent, an inability to reach a challenging student, helplessness in the face of a student’s tragic home life—the list goes on and on. And we take it all home at night, leaving us with little psychic space to re-charge for the next day. Over time, our teaching suffers.

Time and again, teachers ask me in workshops and at our Summer Institute for Educators how they can stop thinking about work after they’ve gone home. My suggestion, based on the research, is to have a personal mindfulness practice coupled with self-compassion. Mindfulness teaches us to “notice” our thoughts or thought patterns without judging them as “good” or “bad,” which helps diminish the emotional charge that keeps these challenging school situations reverberating in our heads. Once we’ve neutralized that charge, we can choose to take a more compassionate stance toward ourselves, realizing that all teachers face these challenges and that everyone, including yourself, is doing the best they can.

One caveat: The changes rendered through a mindfulness practice do not happen overnight, nor do they last without continuous practice. Although this study showed significant changes in just eight weeks, Richard Davidson, one of the study’s co-authors and a leading expert on the science of emotions and mindfulness, is quick to point out that mindfulness is like going to the gym: You have to keep practicing to enjoy the benefits.

While the practice of mindfulness is never a “cure-all”, research suggests that it is a powerful foundation upon which teachers can start to build their social-emotional skills—and, in turn, improve their teaching. So while we may never be able to stop that student from making an offensive remark, we can control our reaction—which, in the end, may make the student think twice about doing it again.

Resources for educators who would like to start a mindfulness practice:

In addition to the resources listed below the UCSD Center for Mindfulness offers free guided audio and other resources, 5-Day professional mindfulness retreats through our Professional Training Institute, along with next year’s annual 2014 Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth conference.

If you would like to try mindfulness in the privacy of your own home, UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) offers these free recordings.

If you would like to learn mindfulness in a class, there are several programs geared just for educators, including the Greater Good Science Center’s Summer Institute for Educators, Mindful Schools, the Garrison Institute’s CARE for Teachers, PassageWorks’ SMART-in-Education, and Margaret Cullen’s Mindfulness-Based Emotional Balance.

If you’re unable to attend one of the above teacher-focused programs, there are numerous workshops throughout the U.S and the world teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), the program, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, from which the CIHM’s training was adapted.

Answering Louis CK’s Smartphone – Rant: With “Rhythm” A New Free Mindfulness App

by Sammy Banawan

RhythmOne of my best friends, a college roommate and a man whom I respect greatly questioned me. Somewhat unexpectedly. He is, to put it kindly, a late-adopter. Generally, when I’m rattling on about my latest new tech gadget (“You should see it! I can stream my music from my phone to my stereo!” “No, there is no optical drive.”), he does the polite nod and waits for me to finish. He tried to understand my first app, but he could only feign interest.

He’s a good friend. So I was taken aback when he had such a strong opinion so immediately. While he has an iPhone (one he had just gotten after years of using pre-paid phones with barely passable keyboards), he seemed to have already formed a strong opinion of what the smartphone could and could not do. The phone was a good tool for distraction. Getting away from things for a while. Splitting your attention. Certainly not one that could be used to enhance mindfulness. 

Louis CKThis sentiment was recently echoed by one of my favorite comedians, Louis CK. He had an epic rant about smartphones and what they are doing to our ability to be present. If you haven’t seen it, you should have a look. I greatly respect CK as an artist and as someone who somewhat unwittingly stumbles into some of the greatest metaphors and examples that I use with my DBT groups.

But I’ve got to disagree with him here.

The tools we have at our disposal can always be used against us. I won’t get into examples of how a hammer or drill can be a problem, but let’s just say that my 6 year-old son and I know very well that something that could help build something – is essential, in fact – can also be used for less than constructive purposes. And like a hammer or drill, the smartphone is a tool and an incredibly enabling one. It’s not essential yet, but could be in the coming years.

Given that mindfulness has always struck me as an imminently practical and flexible practice, it seemed excessively rigid to try to work against the trend of smartphone-as-constant-companion. In that light, embracing new technology to help seems to be the most prudent course of action. As we can see by the proliferation of “mindfulness apps”, people use and seem to like them. Whether they are mere totems to an ideal self or genuine efforts to cultivate new and better habits, the fact remains there are a vast number of people interested in using them to help.

I’m going to put on my psychologist hat for a moment (please pardon my indecorum at wearing a hat indoors) and lay out the steps one might take to establish a new habit and what we know works to help a new habit stick. Generally speaking, we strive for consistency and regularity in practice. Initially at least, we also strive for some sort of immediate feedback about our work. We look for reinforcement from others or change in ourselves. We want the new habit to seem our own, idiosyncratic and not cookie-cutter.

Bearing these qualities in mind, it seems quite natural to expect a smartphone to be able to help us in our endeavor. Setting reminders is trivial and with the help of notes about the aforementioned reminder, we can work to give ourselves a sense that the practice was custom built for us.

“Siri, remind me to practice mindfulness every day at 8 AM.”

“Ok, here’s your reminder every day at 8 AM.”

But there’s still something missing. We can’t get away from the other obligations pulling at us. How long do we practice? What shall we use to focus on? How do we get reinforcement for the practice? There are a number of mindfulness apps that can help with those questions and more that we haven’t even answered. While there may be no ideal app for that, there is quite an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ones that could fill in many of the gaps.

Despite my bias since I created Rhythm, I feel that the smartphone revolution is upon us and that there are many useful tools that can help many people cultivate a new mindful practice. Since we would like more people to practice mindfulness, smartphone-as-companion seems like a worthy trend to embrace. I created Rhythm, A Free Mindfulness App to fill in some of the gaps seen in the current crop of apps and I hope that many people can find it useful. If not, there are a number of others that might be suitable.

As the saying goes: Embrace and extend. Mindfulness is worth the effort. You can download my free Rhythm app at the iTunes Store.